Belgium’s 13 Commandments TV series on Walter Presents is a dark, interwoven tale of a serial killer, the honor killing of a teenage girl, and the four cops – all interesting characters – trying to solve these cases. It may not grab you immediately; the first few scenes are standard cop show fare. As the investigation of the first death gets underway, though, pieces start to fall into place. And, at the end of 13 Commandments’ first episode, the story gets much more interesting.
Peter Devriendt (Dirk van Dijck) and Simon Roelandts (Bert Haelvoet) are veteran cops on the Federal Detective Bureau. Former partners, each is paired with a younger colleague early in the series. Roelandts gets Marnix (Tom Ternest), an overweight, inexperienced detective and not the brightest member on the force. Devriendt gets Vicky Degraeve (Marie Vinck), newly transferred from Special Unit (a SWAT team-type squad). She’s the opposite of Marnix, sharp, serious, and hardworking.
Vicky’s face and back show scars from a serious auto accident. Flashbacks early on hint at what happened, but larger reveals are likely. Physically, and perhaps mentally, Vicky could no longer handle the Special Unit work, hence the transfer. She practices aerial yoga at home and has no social life. Peter has an ex-wife, a young adult daughter who may have a drug problem, and a favorite prostitute he visits. Less intense than Vicky, he is no less dedicated, just more likely to bend the rules a bit as he sees fit.
These characters and the story of an immigrant family rattled by their daughter’s gruesome murder carry much of the first two episodes of 13 Commandments. We receive hints of what else is in store after a burn victim is found next to a wall painted with the first commandment. In episode two, the second commandment follows. Though referred to here as a serial killer, the perpetrator intentionally leaves the first two victims just short of death.
Dark as it is, 13 Commandments has moments of humor, most of it banter between the cops. Casually dressed and looking like ordinary folks, they remind us of the police in many French TV shows. The series is all the better for it.
Shifts in tone and focus occur as 13 Commandments progresses. Casualties on the force mean less humor and more depth. Various themes come and go: coping with physical and emotional trauma, protecting girls and daughters from harm, and individual responsibility when faced with wrongdoing. The search for the perpetrator of the biblical crimes continues, connecting the other elements together.
Maarten Moerkerke, one of several writers for the show, directed all episodes. The 13 Commandments TV series (titled 13 Geboden in Belgium) premiered in the US on Walter Presents, December 13, 2017. We don’t have info about its European airing, but it is a 2017 release. There are 13 episodes, each about 45 minutes. Given the moderate pace, it’s a long, but compelling, crime drama.
Note: The original review, which was based on the first two episodes, was updated after seeing all episodes, January 7, 2018.
13 Commandments TV series trailer
The Walter Presents version of the series trailer. Fair warning, it contains spoilers!