Witnesses episode 2 - TV review: Lots of story, but far too much uneven pondering

Witnesses is less ‘whodunit?’ and more ‘getonavecit’

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The Independent Culture

Channel 4’s Witnesses may be swerving the second album struggles Broadchurch encountered with its sequel series by bringing forward its ‘difficult deuxième’ syndrome to the French drama’s second episode.

Once all the fun, peripheral show trifles have been plundered – did you know the actor who plays former chief of police Paul Maisonneuve is France’s Doc Martin? Doesn’t it look all Nordic noir™? Just like that other foreign one we tweeted about but didn’t get round to? It becomes necessary to actually watch the police procedural. And in terms of pace, this intended thriller about le plod’s investigation into exhumed bodies arranged into grim, familial mise en scènes in two show homes certainly, well, plods.

“Tell Paul that the ghosts are back,” a gallingly obscure heavy – presumably one of les lags on the run with a history of having their liberty impaired by Maisonneuve – instructs Detective Sandra Winckler as she composes herself following another end-of-the-episode burst of action.

Last week climaxed with an attempted bumping off of Maisonneuve at the local funicular, this week Winckler’s car was sent rolling after being ploughed into by psychopaths who not only found themselves behind bars due to a bad habit of the kidnap and murders while wearing the make up of a sinister clown but then torched their way out of prison, evaded the authorities and sketched Maisonneuve’s childhood family home on the walls of their cell, all the while somehow managing to plant a snap of the retired cop’s dead wife’s grave inside that same fishing village house he grew up in.

And all of this went down just moments after Winckler had been hurling up her guts, her stomach turned with nerves after hearing a female voice answer a phone number Sandra suspects of belonging to her partner’s lover.

Vraiment, with that much going on, and with so many lines of enquiry, you’d hope for a killer line with more pizzazz than a easy crossword clue about ghosts from such an antagonist.

And yet, the compelling good stuff all seems crushed into the last few minutes. Elsewhere in Tréport, big plot points are splodged about in a manner that not even the washed-out, grey landscape can dilute. How did Winckler’s colleague Justin suss out the dodgy details surrounding the purchase of a cemetery by show home boss Norbert – also Maisonneuve’s old pal – faster than a Google search, for example?

Lots of story, then – but far too much uneven pondering. Witnesses is less ‘whodunit?’ and more ‘getonavecit’.