A woman, seemingly altered and distraught, struggles to gain control of her car, which has somehow ended up facing the wrong way on an off ramp near a town on the chilly coast of Brittany. A truck barrels toward her. The crash is unavoidable. In the end, the woman, and two of five people in the other car, are dead. The woman’s autopsy comes back suggesting she was driving drunk. Only that doesn’t really work for her devastated husband, Gabriel (Bruno Solo). Because Rebecca (Emma Colberty) didn’t drink.
In the wake of the tragic accident, everything seems to unravel. Rebecca’s cadre of close girlfriends are acting sketchy. Something weird is going on at work. And considering this is a tiny summer town in Brittany whose year-round population is approximately 14, a crap-ton of people are unexpectedly dropping dead of violent causes. How will Gabriel and his teen daughter cope? Who is behind the shadowy killings? How can he prove his wife’s death was no accident? What is with all the Louboutin pumps?
No, really: What?
The six episodes of L’Accident are absolutely action-packed. I mean there’s not a moment that doesn’t introduce a new twist, a dark scary shadow, a previously unknown menace. It’s constant. This show does not have laconic pacing.
So why is it oddly boring?
It’s not bad. It’s just… meh.
Solo’s acting definitely isn’t the problem, and several of the other actors are compelling, notably police detective Solene (Charlotte Talpaert). The storytelling veers back and forth in time in a way I usually like—and I’d say overall I like it here, too.
Is it the fact that the stakes seem… off? Yeah, the small town of Sainte-Lune has been plagued by a slow off-season economy and lagging real estate numbers, but that this amount of carnage could be engendered by someone trying to get their hands on a misbegotten fortune of… 60,000 euro? That’s like half a dozen dead bodies for $70,000. Maybe I’m jaded, but that seems kind of like whut? The final reveal of who staged an elaborate fake accident to kill Rebecca? Well, it’s somewhat de-dramatized by the fact that it’s obvious from the beginning, kind of de-dramatized by the fact that by the time we get there, there’s almost literally no one else we haven’t ruled out, and most of all, de-dramatized by that character’s taking, um, I think roughly 50% of the final episode to explain the whole twisted situation to the distraught (and taped to a chair) Gabriel. I will give it this: the way he gets out of that chair and away from the murderous psychopath is character-driven and plot-driven and that is good! Good! But… oy, so much ham-handedness.
To the extent that this is a miniseries about the grief of a father and daughter who’ve lost their wife/mother, the show does a good job. The thing of it is, the series doesn’t spend much time there. It insists on being a crime drama, and that’s where we get to the stakes issue pretty quick. In personal loss and grief, the stakes are infinite, as it turns out. Maybe staying in the Character Zone a bit more would have been wise. Thematically, this is a show about Fakes. And that is also interesting. But they don’t mine this interesting vein nearly as much as one could: We stay pretty firmly in the most literal sense of fakery and gloss over the rest. I think this is also a problem.
And maybe this is because I just re-watched Chinatown with an Asian American friend with a carefully-trained eyeball on casual versus deliberate and meaningfully deployed anti-Asian racism, but I gotta tell ya, this show made me cringe a few times and I’m not sure if it was a translational thing (it’s in French with British-English subtitles), but I kind of tend to think it wasn’t. OK, so there is one character who is ethnically Chinese, an electrician named Wei who works for Gabriel. Since part of the plot has to do with counterfeit goods manufactured in China, sure, one of the town doofs suspects the Chinese guy must be involved, and later bemoans his racist ass-hattery in making a dumb assumption, and that? That’s not really an issue at all. But the rest of the way this character is handled really got my attention. In the wake of Rebecca’s death, Wei goes to a great deal of trouble putting up altars, stringing evil spirit-repelling talismans, and generally spouting ancient superstitions to the derision of the rest of the town. Since his character is never really developed into 3-D, the whole well meaning, bumbling, superstitious Spirit World Guy thing seems kind of sketchy. Your mileage may vary.
L’Accident. A lot happens. I’m still trying to work out why it needs to.
L’Accident premieres today on Acorn TV.
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.