Until recently we’ve been fairly closed off to TV from the non-English speaking world, but over the past few years there has been an explosion of simply fantastic programming from around the world (just look at The Killing, The Bridge, or Prisoners of War for three prime examples), and French police drama Braquo is the latest in the trend; a gritty show which is saw its third full season released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday July 21st.
They took the law into their own hands in Season 1, infiltrated a gang of hyper-violent mercenaries and went after some fairly prominent politicians in Season 2, but the four toughest cops in Paris; Eddy Caplan (Jean-Hugues Anglade, Taking Lives), Walter Morlighem (Joseph Malerba, Mesrine), Théo Vachewski (Nicolas Duvachelle, Polisse), and Roxane Delgado (Karole Rocher, Polisse); have an even bigger task on their hands in Braquo Season 3; dealing with a civil war taking place within the Russian Mafia, and spilling violence all over the streets of Paris.
Not only that, but picking up mere seconds after the events of Season 2, the premiere episode opens with a bang, and sees a prime member of the team blown-up (via car bomb), as we, and the team, are made acutely aware that they’ve all been targeted by an old enemy.
So with threats on their lives, the quest for vengeance at the front of their minds, and violence erupting on the streets of Paris (not to mention the ever watchful eyes of their superiors and peers, new friends and enemies, and the potential for corruption and backstabbing around every corner), the team do something we’ve never seen them do before; they become real police officers.
Yes, it’s true, and something we haven’t really seen before; as after resorting to blackmail, murder, kidnapping, and extortion in Season 1, then going rogue, undercover, and operating off the grid in Season 2, seeing Eddy & Co. play this one by the book (or at least only a couple of towns away from the library this time; because lets face it, they’ll never be completely straight-laced, and we wouldn’t want them to be), it’s not only a refreshing change, but allows us to get into the tale behind the Russian Mafia’s civil war; a brilliantly written, thought-out, played-out, and exceptionally relevant topic in the modern culture.
Anyone who’s seen the first two season will know Braquo isn’t your typical cop show; it’s France’s answer to The Shield (an extremely welcome prospect since the departure of Vic Mackey left a big, bald, iffy-cop-sized hole in our TV schedule a few years back); it’s a roller-coaster show where the criminals are vicious, but the cops can be just as bad, and what makes it even more shocking is that Braquo was written by an expert in the French police force (something which clearly shows when watching, and makes the entire thing so much more believable).
It’s a gritty ride with more twists and turns than a helter-skelter, yet unlike a helter-skelter Braquo is unbelievably bleak; the entire show is a near-black-and-white blend of murky greys and filthy earth-tones, and the palette, and entire shooting structure, add to the sense that these characters live in a dark world; it’s far from a feel-good show, and with all the trials and adversities these characters have to go through (from being blown up, to kidnapped themselves, threatened, beaten up, chased by crooks and cops alike, and all while dealing with their own family problems) it’s a wonder they haven’t all topped themselves, yet that what’s makes Braquo such an utterly compelling TV show; you simply have to know what’s coming next, who’s about to double-cross them, how can they possibly escape their latest bind, and that’s a testament to the superb writing on the show.
Not only is the plot full of fantastically gripping twists and turns, but the characters themselves are also brilliantly well crafted, and all come sporting their own inner-demons (which rarely remain on the inside); Eddy’s a capable leader, but far too willing to go too far and break the law for his teammates, Walter is a compulsive gambler with a mentally ill wife and two kids to support, Théo is a womanising drug addict, and Roxanne’s simply a greasy-haired, headstrong, woman who’s not afraid to go-it-alone in order to get what she wants (even if it puts her, and the team, at risk), and that’s just our main band of loveable heroes.
Aside from the members of Eddy’s team you’ve also got Vogel (Geoffroy Thiebaut, Same Old Song); the vile Internal Affairs investigator who takes the hatred he gained for Eddy’s team to a whole new level in Season 3; Fargette (Joel Lefrançois, Frontiers); the only member of the Parisian police force who seems to do things properly, and often sees his efforts thwarted; a number of Eddy’s superiors (whose morals seem to change as often as the wind), and a host of newly introduced criminals (all of whom have their endearing sides; having a real reason for vengeance, being devoted family men, or simply being fiendishly clever); all of whom are more than welcome additions to the cast, and create a wonderfully compelling story arc for Braquo’s third season.
It also helps that the acting is fantastic, as even the most minor parts are filled with undeniably capable actors, and each of the more important characters (good, bad, or any of the various shades of grey they all seem to be) are constantly put through the ringer, and are thankfully portrayed by hugely capable actors who are definitely deserving of recognition for making their parts, and the show as a whole, so engaging, captivating, and above all, believable.
Certain aspects of the show are a little too fantastical to be believed (especially with the level of violence some of the new Russian gangsters employ, and the depths Eddy & co. are willing to sink to achieve their goals), but given the strength of the actors’ performances, the richness and quality of the writing, and the context of the ever engaging, utterly enthralling show, it still works wonderfully, and just serves to further a show you’ll be dying to complete; every cliffhanger has you itching to start the next episode, and every plot twist, violent outburst, and potential pitfall will keep you gripped for every second of this third season.
In fact Season 3 is the best season of Braquo so far; the new additions to the cast (namely the criminal fraternity, and culture we’re given a glimpse into) are brilliant, the writing is fantastic from beginning to end, and the cast are also on top form. It’s also easy to see that like The Wire, Braquo was created by an expert (evident when watching thanks to various procedures, methodology, and minor laws most people wouldn’t know about), and appearing so knowledgeable about not only the French police, but the criminal organisations we’re glimpsing in this season, only make the show that much more immersive and engaging.
Surprisingly enough Season 3 is also a fairly easy place to pick up and start watching the show from; barring names, the prequel episode, and the odd bit of backstory, there isn’t too much you need to know beforehand, and it’s all fairly easy to pickup on; although to get the full experience, it is strongly recommended you watch Braquo from the beginning (and you wont be disappointed if you do).
Overall, despite the bleak nature, the fact that some people seriously don’t like subtitles (a hinderance everyone should attempt to overcome, by watching shows/films as well written and engaging as Braquo), and the fact you may not have seen seasons one and two yet, there’s really very little to quibble about with Braquo Season 3; the writing is fantastic, the plot is brilliant, characterisation is spot-on, direction is solid, the acting is great, and it really is the best season so far; a show, and season, so engaging every episode will have you craving for more. If you’ve not seen seasons one and two yet, buy them now, buy Braquo Season 3, and enjoy the French version of The Shield, a hugely compelling show, and a prime example of some truly world-class television.