Starring: Marie Dompnier, Thierry Lhermitte
In this twist-filled Gallic noir six-parter, the Normandy police are perplexed by the series a grisly pranks in which exhumed bodies are being put on display in show homes, posed in eerie family groupings. The only clue, a photo of ex-cop and grieving widower Paul Maissonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte), who finds himself dragged unwillingly into the case part as witness, part as investigating officer and part as suspect. And as Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), the officer in charge of the case, is an ex-police academy pupil of his who nurses a mysterious long-held grudge against him, he doesn’t exactly get a warm welcome back.
Taken individually neither Massionneuve nor Winckler is a very engaging character – as played by Lhermitte, he’s so cold-bloodedly reptilian you half expect him to pluck flies out of the air with his tongue, while she is the kind of obsessively driven female cop with domestic problems that is now becoming rather a tired cliché. However, the prickly relationship between the two is a reliable source of tension throughout the series, the gloom they carry about with them the perfect complement to the drizzly, overcast seaside towns where they pursue their investigations.
Not that Witnesses is all moody introspection – the duo have little time for navel-gazing as there are graverobbings, kidnappings and a cunning supervillain to be dealt with, plus various tight scrapes to negotiate. Just occasionally, some of the plotting seems a little loose, but the series compensates with strong visuals and a powerful twisted fairy tale vibe. 7/10