“Black Spot” (Zone Blanche) – Season 2 (2018)
Created & written by: Mathieu Missoffe
Directed by: Thierry Poiraud and Julien Despaux
Featuring: Suliane Brahim, Hubert Delattre,and Laurent Capelluto
Franck Siriani: “Your murder rate is six times the national average!”
Some television shows wear their influences out in the open begging to be compared and judged on the basis of someone else’s work but are original enough to then discount them, becoming something not only original but vital so that each episode is stunning in its construction as well as heading towards a payoff that might, or might not come by series end. On paper as well as what brief synopsis is available to be had this (relatively) new French series was either going to be derivative or something special which would not only contain surprises, but hint at what the nature of man could either stoop to, or rise from. There are comparisons to other series including but not limited to “Twin Peaks” (1990-present), “The X-Files” (1993-present), “Lost” (2004-2010), any number of police procedurals as well as the great French horror/thriller/drama/period piece “The brotherhood of the wolf” (2001), which all seem to have influenced creator Mathieu Missoffe in one way or another, but he has been able to conflate these influences by creating a new story as well as very real characters who all seem honest in their motivations. Whilst there are hidden plot points within the narrative the characters that populate the story all seem to have been created from a real place, but of course are exposed to some extraordinary events – that is exactly what make the series so watchable, to see how these people cope with the almost unreal.
One of the more refreshing aspects of this series is the way in which the narrative has been constructed around eight very individual episodes that all make up the arc of the first series which do reach a conclusion but luckily leave the story open to continue to a second series which has already been filmed. The series starts off positioning itself as a possible horror story including very recognisable tropes that may lead the audience into thinking that there is a supernatural aspect to the series, especially with some of the events that occur, as well as a hint as to what/who the main antagonist is, this thing that appears at the outskirts of almost each episode, just out of reach. The show never really gives away the ending even though viewers may think they know where the show is headed, sure there are the normal red herrings that pop up from time to time but adept viewers will know that there is going to be something else going on, remaining unsaid until the last half hour of the first series, it is done with care and great skill so as to not seem unjust, in fact great care has been given to the end to make sure that it does make sense.
The actual story of “Black Spot” (Zone Blanche) (2018) revolves around Major Laurène Weiss who is the sheriff of her hometown of Villefranche, a small, isolated, fictional town amidst a 50,000-acre forest in the mountains. When the body of a dead woman is found hanged from a strange tree, Prosecutor Franck Siriani arrives to learn why the town’s murder rate is now six times the national average and its population continues to dwindle, as well as investigate Laurène’s past.
One of the main elements of “Black Spot” (Zone Blanche) that is the most obvious cannot be overlooked, the geographic setting of the town near a great forest that acts as a main character. It is of course part of the problem that the townspeople have within their lives as well as a metaphor for the future as well as the past which seems to haunt everyone in one way or another. In every episode the forest is present looming over the town as well as peoples lives, the main character keeps having flashbacks, exploring the forest looking for answers that she may never find or that elude her because of all the issue she faces at home, as well as at work. In fact the very first scenes involve the forest with the second lead who seemingly views the forest then collapses into some sort of heap dragging himself back to the car like a scene straight from the “The X-Files”, he appears to be struck down by some unknown, unseen force, possessing him, of course the truth revealed later is all to simple, real and grounded, which acts as an introduction to the show in a real original way. The forest is a place where things go to die or to hide from prying eyes which is another reason it is important, it acts as a kind of blanket, insulating lives as well as life from each other, it is a mystery to be unravelled which again is why we see the main character continually searching within, but of course it then insulates her from her daughter as well as her colleagues, it influences her much like it does the entire town.
As with many genre shows sometimes it is easier to believe that there are actual monsters committing the atrocities we see, rather than just regular human beings who are either sick or malicious which is something this show is not afraid of trying to explore, something it has in common with “The brotherhood of the wolf” another fantastic French production dealing with similar themes. I am not going to give away the conclusion of the show or any plot points but the way in which the series presents events that could be supernatural in any way then illustrates how they are in fact based in reality is done expertly, it also gives a clue to the end of the show as well as how it will justify itself so that it does not feel cheap as well as unearned which it does not.
The leads of the show are Suliane Brahim and Hubert Delattre as the Major of police and the new DA respectively; the creators have taken the wise decision to make Delattre’s character the stand in for the audience so that we find out about the town as well its folk, its high murder rate as well as the fact that it exists in a dark spot the same time he does which is not only something that is required but means we remember all the details as they are explained in a very logical way. As the lead of the show Brahim is magnificent as a women in charge of almost everything, a daughter, a staff of cops as well as hinting a murder and her own past, it is a masterful job of having to play something different in almost every scene she appears in which is a tall order for any actor, but she carries it off with aplomb. The show is rounded out with actors who similarly have to juggle very different characteristics sometimes within the same scene but to a lesser degree than the main characters but it is still something to behold.
This is an extremely compelling show that deserves to be watched it is very well produced with the entire narrative being well thought out and plotted which for a short run series is vital, which is made clear when the series comes to its eventual conclusion. There is so much more that could be said but that would head this review into spiller territory and the least said about the direction of the series as well as the objectives of characters and their arcs the better as this adds to the overall effect of the narrative and the supernatural or not elements that have been introduced as well as paying off the end which I found satisfying even though I was worried that it would not. I recommend thie show highly to anyone that likes taught thrillers, a touch of the supernatural as well as a look in on life that is foreign to them, this is a show that I found enjoyable knowing there would be another season, but that this was a story that had a definite ending at the end of the first series – enjoy.
- Laurène cuts her sick leave short to investigate the murder of a quarry worker. In flashbacks to 57 B.C., a Roman expedition takes a harrowing turn.
- While Teddy Bear combs through the latest victim’s Super 8 footage, Laurène returns to the library to research ancient Celtic rituals.Laurène cuts her sick leave short to investigate the murder of a quarry worker. In flashbacks to 57 B.C., a Roman expedition takes a harrowing turn.
- A bizarre bee attack leads to a grisly discovery at a pond. Laurène takes Jonas into custody to find out what he knows about the figure in the forest.
- As the full moon sends the town into a frenzy, Hermann grapples with ghosts from his past, and Siriani seizes a chance to inspect the quarry.
- Laurène stumbles on a surreal crime scene near a piano in the forest. Cora searches for clues to Roman’s fate. Garnier digs up info on Siriani’s past.
- As Laurène desperately tries to escape the ravine and get help for Teddy Bear, memories of her kidnapping surface. Siriani makes a troubling discovery.
- With the squad hobbled and the Celtic day of the dead looming, Laurène begs a commander for reinforcements. Dogs lead the way to another body.
- As animal bones pop up around Villefranche, Laurene and Bertrand assemble a team to scour the woods and the Children of Arduinna prepare their attack.