Captain Weiss and her team discover a woman’s body with rope tied around her neck hanging from a tree. The victim’s brunette hair hangs down the front of her stained dress and cardigan. While someone takes photos of the body and their surroundings, Dr. Barami lifts up the dead woman’s hair to have a better look at the face. She confirms it to be Sandra Chavrier, a local nurse for the district.
“It’s a shame, I liked her.”
Dr. Barami peeks at the woman’s chest by moving the dress’s fabric to the side, saying her eyes were pecked out by crows, but the cause of death is stabbing.
The French thriller, “Black Spot,” or “Zone Blanche,” tells the story of Villefranche, an isolated town near the edge of a forest where the murder rate is six times higher than the country’s average. The reasoning behind the name “Black Spot” is that almost the entire town is a dead zone for cell phones.
A quirky district attorney, Franck Siriani, played by Laurent Capelluto, comes to town to investigate. He joins police chief Lauréne Weiss, played by Suliane Brahim, and her crew in exploring the unnatural crimes and murdering of town residents, which flares up after his arrival.
“All the characters in the show are defined by their relationships to their community and their environment around the town, mainly the forest in this case,” Black Spot creator, Mathiew Missoffe, said in an interview with Flickering Myth.“I wanted (Siriani) to be so far from everything. … He’s a bureaucrat stuck in a place where nothing makes sense.”
As it seems that it is always raining in Villefranche, “Black Spot” maintains its gloomy aura as the audience learns more about the community throughout the episodes.
The mayor, Bertrand Steiner, played by Samuel Jouy, shuts down his sawmill, upsetting many of his employees. His daughter, Marion, played by Sarah-Megan Allouch, has been missing for six months and is also the best friend of Weiss’ daughter, Cora, played by Camille Aguilar.
Cora has not let a day go by without searching for Marion and is desperate to find out what happened. She is also a town activist and sets up a protest against closing the town sawmill.
Everyone in the town, including the police department, spends their nights in the local bar, hanging with the bartender, Sabine, played by Brigitte Sy.
The show has hints of supernatural elements, which includes the appearance of a non-human creature with long fingers throughout the episodes. Its role behind the crimes in the town is mysterious and unclear at the beginning of the season.
Captain Weiss is alarmed after seeing an old wolf despite all of them being killed years ago. It’s even more alarming that the wolf makes itself only visible to her.
Many have compared the show to the 1990s mystery TV series “Twin Peaks” because it is also a detective program with supernatural aspects. In the Flickering Myth interview, Missoffe said it wasn’t a real influence on the show, but visually it played a part in inspiring him.
“Even in the pilot, we blend a number of styles, the western on one side, the Scandinavian feel on the other, and the Twin Peaks vibes is another aspect,” he said. “But there’s no point in trying to channel David Lynch because only David Lynch can do that!”
With each episode, there is a different investigation and crime for the Villefranche police department. They help a traumatized caver who is convinced that his new girlfriend is trapped with the horrible creature he had escaped from. However, no one in the small town has ever heard or seen her.
A video from a phone is recovered showing a group of young adults out in the woods to celebrate the town’s vigil tradition. Once you turn 18, you will spend the night in the forest. This vigil ended with one of the boy’s necks slashed open.
Siriani shows off his interrogation skills in getting this murderer to confess, much to Weiss’ surprise and amusement. But, the viewer is still invested in the lives outside of the police department.
The mayor is confronted about the vigil gone wrong at the town bar while on a date with his wife. However, he and Weiss are still working through their complicated relationship; they dated in high school.
Meanwhile, Cora is doing her own investigation on these tree-like symbols around town, leading her to believe Marion was taken by an unknown activist group.
It also turns out Weiss is a victim of the unusual crimes happening in the town. She is gone for three days after her vigil. Weiss comes back with only eight fingers after cutting off two in desperation to escape from chains. The Captain establishes herself as a strong protagonist; she is an independent, hard-ass, empathetic and overall likable character.
For those who know me behind the screen, I am obsessed with crime thriller shows. I became invested in Villefranche within the first two minutes. Not only are the episodes well written, but the camera work and visuals are stunning. You may not want to visit or live in Villefranche, but the viewer is immediately attached to the characters and the small community. From wanting Captain Weiss and her daughter, Cora, to fix their broken relationship to figuring out how these individual crimes connect together, I am hooked on every scene.
After the show debuted in France in 2017, Amazon was the first to stream it to an international audience by offering it to their Prime members. Netflix picked up the first season in 2019 and saw an immediate increase in viewership.
My favorite aspect of the show is its unpredictability. Every question is not always answered within the same episode, but all crimes are somehow related to each other and the overall plot.
“I know we’re asking a bit more than the usual of the audience, but I think that’s needed right now when you’re dealing with a mythology-heavy show,” Missoffe said. “The audience has to be engaged to connect the dots.”