As this series runs for only eight episodes, we are now already at the halfway mark, and two further episodes have led to the almost inevitable discovery that Lea Morel is dead. Not only dead, but discovered, floating in a lake, wrapped in plastic, after further revelations that she wasn’t the sweet, blonde, happy, lovely kid that everyone seemed to think she was. I know I made the Laura Palmer connection last week, but this is taking the comparison entirely too far.
So we have the Twin Peaks cop-off as the crime that represents the spine of the story, but The Killing 1 is equally as prevalent as the latest two episodes spend a considerable amount of time on how Florence and Julian Morel are taking this situation. He, being French, is volatile and compelled: the lack of action, the lack of answers, the fact that nothing seems to be happening drives him into frantic bursts of energy and temper (though he’s finally beginning to accept that Commander Molina is working the case as best as possible).
But poor Flo is definitely going down the same lines as Pernilla Birke Larssen and her moods are spooking more than one member of the family. She’s heading for a crack-up, investing her emotional energy in a clairvoyant whose unnatural assumption of hopefulness becomes too much for the slowly despairing Julien to bear, leading to ructions and separate beds.
That this will only get worse is slightly telegraphed by devoting the Morel family’s time to little Zoe’s School Fair. The Morels arrive separately to the Pirate Pantomime, the atmosphere of which relaxes Flo enough to take Julien’s hand, even as we intercut to Molina’s heedless 15 year old daughter Rose being the one to find Lea’s body.
Not that I think Rose has any significance in this save as a detail to the somewhat perfunctory glimpse we have of Molina’s ‘troubled private life’. Though it’s not out of the question: these two episodes are predicated upon the fact that everyone’s lying to the Police about something, especially if their surname is Morel. Jean, the uncle, sneaked off to his lover of two years who he dare not breathe a word of to daughter Chris (played by Zoe Marchal: I looked her name up in the credits: I have my shallow side like everyone else), whilst Thomas, the elder brother was off vandalising the new Hi-Speed Train, putting ecological concerns ahead of protecting his little sister, for which Flo cannot forgive him.
Yes, very Pernilla.
The plot develops without haste or melodrama. Lea’s voicemail message to her father takes both episodes to be proven a fake: it was left by Jenny the prostitute, who dealt drugs from her van to Lea regularly, whilst also taking money off boyfriend Romain in her other, older profession. Someone kills her with a metal bar to the head, but who or why?
And then there’s Nicolas, waiter at the Morel Cafettiere, who has/had a major crush on Lea, now being bitterly described by the lovely Chris as a major-league prick-teaser (or is that just because Romain’s backed out of the language trip to England because he won’t have Lea to fuck, whilst Chris no longer wants to go because she won’t have Romain to fuck?)
Nicolas has been enough of a red herring and whilst he hasn’t been cleared, I don’t think it’s him as he’s come to light too early. At the moment, such suspicions as I have are focused upon Lea’s French teacher and Form Master: Flo gets a letter from the school (because Lea’s not around to intercept it) warning of falling grades, bad attitudes and unauthorised absences. But her Form Master, at whom she smiles coquettishly in flashbacks, hasn’t noticed a single problem and gave her 85% in her last literature essay: not bad for a girl who her mother couldn’t get to read a single book.
But there are still four episodes left and time for at least two more red herrings, and anyway, I’m really no more invested in this series that I was last week.
There’s nothing wrong with The Disappearance. It’s well-made, well-acted, and the mystery is being handled carefully, with little dribs of information being released. But on the other hand, there’s nothing particularly right about it. It’s a French version of The Killing with an overtly Twin Peaks victim and it doesn’t bring anything else to the party. I can appreciate it for its refusal to turn itself into a melodrama at any point, to indulge itself in hysteria. I admire it for not employing a ‘maverick’ detective consistently bending rules in the most stupid of fashions. I like the growing efficiency of the relationship between Molina and the slightly out-sized Guerin. It can indulge in close-ups of Zoe Marchal any time it wants.
But unless the second half has some comprehensive surprises in store, it’s not going to go down as great, or compelling, or memorable. It’s not going to be fatuous or risible, for which many thanks, but by the same taken I’m not going to be clamouring for a sequel, whereas I’d happily sit down with Andri, Hinrika, Aesgir and that gorgeous Icelandic scenery for another ten episodes any day.
Not that Lyons isn’t lovely in itself. The pan shots along the Rhone, with all its bridges, make me want to visit.
No, The Disappearance is good in its own way but insufficiently distinctive for anything except the age old question of What Happens Next? Some more of that is due next Sunday morning: it’s not going to keep me away from the football on Saturday night.