“Mongeville” – TV Series Review
The title of the French procedural series, “Mongeville,” is not the name of its town. That’s Bordeaux. Rather, it refers to retired judge Antoine Mongeville (Francis Perrin), who for one reason or another winds up unofficially assisting the local homicide bureau in each week’s murder. In the first of two three-episode seasons being released together, he helps Detective Axelle Ferrano (Marie Moute), greatly to the consternation of her department’s head, Commissaire Briare (Pierre Aussedat), who deeply resents any input from that particular source. The gents have a history.
In the second three-episode season, Ferrano is replaced by Valentine Duteil (Gaelle Bona), who remains for the rest of the series’ 26 episodes. Briare’s resentment continues to seethe, despite Mongeville’s growing track record of consistently providing valuable help. The tenor of the series changes significantly with the arrival of the new co-star.
In Season One, the crimes share running time with the backstories and personal issues of the two leads. Mongeville is haunted by the disappearance of his adult daughter a few years earlier, continuing his search by whatever means he finds. Ferrano is emotionally wounded by a recent affair that ended badly, tainting her image within the department, and creating serious trust issues in all aspects of her life. But the two work well together in solving her assigned cases while working on their respective collateral problems.
The first trio of episodes begin with an apparent suicide the two find more suspicious than everyone else does, pitting them against The Brass, as well as the perp. The other crimes taking about 90 minutes to solve start with more obvious murders but require delving into a mare’s nests of old crimes and evil-doings. All three are well-written, providing complicated scenarios as we build relationships with the protagonists. And a considerable dislike for Briare, who takes the a**hole boss trope to new levels of a**hol-lery, and just might turn out to be as corrupt as he is a**hol-ish by nature.
While the first three are rather serious in tone, the arrival of Duteil, changes the series into something lighter. She’s as perky as Ferrano was troubled, but deceptively as tough, smart and intuitive as her predecessor. The scripts continue to contain interesting sets of facts and players to be unraveled, with the principals’ personal issues occupying less of the stage. Another useful levity addition comes from Mongeville’s enlisting the special skills of a charming old burglar, Sylvestre (Marc Depond), he’d befriended during his years on the bench, whenever investigative tactics are required and warrants are not obtainable.
Mongeville is a character to admire and get comfortable with. As is typical of European crime series, the cast is less glamorous and the stories unfold with less violence than our typical prime-time domestic fare. The first six end without major cliffhangers, but leave me eager for the next round of releases.
“Mongeville,” Seasons One and Two, mostly in French with English subtitles, streams on MHzChoice starting Nov. 1.
RATING: 3 out of 4 stars