Playing with fire

This is my review of Salamander: The Complete Season One [DVD] [2012].

After Scandi-noir, the Belgian "Salamander" series seems like a return to old-fashioned crime thriller form, with hero police detective Paul Gerardi: cussed, scruffy, middle-aged yet still somehow irresistible to women, his marriage almost on the rocks under the strain of work pressures. The attempted cover-up of the theft of compromising material from the safes of sixty-six establishment figures at the Jonkhere bank is more than Gerardi's sense of justice can overlook, and when he begins to pay a personal price for his persistence, it is only increased by the desire for revenge.

I was soon hooked on this fast-paced thriller by the spiral of suspense as to how Gerardi can possibly keep evading his pursuers. The tale is tightly plotted, but the sheer intensity of the early episodes means it is hard to retain enough gunpowder for a satisfying grand finale. Loose ends are tied up, but all in a bit of a rush in the last episode, with a few convenient plot twists that stretch credibility beyond its limits.

It is true that this series lacks some of the depth of recent Danish series, such as the exploration of the grief of parents after the murder of a teenage daughter in "The Killing". As a result, I was left less moved by some tragic events than I should have been. The villains in particular, the sinister leader of the bank heist, megalomaniac inheritor of the Jonkhere Bank, and over-ambitious young upstart Vincent, are pyschopathic stereotypes incapable of arousing any complex twinges of sympathy. How on earth can Gerardi win out against them all?

The deep corruption running through police and politics to the very palace left me wondering how the series is viewed by those wielding power and influence in Belgium, although perhaps the recent period of 589 days without an elected government has bred a certain amount of cynicism.

Will Series 2 manage to maintain the gripping excitement?

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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