“Jerome” proves a stunningly acted exploration of identity and prejudice, surpassing its well-worn premise.
This recap of Criminal: France Episode 3, “Jerome”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words, and our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these ones.
Criminal: France Episode 3, the best of the trio, is impressively written and even more impressively acted — these two things are what elevate it far beyond its highly familiar premise, allowing its meditations on identity and prejudice to feel fresh and compelling instead of hackneyed and played-out.
Thanks to pressure from the district attorney’s office, the team are called in before dawn to deal with the case of Jerome Lacombe, a laddish window salesman who has been accused of committing a hate crime against Remi Fabretti, a gay man who was savagely beaten on a night out. A spate of such attacks means the DA is keen to crack down, and Jerome makes for a convenient scapegoat. But did he do it?
Evidence, at least initially, seems to indicate that he did. He and his all-male sales team were reportedly boisterous and handsy with female staff. Jerome was witnessed given a speech in which he declared that he would “pulverize those fags” — his claims that this statement was directed at a rival sales team seem unlikely, especially since homophobic language is frequently deployed in the WhatsApp group his workmates share. Even Lieutenant Sarkissian, apparently not a fan of political correctness, finds the language, and the frequency with which it’s used, to be disgusting.
In a great scene of Criminal: France Episode 3, Jerome uses his sales experience to explain his current predicament. The three key ingredients to a sale — or, he argues, a conviction — are characteristics, advantages. and proof. He suits the characteristics of a classic bigot, and the advantages of convicting a man like him for what he has been accused of are obvious. The problem is proof — there isn’t any, because he didn’t do it.
Despite Jerome’s touching stories of his daughters — aged nine and five, same as mine – and happy marriage, his body language tips Audrey off to something he’s hiding. Asking him to remove his shoes and socks, he reveals nicely-painted toenails. As it’s subsequently revealed, Jerome is a cross-dresser, living a double-life. On the night of Remi’s death, he met him in a bar, engaged in sexual activity with him, and then the pair of them were accosted by five men. Managing to hide, Jerome overheard Remi’s assault. Afterward, he changed back into his suit and left the scene, back to the safety of his public-facing life.
This seems like a despicable and cowardly act on his part, but the writing in Criminal: France Episode 3 is careful to characterize him as a man who not only conducts himself as two different individuals but genuinely enjoys being both versions of himself. This is a portrayal I’ve rarely seen; whereas usually, secret cross dressers must keep their real selves hidden away, Jerome sees both versions of himself as equally valid and believes he should be allowed to embrace both. But the fact he saw a man very much like himself be viciously beaten simply for existing is enough to justify his failure to intervene. Nonetheless, he confesses to his involvement knowing that, thanks to the visibility of the case, there’s a good chance his details will be leaked.
For the first time, maybe he’ll get to be both of his selves at once.