“Emilie” explores what it means to be a victim in a challenging first episode.
This recap of Criminal: France Episode 1, “Emilie”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
The titular Emilie of Criminal: France Episode 1 claims to be a survivor of the November 13th, 2015 attacks on Paris, having witnessed first-hand armed gunman burst into a rock concert at the Bataclan and begin firing indiscriminately into the crowd. One of the victims was her boyfriend, Alex, who she was forced to leave behind when she saw the opportunity to flee.
Emilie, like most victims, is repeatedly forced to recount the details of her trauma. How such victims are treated within our culture is a notable undercurrent of Criminal: France Episode 1; the police are playing with fire pushing the interview, but since a serious claim has been made that Emilie fabricated her involvement in the attack, they have no other choice but to proceed. In a climate which constantly tells us to believe victims, this is a bold story to tackle, given a slightly exploitative frisson by tying it directly to a real-life act of terrorism.
The legacy of that act is felt around the police department, most obviously expressed by the frantic and perhaps unstable cop Laeticia, who has only recently returned from sick leave. She’s representative of how widespread and deep-rooted the kind the trauma inflicted by terrorism can become, affecting not just individuals but entire countries and their institutions.
In an emotional scene, Emilie admits that she arrived late to the concert and found herself trapped outside. In her guilt, especially over being treated as a brave survivor by Alex’s mother, she got caught up in the lie and embraced her new role, blogging and tweeting about her made-up experiences. She is to be charged with fraud and perjury. Her lawyer, though, wants to use an earlier outburst by Laeticia to have the charges thrown out, putting the police in a difficult position.
A further reveal changes things. Emilie was late to the concert because she was sleeping with Alex’s friend. After the attack, they began a relationship which turned sour when she called it off. She was turned in to the police by a possessive man who felt scorned; a mundane outcome. As penance, Emilie decides to go on-the-record with her truth, in honor of Alex’s memory. Criminal: France Episode 1 delivers a bold, complex start.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.