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

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

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Paris Police 1900 has a rich plot full of political machinations and complex characters. To keep track of it all (and for fun) we are recapping each episode as they premiere.


PARIS POLICE 1900 RECAP – SEASON 1, EPISODE 2

The masks we wear in public

Episode 2 of Paris Police 1900 literally kicks into gear right at the start. The cutest kid one can cast is getting kicked awake on the street by a cop who is clearing the streets, presumably so the more respectable class of Parisians can stroll about free of sleeping street urchins. Who are the police protecting exactly? On cue, we have Louis Lépine (Marc Barbé), briskly marching towards police headquarters for his first day on the job as commissioner. Lépine’s real life reputation for reform is about to take root as a major point of friction amongst the Paris police, who seem in desperate need of a wake-up call. We’ll get to that in a moment after a brief interlude with Meg (Évelyne Brochu).

Meg is naked under the sheerest of sheets, in a stone-faced pose for her husband to paint. She doesn’t look too happy about it. It’s no Sunday in the Park with George and Monsieur Steinheil is no Serat. Meg does seem to have some sort of amorous power over him so its not an entirely love (or lust) free marriage. I sincerely hope the series unpacks this couple a bit more. I’m intrigued, if not a bit confused.

Now in the company of Fiersi (Thibaut Evrard) and an older countess, Meg is being prepped for infiltrating the Antisemite League. The countess will be her sponsor at the upcoming meeting. Meg is slightly scolded for asking who will pay her entry fees – the countess and Fiersi make it clear to Meg that she is naive even for wondering about the fees. You don’t have to take much of a leap to pick up on the clash of class here.

Meanwhile we are hearing Jules Guérin (Hubert Delattre) rehearsing a speech in front of his mother. Bigotry is apparently a family trade. As Guérin continues we get a glimpse of what he wants his followers to rally behind. A martyr of course. Remember Alphonse Chagnolle from episode 1 who killed his wife Hélène and was then killed by Antoine? Yes, that charmer is about to be canonized as an antisemitic patriot whose death must be avenged, setting up a direct conflict with the police.

Paris Police 1900, S1 E2

That conflict would be less of a problem if the police were all on the same page. Lépine is getting his first briefing as commissioner by his top brass, including the professor/coroner, Cochefert and Puybaraud (Patrick d’Assumçao). Their styles are all diametrically opposed. They argue about the science of fingerprints vs. police intuition, but most of all about how to spin the events from episode 1 (girl in a suitcase and a dead cop). Puybaraud is quick to pitch a tidy case. Alphonse Chagnolle killed the girl in the suitcase while Antoine and Morpinet are heroes. But that’s just too far from actual police work for Lépine who takes Cochefert’s more prudent advice to wait for more facts. Alphonse apparently sent a trunk to Brussels which is now being returned for examination. Any premature release to the press may look bad and the last thing Lépine wants is egg on his face. He has grander plans for his legacy.

Lépine not only agrees with Cochefert, but he is quite theatrical about it. In a dramatic press conference he sells the story of heroic police work right up to the line of claiming Hélène as the victim inside the suitcase. Rather than expand on the case he launches into a speech about entering a modern age before making a show of revealing a telephone to oohs and aahs. Lépine announces that there will be a telephone in every police station. Thus, the birth of dialing 9-1-1. I do revel in the depicted newness of things like fingerprints and telephones – it flows so well with the series storylines and clash of characters.

And speaking of clash-y characters, Antoine (Jérémie Laheurte) is paying a visit to Jeanne Chauvin (Eugénie Derouand). Yay its Jeanne! – it has been far too much screen time without her – but wait, is Antoine here to arrest her? Apparently yes and for the much-prioritized crime of impersonating a lawyer, which is immediately and forcefully defended by Jeanne’s colleagues who are present. But Jeanne obviously doesn’t need anyone else’s help with defense as she goes right for Antoine’s emotional jugular. She and Antoine spar, but nothing poor Antoine says is memorable since she deftly turns the tables on him with the accusation of using the threat of arrest as a ruse to get her on a date. Definitely not what he intended, but he suddenly looks like an embarrassed teen whose crush read his mind. Wait…did Jeanne just ask Antoine out?  I love her.

Things get a bit worse for Antoine back at the station as his colleagues are cleaning out Morpinet’s desk. Apparently, there’s early 20th century porn in there, which gets all the police boys in a locker room type tizzy. It ends with Antoine slapping Fiersi. Hard. Perhaps not the best outlet for his anger. Puybaraud gives Antoine a dressing down for his temper, though you know more is coming. A bit later Puybaraud confesses his distrust of Antoine to Fiersi. Seems like it’s time for Fiersi’s dirty work again. I knew this was a pattern. After wordlessly catching Puybaraud’s drift of how to handle Antoine, Fiersi gets down to business. He identifies one of the missing women who is a candidate for the body in the suitcase as a police informant known as “the swallow”. I know they mean a bird, but I can’t help but wonder whether she too has deadly lips.

Meanwhile, the no-nonsense-to-the-core Cochefert is grilling the inspectors about the suitcase investigation. He assigns none other than Antoine to investigate the whereabouts of a missing woman named Joséphine Berger. Here we go.

Antoine is not the only one looking for Joséphine. Now we’re at the Antisemtic League meeting and there are butchers on stage again (I pray for no more bloody pigs) with a Monsieur Depute spewing some bigotry garbage. Meg is there and she astutely remarks to her countess sponsor that these garbage spewers are just projecting their own insecurities on the Jews. Fiersi is at the meeting too. Lurking about of course.

Fiersi walks backstage and starts talking to one of the butchers, Mimile. They clearly have a history as Fiersi insults him before asking about Joséphine Berger. Mimile’s expert knife work does not escape my notice as he effortlessly cuts Fiersi a filet of pork. But this is not the market on a perfect autumn day because here come the anarchists who walk into the theater with foul mouths and a bone to pick with Guérin. Chaos ensues. Punches are landed. Chairs are thrown. The pandemonium gives Meg her opening. She spots Depute (man from the stage earlier) and throws herself into a damsel in distress routine. He falls for it hook, line, and sinker.

Before we get back to real police work there’s a short scene with Lépine and his wife. She’s mundanely sharing the pedestrian gossip about him, and he barely looks at her. A very similar scene happens later with a wordless dinner. Something is up here, but not sure what yet.

Scene over and we’re deep into some real-deal scientific police methods. I would say forensics, but its still 1899. Cochefert is lecturing a group of inspectors about flow rates of the Seine and the weight of the found suitcase. He is explaining that they are about to conduct an experiment with suitcases mimicking the weight of the found body to pinpoint the location of where the suitcase was dropped in the water. He partners with Antoine to wait in one of the boats on the Seine and you can’t help but think Cochefert is taking Antoine on as a mentee. I like this veteran/newbie pairing. Modern age indeed.

Paris Police 1900, S1 E2

Once the boat field trip is over, Cochefert is back to his lectern with detailed maps. He pinpoints the location of where the killer dropped the suitcase, how he likely traveled to get there based on witness accounts and speculates about the proximity to butcher’s slaughterhouses. Butchers, you say? Hmm.

Antoine is abruptly called back to the station where there’s a large trunk to investigate. Probably just arrived from Brussels. I don’t want to look inside and neither does Antoine it seems. Unfortunately, there are body parts. Lots of bloody body parts that belong to Hélène Chagnolle. Cochefert was wise to council Lépine to wait for more facts before declaring victory over the suitcase murder. Antoine is upset, his guilt over inadvertently causing Hélène’s death is weighing on him. His day gets a bit worse as we see him walk to his apartment door when its awfully dark and shadowy. It’s dirty work time. This time without a mask or words, Fiersi teaches Antoine the lesson of not to mess with him. Ouch.

Another interlude. This time a happy home with…Fiersi? There he is bouncing a toddler on his lap as his four other children and wife bustle around him. In another kind of show, it could be Christmas morning. I admit a bit of shock since Fiersi does not seem like the happy home type, certainly not after all that lurking and beating the crap out of Antoine. His wife also thanks him for the pork filet…

My mind barely has time to process that scene when we shift to some high stakes yet refined verbal jousting between Puybaraud and Lépine. They are not on the same wavelength and Lépine is not shy about belittling Puybaraud. Lépine doesn’t like the old scare the public tricks and Puybaraud doesn’t like the feeling of being supervised and derisively mentions the telephone as being a distraction. Lépine predicts that the phone will be a great legacy of his, while history will never remember an insignificant man like Puybaraud. Oh Lépine is really poking the bear here but I like it.

Perhaps simultaneous to Lépine laying out his great legacy is his wife socializing with one assumes to be the ladies of the Parisian elite. She seems to be putting on a face, but her anxiety is protruding through the surface rather clearly. I was expecting a tortured display of pleasantries, but the whole scene takes a big U-turn. Is everyone putting on a face? One of the impeccably dressed socialites takes out a syringe and injects herself. These gals are getting high as kites! At first Madame Lépine is hesitant but then looks immensely relieved. She has found her people. The extracurriculars of the well dressed are really something.

Meanwhile we see Antoine buried deep in some archives, likely still nursing his guilt over Hélène. The poor guy’s face always telegraphs his emotions right there to read. He then visits Joséphine’s apartment and begins questioning her neighbor, who happens to be the woman who reported Joséphine as missing. Sensing hesitation Antoine quickly threatens to arrest her for prostitution if she doesn’t tell him what she knows. Even though this is the 2nd time we’ve seen him threaten arrest, it still strikes me as out of character. Listening to this whole exchange is some creep eavesdropping through the wall with a stethoscope. What is going on here?

Paris Police 1900, S1 E2

Antoine reports his findings to Cocherfert as the wider team goes through Joséphine’s things. A book with an inscription “to my little swallow” is found and fingerprints are ordered. Sensing already that he can’t trust the wider group (I mean, who would) Antoine takes Cocherfert aside to fill him in on a butcher Joséphine was friendly with – Mimile.

And speak of the devil, here comes Fiersi strolling through a slaughterhouse to find Mimile, more formally known as Emile Terrail. As is his style, he lurks behind a butcher’s stall and then beats the crap out of Mimile whom he accuses of lying about Joséphine. Sheesh Fiersi. Mimile shoots back that Joséphine blames Fiersi for her time in jail. Does Mr. family man Fiersi feel guilty? Is he raging with guilt like Antoine? His face certainly doesn’t betray any emotion. Mimile, on the other hand, is definitely torn up. He claims Joséphine was blackmailing someone rich. Mimile accompanied her as a bodyguard one night to this rich mans house. Joséphine entered and never came back out. Some bodyguard. Mimile recovers himself enough to ask for money before revealing the address or sharing a key he happens to have from Joséphine.

This is all getting really juicy so of course we’re now going to throw a little crazy into the mix. Meg has an audience with Guérin, his mother, and a bunch of others from the Antisemite League. She’s selling her wares in the form of gossip about Felix Faure (remember him? Death by deadly lips). Meg embellishes an account of the former President’s need for drugs to enhance his sexual performance. Prescribed by a Jewish doctor of course. Guérin is eating it up but some of his colleagues are skeptical. Guérin, not wanting to look the fool, grossly chimes in about how deadly Meg’s mouth is known to be. This is where Meg really sells herself as just a lowly gossip seller. How could Meg’s trustworthiness possibly be settled you ask? The bigotry club has the perfect solution – just ask Felix Faure of course? Felix Faure being dead is no obstacle because they could do a séance. Oh my.

The séance is initiated. Meg plays along but I know she’s thinking what we’re all thinking – these people are crazy! The woman leading the séance is intense. Lights flicker. Guérin’s mother faints after being told she won’t survive the century (honestly, probably for the best). But lucky for Meg the dead President Faure seems to have vouched for her. She’s in!

We then go back to the aftermath of that high society drug den. Lépine finds his wife passed out on the couch. He seems to know the drill as he lovingly carries his wife to bed. His gentle body language is subtle and sympathetic. Completely different than the all-powerful commissioner obsessed with his legacy. He too puts on faces for outsiders.

Do we get to end on a touching note? Heck no. Someone is sealing a chimney. Turns out its Emile’s chimney and he’s overcome by the smoke in the fireplace. A man enters Emile’s apartment with a suitcase. THE suitcase.

I’d like to formally request more Jeanne Chauvin next time.



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