A compelling and highly binge-able French noir that is sure to be another international hit for Netflix.
At the top of the list of places I wouldn’t like to live: Villefranche, an absurdly isolated (and thankfully fictional) small town buried in a dense forest that also forms the setting for Netflix’s new international original series, Black Spot. The population is tiny. Technology works only intermittently, if at all. And people are, predictably, going missing and getting killed.
Welcome, then, to this weekend’s binge viewing. This eight-part first season is steeped in mystery, small-town oddness and grim noir flourishes, and is a highly compelling diversion; it’s the kind of show that sustains suspense all the way through, too, so its substantial running time feels put to good use in unpacking various overarching cases and self-contained mysteries.
At the center of Black Spot is Laurène Weiss (Suliane Brahim), a hometown police inspector nursing the legacy of her own victimhood and struggling with Villefranche’s escalating murder rate — several times the national average already, and seemingly not slowing down. This last matter is also the concern of Prosecutor Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto), who arrives with countless open case files, and that’s before women start getting hung from trees.
Laurène’s past and Sirliani’s objectives form a couple of overarching plots in Black Spot Season 1, along with the mystery of the mayor’s (Samuel Jouy) missing daughter. The balance between short-term and long-term problems is deft, giving the show a strong sense of cohesion and pace, and it even manages to make small-town politics and drama interesting, which is quite a feat. It isn’t as rich in symbolism as similar international noir offerings, either, which is probably a good thing; the overwhelming miserableness of its setting and story — despite some brief moments of levity — might be off-putting to some on its own, so it being overly enigmatic wouldn’t have been a point in its favor. As things stand this is highly compelling television that’ll fit right in on the streaming platform, where it’ll doubtlessly find an audience keen for a trip into the woods.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.