I wondered how I’d react to another gritty French cop show after my strong connection with Spiral (Engrenages), and to be honest the first episode of Braquo left me a little cold. There was no passionate Laure Berthaud or Pierre “Monsieur Integrity” Clement to love, just a group of very flawed, angry police working out of a grey, miserable warehouse somewhere in the bowels of Haute-de-Seine.

The IMBD blurb synopsis goes like this:

Four police officers of the SDPJ Hauts-de-Seine, Eddie Caplan, Walter Morlighem, Theo Wachevski and Roxane Delgado have their lives turned upside down when their colleague, Max, committed suicide, following a case in which he is unfairly blamed. They then cross the “yellow line”, not hesitating to circumvent the law to achieve their purposes in order to wash the honor of their friend Max.

The viewer only gets a very brief time to know Max before the suicide and he appeared (to me at least) neither likeable nor charismatic. So from the beginning I struggled to get a handle on the motivation for the vengeance that follows.

However, one thing I’ve really enjoyed about both Braquo and Engrenages is the exploration of loyalty (particularly among cops) and how it is a belief/value that one must literally die for.

Braquo has some sexy moments, and some poignant ones but it is essentially a tale of survival – keeping one step ahead of those who want the worst for you; and about being in situations where the only choices are bad ones.

Though Spiral had the same ingredients, it also mixed in the morality, humanity and relevence of the law. There was something intrinsically noble about Spiral which Braquo doesn’t have – and probably intentionally so. Braquo is as gritty as it gets on television, leaving British, Norwegian, Swedish, Canadia and America drama to pale in comparison.

I found the character of Eddie Kaplan charismatic and credible and Roxanne Delgado’s slightly surly, defiant, little girl lost persona very endearing. Wachevski was vain and insecure and up for anything, and Morlighem, the gambling addict, had a deep love for his family that rescued him from hopelessness. All interesting characters though at times infuritatingly stupid.

There are no decent people in Braquo. Everyone is selfish, conniving and untrustworthy. In such a hostile environment, our little band only have each other to rely upon. In Braquo it really is a case of all for one and one for all.

An abundance of three day growth, bags under the eyes, gravelled voices, muted colours and cigarette smoke.

Peter Moffat is the creator of the BBC series SILK, which I thoroughly enojyed. So much so, in fact, that I went looking for his other work on CRIMINAL JUSTICE. I had to start with series two, as it was all I could find in the shops, and I now have series one on order.

Series two is a compelling journey through the UK penal system, as we follow Juliet Miller (played by Maxine Peake) once she is convicted of killing her husband, the lauded barrister, Joe Miller (Mathew Macfadyen). Juliet had been the victim of extreme psychological abuse. However, her silence and composed manner is interpreted as calculated cold-heartedness, and people in the legal system soon begin to take sides. Juliet’s soliciter, Jacki Woolf (Sophie Okonedo), recognises the signs of the abuse straight away, and devotes herself to trying to get Juliet off her murder charge. But others are just as keen to see her locked away forever.

Moffat is extremely adept at placing his characters in idealogically difficult situations. And not just the protagonists! Many of the secondary characters face fascinating dilemmas that spin out of the central conflict. The relationship between Juliet’s solicitor and barrister (both women), the relationship between the two Detective Inspectors (who are philosopically opposed)  and the Detective Sergeant (who is married to one of them) on the case, are as interesting and taut as the whole central question of what will happen to Juliet? Another layer is the deep exploration of a mother’s bond with her child, as Juliet gives birth in prison, while dealing with the fact her thirteen year old daughter now hates her.

Though the story moves slowly, the eventual breakdown of Juliet’s barriers so that she finally is able to tell her side of the story is both painful and heartwrenching. Maxine Peake is a tour de force in the role, and she is supported by some highly skilled actors (MacFadyen, Okonedo, and a brilliant job by Alice Sykes as Juliet’s teenage daughter).

If you’re in the mood for action and thrills, this is not for you, but if you want to be engrossed and exposed to the harsh hand life can deal – then pick up the DVD. I recommend it.

Below is an interview with Peter Moffat, which is worth watching if you want some insight into how a fine storyteller thinks. And for those of you who have enjoyed SILK, you will recognise certain characters that resonate between it and Criminal Justice – particularly the character of SAUL the law clerk who is reincarnated as Billy Lamb.

Reviewed by Diana Pinguicha

If you have a TV, or just go to shops that sell DVDs, you have probably heard about The Walking Dead (which I’m going to shorten to TWD from now on), the AMC TV series that is an adaptation of the comic books of the same name.

Please be advised that the series contains mature content that is not suitable for people under 16. Its content is extremely graphic in both TV and comic books. There will also be spoilers to both TV and the comic books, so if you haven’t watched/read either, follow my advice: read the comics first. They’re far better than the TV adaptation.

So, let’s start on why I decided to watch the show: I love zombies. I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil games since I was young (and they scared the crap out of me back then). Also, the series was greatly publicized in my college (Instituto Superior Técnico, in case you don’t know)—and when I say it was greatly publicized, I mean it was greatly publicized. I’d never seen a TV series being so advertised in Portugal—I mean even our lunch trays had TWD paper protections. So a mainstream TV series with zombies? How could I not watch it?

The start was pretty interesting—the main character, Rick, gets shot and when he wakes up, he’s in a deserted hospital and the zombie apocalypse has already ravaged everything around him. He does not know if his wife and kid are still alive. He doesn’t know where to go. He finds a group of survivors and after some trouble, they lead him back to camp where he finds his wife (who, by the way, thought he was dead and was having an affair with his best friend, Shane) and son. The premise is simple: survive. But what makes The Walking Dead so much better than other zombie-apocalypse works is how truly tragic and realistic everything is.

Characters in TWD don’t really suffer from the “Oh no, my sister is a zombie! I cannot kill her!” syndrome. They do what they have to do. In the first two seasons, the TV series mainly followed the comic book storyline. However, the more the TV version progresses, the further it gets from its source material. Which is, in my honest opinion, a disappointment.

The casting is mostly spot-on. That’s where I can hardly fault the people behind the TV adaptation. Same for the characterization and environments. Zombies really do look like zombies, not some watered down version of such creatures.

There’s also a character in the TV version that is not in the comic books (Daryl) and he’s actually my favorite character on the show. He’s a great addition and Norman Reedus plays him perfectly, walking a thin line between selfish bad-ass and likeable anti-hero. The writing is mostly solid and believable, as well as everyone’s performances.

Now is where I rage about on how they’re not doing the source material justice. I knew some things were way too hardcore to show on TV, but with such violent shows out there, I thought they would maybe still do them. They didn’t and it really, really saddens me.

In its comic book form, TWD is really not about zombies, but about the cruel things people are capable of once they’re threatened. It’s about how people can really become monsters that are worse than walking corpses who feast on living flesh.

They have also, IMO, changed certain characters. While I cannot fault the casting of Danai Gurira, the writing they gave her pretty much made Michonne, who is an amazing, strong character, seem like an overly-suspicious woman who has little reason to be that way. Andrea, also one of my favorite characters in the comic, is constantly making poor decisions in the TV show, and attaching herself to the first alpha male she sees. Even Lori, Rick’s wife, is somehow worse on TV—and that’s saying a lot, since I hated her in the source material. Certain things the characters do on TV don’t make much sense because they’ve decided to cut crucial aspects for TV.

For instance, Shane’s death is much better in the comic. Same for Lori’s. In the books, Shane is killed by Carl. Lori is killed by the Governor when he attacks the prison, along with her baby daughter. Michonne has a much more valid reason to hate the Governor and an even greater reason to confront him before running. These things have much more impact in their original form than they did in the adaptation.

Still, TWD is a good TV series.

My recommendation is: if you like raw, graphic, ruthless depictions of a zombie apocalypse and an in-depth look at a man’s true nature and what a person does to survive, read the comics. If you just want an hour a week of zombies and don’t mind the slightly softer version of things, watch the TV series. 

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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