The France 2 television network detective thriller Witnesses (Les Temoins) is now streaming on Netflix in its eight-episode second season.
Created by Marc Herpoux and Herve Hadmar and directed by Hadmar, the second go-round of the miniseries, which premiered on French TV earlier this year, again stars Marie Dompnier as Detective Sandra Winckler of a Normandy area police department.
Dompnier delivers a first-rate, charismatic performance, and as she appears in almost every scene, she successfully carries out the heavy responsibility of anchoring the entire show. Also returning is loyal, salt-of-the earth Detective Justin (Jan Hammenecker). Thierry Lhermittee, who portrayed a retired, high-ranking police official in the six-episode Season 1, is not part of the cast for Season 2, all of whom do fine work.
As the plot unfolds, Det. Winckler encounters amnesia/kidnap victim Catherine Keemer (Audrey Fleurot, shown in the featured image above), who directly participates in the sleuthing and essentially becomes the co-star of the Season 2 miniseries.
Warning: Spoilers follow
Both seasons share some common elements, such as the beautiful cinematography and scenery in northern France.
As NetflixTVShowsReview points out about Witnesses Season 2, “The northern coast of France is a dramatic land and seascape with vast beaches, verdant green fields, striking landforms, and forests suitable for hiding.”
The opening credit sequence and theme music are very memorable.
Another similarity, though, involves a somewhat unpredictable but convoluted and slow-paced storyline prompted in Season 2 by the discovery of 15 frozen bodies in an abandoned bus and the subsequent search for a serial kidnapper/killer.
Season 2 is a standalone opus, so watching Season 1 is not a prerequisite.
That said, Season 1 (and you can read the Inquisitr review here) provided a generous helping of crime thriller tropes and cliches. Season 2 far less so, fortunately, but Det. Winckler, now a single (and often absentee) mom of two, nonetheless engages in a range of reckless violations of law enforcement procedures that not only compromises herself, the investigation, and her colleagues but endangers her family as the hunter becomes the hunted.
Notably, in the final episode, after she is, as telegraphed, captured by the bad guy, Det. Winckler engages in the most infuriating failure to call for backup that you might ever see in a crime thriller — and that takes in a lot of territory, as you know if you’re a fan of these kinds of potboilers.
Witnesses 2 also depicts perhaps the most incompetent protective details that you might ever see, and again, that takes in a lot of territory.
As an aside, don’t the official or unofficial rules of engagement in a gunfight include protecting yourself at all times?
While art should be multi-dimensional, along the way, Season 2 also seems more like a domestic drama than a crime drama as Winckler and Keemer bond over their personal problems.
Moreover, while the bad guy who is abruptly revealed in Episode 5 (and who appears to be a military reservist) can menacingly track down anyone he wants seemingly at will, the entire police force is unable to find Det. Winckler as she conducts her protocol-defying probe as an army of one.
Unlike Season 1, the good news is that there is no Rockford Files-style violent businessman at the heart of the mystery, although, by Season 2’s end, the viewer would be hard-pressed to figure out the precise motivations of the villain/villains.
While the show conveys some sequences of profound suspense and tension, many viewers will probably find Witnesses Season 2 hardly a binge-worthy entry because of its unhurried narrative, although like the previous season, the showrunners skillfully conclude each episode with a cliffhanger that may prompt Netflix subscribers to stick with it.
Fans of police procedurals from the U.K. and other parts of Europe might find the measured pace to be their cup of tea or glass of wine. Since others, however, will probably only watch an episode here and there, Witnesses Season 2 could benefit from an HBO-style “previously on” recap of the complicated plot before each installment. Only Episode 5 contains a brief summary of that nature.
See also from the Inquisitr
Witnesses Season 2: Additional Observations
Detective Justin must not watch many movies or TV shows in this genre. Otherwise, he would know that some of the seemingly obscure, dead-end clues are just the opposite, although, to his credit, he identifies a key lead while randomly hanging out at a shopping mall. As the series winds down, however, the Justin character seems increasingly marginalized. Whether, like the military reservist character, gratuitous political correctness seeped into the script is up to the viewer to decide.
Although much of the content is unbelievable, the show effectively depicts how detective work mostly involves far-from-glamorous pouring through old records and tedious interviews with witnesses (small case).
Movie buffs might find the scene where Sandra Winckler, as part of the investigation, collects fingerprints from the drinking glasses of men she meets through an online dating service reminiscent of a similar scene in the Al Pacino movie Sea of Love. In that film, Pacino as Det. Frank Keller does the same with women he meets through pre-Internet newspaper personal ads as part of a serial killer investigation.
And a clever sequence of intercutting in Witnesses Season 2 where a SWAT team arrives to save the day only, as it turns out, to be deployed to a different space than where the principals are actually located seems to resemble a swerve in Silence of the Lambs.
According to NetflixTVShowsReviews, “Witnesses is still one of the very best French TV shows available in the US. It’s highly original and beautifully filmed, but now and then falls back on conventional thriller shortcuts and cliches.”
Watch a trailer of Season 2 of Witnesses (Les Temoins) below.
Takeaways: Excellent acting and cinematography, but overly long, far-fetched storyline and mostly unsympathetic characters.
Witnesses Season 2 (with English subtitles) is rated TV-MA, unsuitable for children under 17, and contains profanity and violence.
[Featured Image by Lionel Cironneau/AP Images]