Baptiste episode 6 review: a finale deflated of tension

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 Into The Sand

Now the goatee makes sense. All series, Niels Horchner has been wearing his facial hair in a style universally accepted as a signifier of screen evil and nobody suspected a thing.

Aside, that is, from those of us who suspected a thing, watched that thing play out with a deflated sense of ‘oh, right, there’s that thing’, and then switched off the TV and went to sort out the recycling/make tomorrow’s packed lunches before bed.

It wasn’t life-changing, is the point. Start to finish, Baptiste has been non-essential viewing. A series of intrigues, twists, deaths and quite a few young women in underwear have been paraded in front of us but our involvement has been minimal (for the best when it comes to the young women in underwear). We’ve been dispassionate eye-witnesses, not, as the best crime mysteries make us, participants. As the credits rolled on this finale it felt less like having gone through something and more like having ticked off a task on the to-do list. Baptiste? Done.

There were pleasing moments. Tcheky Karyo is a warm and comforting screen presence. Tom Hollander is a dab hand with gallows humour. The finale’s return of Cheesy Puff-eating Not A Pervert was neat, and Julien and Genevieve’s adrenaline-fuelled laughter after the car chase was an enjoyably human surprise. Seeing the trafficked girls rescued too, was a rare relief in such a depressing story. Cristina not being among them though indicated that Baptiste sees itself as more uncompromisingly gritty than the slit-throat soap opera it really is.

The timeline-play at the end, which wrapped things between Julien and Niels up over the phone and then skipped ahead two months to tell the story in flashback, was a welcome attempt to shake things and add some interest, but the result was an odd deflation of tension. Niels’ corruption was unveiled (top tip for anyone colluding in a criminal conspiracy: don’t state your co-collaborators’ names at the top and tail of phone calls) but one puff-chested conversation between him and his biological dad later and it was all over. 

It was all over for Martha, at least, this show’s latest victim of an undeserving end. After betraying what was right for Niels’ sake, she betrayed Niels for the sake of what was right, balancing her moral scales but resulting in a bullet in the head from her son. We were left with Julien and Edward the survivors, standing on a beach making vaguely philosophical pronouncements about life. What’s the point of it all? Good question.

What was the point of it all? Life’s a bitch, suggests Baptiste with a Gallic shrug. Dads are suffocated and decapitated. Ex-wives and girlfriends have their throats cut. Lovers are paralysed. Sex workers drown. Teenage sisters are sold to abusers for the cost of a 64GB iPad. Girls get trafficked. Boys get cancer. Lives are ruined.

A tragedy, if it isn’t to be simply a ghost train series of horrors, should be instructive and emotive. It can make us feel empathy for those involved, feel lucky not to be among them, feel smug that we’d have acted differently in the circumstances, feel any number of things as long as it makes us feel something. For me, that’s what was missing from this machine-engineered series.

Anyway, the wind blows. Still the world turns. And next week in the same slot: Line Of Duty.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.


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