Crimson Rivers–”Silent Witness” meets “Engrenages”
Crimson Rivers (“Les Rivières Pourpres”-2018-2022), a twenty-four episode French detective series, has three seasons of two-episode crimes which special investigator Pierre Niémans (Olivier Marchal) and his protégée, Lieutenant Camille Delauney (Erika Sainte) are obsessed to solve. The much-younger Camille Delauney, intrepid to a fault, always finds herself in difficult situations chasing after clues. The aging Niémans arrogantly dismisses, derides, or reveals his Gallic disdain for anyone–especially Camille–who questions his authority and judgment. She is often on the right trail.
The viewer may uncomfortably cheer as Niémans and Delauney break rules, use violence and other illegal means of interrogation, to achieve their results. However, the two detectives also apply liberal forensic evidence. Rude and condescending towards albeit sometimes feckless local gendarmes, Niémans and Delauney frequently treat each other similarly: keeping secrets and going behind each other’s back.
Detective Niémans and Delauney solve twelve crimes presented in two part episodes. The majority center on religious or spiritual fanaticism, cult rituals, or ancient beliefs. Murders run the gamut of involving neo-pagan Nazis, a murderer costumed as a medieval angel wearing the mask of death associated with the Plague, satanic curses, incestuous religious communities, foster home child abuse, demon myths, grave desecration, and genetic superiority among competing siblings. Prime canonical sources involve the Bible, The Book of Celts, ancient Gregorian music, and astrology. Concentration on manuscript links, detailed religious symbols, and zealotry in interpreting religious text, icons, and codes are required to follow the resolution of each brutal murder. The obvious prime suspect is rarely the murderer.
What makes Crimson Rivers an entertaining metabolism-raising series to watch is the detailed research into obscure data–e.g. DNA matching and mutation, manuscript philology, fetal skin cloning. While not without its faults, particularly some glaring plot holes, saggy middles and perhaps unnecessary sexual escapades, Crimson Rivers is a highly original series with quirky characters who pull you into their complicated lives, leaving more questions than answers. This is a definite must-see for fans of “Silent Witness” (see my review of August 11, 2021) and “Engrenages” (see my review of December 2, 2013).
Note: Crimson Rivers is based on a novel by Jean-Christophe Grangé. Season 4 has already been released in England, but not yet available in the US.