(July 2017 update: Witnesses season 2 is available on Netflix. Here is our review. The season 1 review is below.)
Witnesses is a police procedural thriller along the lines of The Fall, Hinterland, and Broadchurch. Newly released from France, it is currently one of the best TV shows on Netflix. It stands out in an overworked genre with a unique plot, crisp directing, stylish camerawork, psychological tension, and moments of genuine suspense. All of this makes the six episodes of Witnesses worthy of a spot at the top of your Netflix TV shows list.
Marie Dompnier stars as Sandra Winckler, who leads the investigation into an unusual series of graverobbings that take place along the north coast of France. Recently deceased, excavated corpses are set up in model homes as if they lived there. A picture left at the latest crime scene requires the return of retired policeman Paul Maisonneuve, played by Thierry Lhermitte, who left the force due to tragic, personal events.
Winckler is a particularly sharp detective, missing almost nothing and, seemingly, a step ahead of the rest of her squad. At home, she has insomnia, and we see her compulsively cleaning her house in the middle of the night. Winckler was trained by years ago by Maisonneuve; unspoken tension between them periodically surfaces. Initially, it seems the investigation is a competition between the two.
Maisonneuve is distant and aloof, slow to reveal information, and it appears he may have things to hide. Winckler senses this and is determined to find out the whole story. Is personal animosity or the desire to do good police work driving her?
Unlike the gritty Spiral, another French cop show on Netflix well worth your time, Witnesses has a cool, contemporary sheen. Scenes are often artistically staged, one-point perspectives down streets, treed allées, and hallways. Aerial shots feature chalk cliffs with the coastal city nestled in a green, rural landscape. The views set the mood. Even in the modern suburbs, there is a sense of remoteness and isolation.
There are also brief hints of supernatural forces or apparitions, as well as a soundtrack and a few scenes that flirt with horror movie territory, but never quite cross over. The dark and somber mood, sharp script, intriguing characters and a plot that advances at a steady pace will keep your attention through every minute of the six, one-hour episodes.
Witnesses was created and directed by Herve Hadmar. The 2014 French TV series was an instant hit and has already aired in England and Australia. Witnesses season 2 is scheduled to air in France later in 2015. Get ready to binge watch and put season 1 at the top of your Netflix streaming list.
February 2017 update: The long awaited season 2 of Witnesses will air in France in spring, 2017. We do not yet know when it will be available in the US.
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