TV Review: 'Black Spot' Season 1

Weird events are happening in the small fictional town of Villefranche. The murder rate has been escalating, eclipsing the national average. Determined to get to the bottom of that and other mysteries is a prosecutor with a firm grip on justice. Arriving as a lumber mill is being shut down and ominous events rage on in the forested mountains, Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto) comes ready to hold the authorities accountable to do their jobs in "Black Spot" Season 1.

At first, the police force’s ambivalence over the crimes ravaging the area is frustrating. Counterbalancing that is the series’ tone, which is so compelling you cannot help be intrigued further. There has to be a reason. As Franck delves deeper, he and the audience, learn that everyone is hiding their share of secrets. For “Bates Motel” fans, the series’ echoes of small-town dynamics reaches a similar boil that should prove inviting.

And like the A+E masterpiece’s setting, the ethereal beauty that surrounds “Black Spot” is part of its mystery. What makes the Amazon series so cunning is how it handles that backdrop. It treats it as a maze of mayhem in one scene, before turning on a dime to reveal a misunderstood home to something nowhere near as menacing in another.

“Black Spot” features a lot of character-driven mysteries that serve to progress a larger one that brings everything under its umbrella in a convincing way. While there are procedural elements, they all serve a greater story that should prevent one from feeling numb to their purpose.

The central characters are flawed, albeit preeminently likable, which is a strange thing to be able to carry off. No matter their allure, Franck reminds us of the reason this story is unfolding. Where others in its plot are comfortable giving in to the gravitational pull that surrounds them, Franck is the audience’s anchor to reality.

The performances of the cast are natural. Every actor conveying this sense, the camera just started rolling in a small town nestled in an ominously enchanted forest. They are all that believable. The cinematography similarly plays a crucial role in conjuring the mood. The essence of its story’s elusive being brought to the screen with intense style. There is never a moment that passes where anything does not feel possible, even and especially, bad things.

“Black Spot” is a brooding thriller with paranormal leanings that trend towards the welcome possibility of rational explanation. With another season underway, more answers are certain to follow, as well as more questions. The first season sets "Black Spot" up with a definitive authority over its identity. It is an uncanny sense of self that usually escapes a series’ freshman effort. Due to that and more, the French-language thriller holds on to its groove by hitting all the right spots.

Rating: 8/10

The first season of "Black Spot" (originally titled "Zone Blanche") is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

[Feautred Image by Jean-Philippe Baltel/Group AB]

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