We’re back in rural France for the on-going adventures of Detective Pierre Niémans and his partner Camille Delauney as they investigate some of the most gruesome and bizarre murders outside of Scandinavia. I refer our Northern European friends because that is clearly where this show has drawn its influences – not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.
If you want to avoid all spoilers, stop reading this article now.
The Nordic influence is very pronounced in the opening two-part episode (shown in two 45 minute chunks) which is set around a strange pagan cult, something that is not a million miles away from the one found in the 2019 Swedish film, ‘Midsommar’.
When the fire brigade is called to a burning holiday home, they discover the bodies of two young German tourists bound together, back-to-back and naked. They’ve been stitched together post-mortem by a leather thread that the detectives trace back to a tannery nearby.
The couple had recently undergone a marriage – or sorts – under the watch of a local pagan cult, so Niémans and Delauney head over to check it out. Niémans is surprised and delighted to discover that a former student of his, Audrey, has infiltrated the cult and is able to provide some much-needed intelligence on what goes on there. Audrey’s role is a little odd – she’s a policewoman working undercover (sort of), but everyone knows she’s a cop. Weird, but anyway…
The leader of the cult immediately falls under suspicion of murdering the couple. He is estranged from his family, who run the local tannery. However, he still has a relationship with his sister, who has been providing him with the leather cord used for their marriage ceremony bracelets – the same cord used to sew together the German couple.
There follows a hugely complicated and bizarre storyline that involves an intersex baby, religious zealots, self-harm, leather fashionwear made out of human skin (who knew?) and sexual predation. There were probably more, but I lost the plot long before I got to the end.
The positives are plenty. Olivier Marchal (a superb French actor who was in the BBC4 series, ‘The Promise’, recently) is fabulous in the main role, like a slightly grumpy Gallic uncle. Erika Sainte – looking remarkably like a young Kiki Dee to me – is also excellent as his trusty sidekick, Delauney. They have developed into well-rounded characters over the seasons and are easy to engage with.
The production looks wonderful on-screen, too – excellent camerawork shot in a beautiful setting (once again, looking every bit like a Scandinavian Forest, despite its French location).
That said, I found the plot in the two-part opener to be all over the shop and bewilderingly complex. It felt like the writers were trying for a Guinness Book of World Records entry for the largest number of wacky perversions in one TV show. Which is a shame, because the main characterization and acting is top drawer.
But give it a go – you might find the complexity of the plot to your taste; in which case you’ll be hooked.
Walter Presents: ‘The Crimson Rivers’ Season 3 will air every Friday for seven weeks from 25th March on More4 at 9pm. Episodes will be available on Walter Presents via All 4 each week.