The title of the French procedural series, “Mongeville”, is not the name of its city. It’s Bordeaux. Rather, it refers to retired judge Antoine Mongeville (Francis Perrin), who for one reason or another ends up unofficially helping the local homicide bureau with each week’s murder. In the first of two three-episode seasons aired together, he helps Detective Axelle Ferrano (Marie Moute), much to the dismay of the head of her department, Commissioner Briare (Pierre Aussedat), who deeply resents any contribution from this particular source. The gentlemen have a story.
In the three-episode second season, Ferrano is replaced by Valentine Duteil (Gaelle Bona), who remains for the remainder of the series’ 26 episodes. Briare’s resentment continues to seethe, despite Mongeville’s growing track record of helping out. The tenor of the series changes considerably with the arrival of the new co-star.
In the first season, the crimes share the running time with the stories and personal problems of the two protagonists. Mongeville is haunted by the disappearance of his adult daughter a few years earlier, continuing his search by any means he finds. Ferrano is emotionally hurt by a recent case that ended badly, tarnishing her image within the department and creating serious trust issues in all aspects of her life. But the two work well together to solve his assigned cases while working on their respective collateral issues.
The first trio of episodes begin with an apparent suicide that the two find more suspicious than everyone else, pitting them against The Brass, as well as the perp. Other crimes taking around 90 minutes to solve start with more obvious murders, but require delving into a mare’s nests of ancient crimes and misdeeds. All three are well-written, providing complicated storylines as we build relationships with the protagonists. And a considerable dislike for Briare, who takes the a**hole boss trope to new levels of a**hol-lery, and just might turn out to be as corrupt as he is a**hol-ish by nature .
While the first three are rather serious in tone, the arrival of Duteil changes the series into something lighter. She’s as perky as Ferrano was troubled, but deceptively as tough, smart, and intuitive as her predecessor. The scripts continue to contain interesting sets of facts and actors to unravel, with the directors’ personal issues taking up less of the stage. Another useful levity addition comes from having Mongeville enlist the special skills of a charming old burglar, Sylvestre (Marc Depond), whom he had befriended during his years on the bench, whenever investigative tactics are necessary and warrants cannot be obtained.
Mongeville is a character to admire and with whom you have to feel at ease. As is typical of European crime series, the cast is less glamorous and the stories unfold with less violence than our typical home prime-time fare. The first six end without major cliffhangers, but leave me looking forward to the next set of releases.
“Mongeville,” seasons one and two, mostly in French with English subtitles, airs on MHzChoice starting November 1.
RATING: 3 out of 4 stars