A convicted serial killer, now behind bars, plays head games with the cops while knowing more than they do about a current series of crimes. No, this is not another La Mante review. The Frozen Dead TV series, a French psychological thriller and Netflix original, treads similar ground while establishing its own identity as a tense, complex crime drama with interconnected victims and stories.
To start with, the first victim is not human, but animal. While the camera initially spares us the grisly details, that soon changes. (There are only a handful of scenes like this.) The autopsy is enough to unsettle the stomach of local cop Irene Ziegler (Julia Piaton). She’s assisted by Martin Servaz (Charles Berling), brought in as a more experienced investigator given the strangeness of the case and some outside political pressure.
Servaz makes it clear he’d rather not be there. He looks tired, world weary, until we find out he’s damaged by a recent case. A colleague – fellow cop – convicted as a serial killer is residing in a psychiatric facility in the remote town where the current crime occurred. Servaz leaves the area the next day saying he’s done, but we know he’ll be back.
Servaz is far from the only damaged character in The Frozen Dead. Something is clearly up with a new doctor, Diane Berg (Nina Meurisse), in the psychiatric center. Overly eager to work in Building A where the former cop, Hirtmann (Pascal Greggory), stays, Berg transferred all the way from Montreal to be there. Like everyone the cops talk to, she has something to hide.
Ziegler and Servaz make headway on the animal killing, but a human corpse is found, complicating the case dramatically. Working independently, the detective team each find more information deepening the mystery. Layers and connections between characters emerge. We find that many more secrets – some of them going back years to a closed case – remain.
Hirtmann remains relaxed and unperturbed when questioned by doctors and police. He has nothing to lose, and they want to know what he knows. The cops, on the other hand, are frustrated, failing to communicate with each other, and making mistakes. Who is really in control?
The Frozen Dead’s French title is simply Glace. (Is the expanded English translation used so there is no confusion with Disney’s Frozen?) The story takes place around Christmas. The setting is mountainous, and beautifully so; the French Pyrenees in winter. When the police explore higher elevations, the landscape stays snow covered, with clouds of dense fog. Deer and wolves symbolically watch and observe.
As in La Mante, the suspense in The Frozen Dead is psychological. The pacing stays moderate and melodrama minimal, with big events or discoveries at the end of episodes. Without a lot to go on for several episodes, we’re no closer to solving the case than Servaz, but just as intrigued.
Gérard Carré, Pascal Chaumeil, and Caroline Van Ruymbeke created and wrote The Frozen Dead TV series, which first aired in France, January, 2017. Netflix premiered all six episodes, about 45 minutes each, in the US on New Year’s Day, 2018.