Salamander, made for Belgium TV as a 12-episode series, starts as a classic bank heist caper and evolves into a conspiracy thriller. Despite treading familiar water, the show grabs your attention in the first couple of minutes and holds it almost continually throughout. Along with the action and dialogue that move at a steady pace, our uncertainty about the reasons behind a bank robbery cover-up plan keeps us interested.
Salamander stars Filip Peeters as Paul Gerardi, a stereotypical world weary, rogue police inspector who won’t follow orders or stop investigating until the truth is known. Writer Ward Hulselmans and Peeters do a good job of humanizing Gerardi and generally avoid the high testosterone portrayal of a cop we see on many other shows. The show cast also includes Peeter’s real-life wife, An Miller, as his TV wife in Salamander. Mike Verdrengh is the banker, Raymond Jonkhere, and Lucas Van den Eynde plays cop-turned-monk Carl Cassimon.
Though Salamander is a contemporary series, it has an old school feel. The story (very minor spoilers ahead) soon broadens from just the bank heist to a much larger tale of government corruption that ultimately takes us back to World War II era connections. There is uncertainty about which side several of the characters are on, and some unusual alliances form along the way.
As usual in crime thriller TV series, there are a few elements that don’t quite ring true. Some of the politicians cave too easily to threats of blackmail, particularly in this day and age when sex scandals involving politicians are not necessarily career ending. And, though coincidences happen, would one really lead Gerardi on a friendly visit to the home of his prey?
Minor quibbles aside, Salamander is an entertaining foreign TV series on Netflix with easy to read yellow subtitles. It first aired on Belgian TV from December, 2012 into 2013 and on BBC TV in 2014. As of early 2014, Salamander season 2 was in the writing stage; air dates are not yet known.