Spiral - reviews of 'superior' French crime drama return

Series 5 of sharp, bleak, funny French cop show looks into crime in high and low places


What you need to know

A new series of French crime drama Spiral is screening on BBC4. The Canal Plus police and legal drama (now partly funded by the BBC), follows the lives of police officers, lawyers, judges and criminals, and has been compared to the critically acclaimed US series The Wire.

Series 5 sees a traumatised captain Laure Berthaud dealing with the aftermath of the death of her colleague and lover Sami, while she investigates the double murder of a mother and child. Meanwhile, Judge Roban investigates a potential police cover-up. Episodes 1 and 2 are available on iPlayer. Episodes 3 and 4 screen 17 January.

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What the critics like

The Canal Plus show has been "mixing it with the best European cop dramas" for a decade now, and is shamed by none of them, says James Donaghy in The Guardian. Sharp, bleak and often funny, it never shies from difficult questions, or lets its characters off the hook as it marshals its ensemble cast through the bewildering, sometimes lethal, catacombs of French justice.

This tough police drama is "a cut above the norm" with its superb interweaving of stories involving hard-bitten cops, criminals and the realpolitik of the justice system, says Robin Jarossi on Crime TV Preview. The new series delivers again in terms of sophisticated storytelling, action and suspense, sitting comfortably alongside the best dramas from Denmark or Italy.

It's a poignant moment for the return of "this superior French police drama", following the terrorist crisis in Paris, says Adam Sweeting on the Arts Desk. While terrorism isn't at the centre of Series 5, the continuing pleasure of Spiral is its jaundiced view of the machinations whirring away in high places, from the Palais de Justice to the Elysee Palace – depressing but refreshing.

What they don't like

Critics have only praise for Spiral, except perhaps AA Gill in the Sunday Times, whose tounge-in-cheek review notes that Spiral has a woman as its lead, "a bad-tempered, existentially morose, drunk slut" – and there really aren't enough of them on television. He adds that there's "nihilistic behaviour, mood swings and vomit" – he really can't recommend Spiral highly enough.

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