MHz Choice now streaming Blood on the Docks (Deux flics sur les docks) Season 2 starring Bruno Solo and Jean-Marc Barr! If you need a refresher from Season 1, keep reading!

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Reading this article reveals key points of this program! How about watching it first?
stop looney tunes giphy downsized

SPOILER ALERT! Reading this article reveals key points of this program! How about watching it first?

The wonderful Blood on the Docks – with its atmospheric soundtrack, gritty look, plot surprises, strong ensemble players – stays in your head a long time. It’s based on English writer Graham Hurley’s Porthsmouth crime novels. The books struck such a note with the French they secured the television rights and set the stories in the port city of Le Havre, across the English Channel from Portsmouth. (What captured their interest? My money’s on Faraday’s melancholy and that ever-present hat.)

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L to R: Jean-Marc Barr and Bruno Solo

1. It’s about friendship.

The relationship between Richard Faraday (Jean-Marc Barr) and Paul Winckler (Bruno Solo) transcends their differences, which are many. Yes, both are sad sacks and both are widowers. And they share a strong desire to haul in the bad guys. In the first episode of season one, “Angels Passing,” they start off as ex-partners, but that doesn’t last long and they end up back together.

Their personalities couldn’t be more different: Richard is compulsively ‘by-the-book’, and takes pride in doing things in a way that puts him above reproach, while Paul’s path through life has made him cynical and given him disdain for procedure. He’s not a dirty cop, but when the system allows the bad guy to evade justice, he’s not above doing what he has to to bring justice about. Working together has forged a bond and their loyalty to each other remains unbroken.

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Emmanuel Salinger as Bazza Swaty

2. Paul Winckler has a strong connection with Le Havre’s crime kingpin, Bazza Swaty.

Turns out Paul was raised by Swaty’s mother – we don’t get a lot of backstory, but the Swaty family took him in as a small boy. So, he’s like a brother to Bazza (Emmanuel Salinger). Two boys took different paths and Winckler takes the tricky road of maintaining two loyalties – to his ‘brother’ and to his mission as a cop. This gets under Dardenne’s skin like nobody’s business. She’s dying to get Bazza and knows Winckler is in frequent contact. Favorite moment from Episode 103, “One Under” – Bazza’s mother invites Paul over for dinner, where she confides in him that she’s “worried how Bazza is making his money. “ (Uh, lady…)

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Jean-Marie Hall as Lulu

3. Richard’s deaf son, Lulu (Jean-Marie Hall) figures in most of the episodes.

When Richard lost his wife, Lulu lost his mother and Richard has jumped into the breach to remain an engaged parent. In the first four episodes, Lulu appears to be in his early 20s, living with his dad and involved with filmmaking, protesting and issues of social justice. He and his father communicate through signing, and Lulu keeps becoming involved with cases inadvertently. His scenes are always memorable, especially when the dialogue gets heated between him and his father. I learned one can shout with sign language.

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Mata Gabin as Lucie Dardenne

4. Police Chief Dardenne has a bark worse than her bite.

The mesmerizing Mata Gabin as Police Chief Dardenne steals any scene she’s in and it’s amusing to watch her try to control her department in the face of peoples’ various personal loyalties. Her goal: to stand against the gang lords as best she can with given resources. Her pet peeve: Winckler. Gabin is fantastic casting for this role, and in front of her regal bearing the cops look like intimidated kindergartners. If anyone doubts her compassion, check out her scene with Lulu in the interrogation room in “White Lines.”

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Lisa Manili (center) as Julie Fabian

5. The rookie cop, Fabian has her own unique strengths

Given Julie Fabian’s (Lisa Manili) delicate, other-worldly beauty, one can misjudge her. Winckler certainly does. But their respect for each other grows throughout both seasons, and Fabian proves herself wily, resourceful, capable and level-headed. Most importantly, she takes no crap from Winckler, who tends to dish it out liberally.

Season 1, Episode by Episode

Blood on the Docks has dense plots and there’s no way you can guess what the episode is about or who the bad guy is from the opening crime. Each episode is a ‘standalone’ and resolved by the end. But in case you forgot – here’s what happened in Season 1: (possible spoiler alert)

Episode 101

“Angels Passing” – A 15-year-old girl plunges to her death from a balcony and the last person seen with her was an infamous street urchin. The cops explore her relationship with the boy and also go deep into the heartbreak of life on the streets. They interview the girl’s grandmother, the boy’s foster mother and learn about a young couple the boy had come to love. If he didn’t push her off the balcony, how did it happen?

Episode 102

“White Lines” – Just as the department is about to run a sting, one of the key officers gets injured by drug runners and Winckler has to take his place. The case plunges the department into the bowels of Le Havre’s drug trade. Rookie cop Julie Fabian arrests Faraday’s son, Lulu for carrying a gun illegally. Dardenne interrogates Lulu, who, while filming a public-service video verite project, captured the last waking moments of a heroin addict. Bazza Swaty also appears to be profiting from the drug trade but escapes the net, and Winckler comes under heavy suspicion as the guy who tipped him off.

Episode 103

“One Under” – Naked and crying for help, a young man lies chained to the rail line as the commuter train approaches. Turns out it was a protest publicity stunt gone wrong. Faraday and Winckler also investigate a missing person report, which ends up being linked to the man run over by the commuter train. The two cases take them into the fine art world and into Le Havre’s protest circles, which include Faraday’s son, Lulu.

Episode 104

“Blood and Honey” – The decapitated body of a young man is found on the beach. The case involves blackmail, immigration, construction fraud, prostitution, human trafficking, busting up a drug orgy sponsored by local bigshots and a visit with Lulu’s old gradeschool teacher, who has a lead for the investigation. Oh, and Winckler gets diagnosed with a brain tumor. And falls in love. Things get complicated.

As French ensemble dramas go, Blood on the Docks ranks as one of the best. Personally, I think it’s due in large part to Bruno Solo, so very cool and watchable. He’s not a show horse/leading man type, but he’s a solid character actor with big eyes that speak volumes. In fact, both he and Jean-Marc Barr have cornered the market at looking soulful. All the episodes in both seasons are directed by Edwin Baily, who’s also directed many titles in the MHz Choice library. For example: Maigret, “Murder in a Vegetable Garden,” Nicolas Le Floch and Agatha Christie’s Family Murder Party.

And here’s an interesting side note – both Lisa Manili (Fabian) and Mata Gabin (Chief Dardenne) sing professionally and you can catch their work on YouTube and other music platforms!

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