Black Spot, I thought, is an unusual name for a TV show, but in the past I have bought vinyl (records, you know :P) based purely on the album artwork, and stumbled across some real stunners (Crusader, by English band Saxon, comes to mind). Yeah, call me shallow. Anyway, when I saw the name, and the associated promo image on Netflix, I thought… well, why not. And I was pleasantly surprised.
The show is a French/Belgian production which debuted at a TV festival in 2017, bought by Amazon and finally released on Netflix, with a second series commissioned by them as well. It was created by Mathieu Missoffe, who wrote an episode of (French) Doc Martin, and a fair few French TV series, and TV movies.
It is a mystery/suspense type of show, and series 1 is only 8 episodes. It is also a bit hard to explain exactly how I feel about the show, and what exactly is going on, but I’ll give it ago.
The show’s name in French is “Zone Blanche” (white zone), however, this is a term used to refer to a “dead zone” – the show is set in a town called Villefranche (“Frank City” if you want a direct translation) which is set in the mountains, miles away from anywhere and in a cellular dead zone. The lack of mobile coverage is something that hinders, frustrates, and provides a bit of humour throughout the show, and not a little bit of suspense.
Villefranche is a very mysterious place, think Twin Peaks mixed with Blair Witch. The show is based about the local Gendarmes (police), particularly Major Laurène Weiss, who is trying to manage a large number of mysterious deaths/murders, in fact, the population is dwindling and the murder rate is 6 times the national average.
The Gendarmes struggle with the mysterious goings on, and the evidence they are faced with. There always seems to be a supernatural aspect to everything, which sort of gets mostly explained away by forensic investigation and good detective work. But then… not always, and never completely.
Major Weiss seems strangely connected to the forest, where she was apparently kidnapped, or held prisoner when she was about 18 (there is some form of “coming of age” ceremony that is a right of passage in the town).
The more involved she gets in solving these mysterious crimes, the more sort of spiritually attached she gets to the forest. There are a lot of weird antler type references and interactions with wild critters like wolves.
The biggest problem is that it is dubbed in English, and the voice acting is not.. errr.. wonderful. However, it was only occasionally in the show that it is apparent. The story, the scenery, the eerie mood, and the cinematography make up for it.
I didn’t think I would enjoy the story, but somehow I got sucked into the whole mystery and ended up on a weekend binge. If you’re after something a bit different, mysterious and well, weird, this is the thing for you. Let me know if you watched it, or if you do, tell me your impressions!
– Geoff Gummer