Before the open credits start to roll, Twin Peaks fans will notice parallels. A grim forest, Bobby Vinton croons Mr Lonely, a flyer for a missing girl on a lonely out of service call box, a stranded motorist has a bizarre encounter collapsing under the “Welcome to Villefranche” sign. Jump to a team of police discovering a dead girl hanged in the forest. We are quickly introduced to numerous tropes reminding us of the iconic Lynch/Frost series: the decor of the small town police station is familiar; is the middle aged officer winding a reel of fishing line a sly nod to Pete Martel? The distressed motorist we saw moments earlier is introduced as the new prosecutor – an outsider whose authority and reason for being in town echo Agent Cooper, even if his quirks and mannerisms are more evocative of Adrian Monk. And before we’ve had time to digest these allusions, there’s the saw mill and the road house, but, just as quickly as Black Spot leads us to think we are watching French Twin Peaks it is weaving together clues that make clear it is so much more than just a French Twin Peaks. There is no Log Lady to tell us that “the crows are not what they seem” because from their first appearance we can infer that ourselves.
As the investigation into the hanged girl’s murder unfolds, the storytelling is taught and deliberate. The elements that remind us of Twin Peaks are present without the coy obscurantism, or the bugbears of network executives meddling over whether audiences will get it. Unlike the classic series that inspired it, Black Spot knows exactly what it is and it knows that is what we are here to watch. Mathieu Missoffe has created a weird creepy police procedural with metaphysical undertones, one that acknowledges Twin Peaks fans are in the target audience without pandering. It is not a remake or a pastiche, it is a stand alone work that smartly pays homage to the show that created the genera and promptly moves on to introduce us to a new weird place where weird things happen.
Interestingly, Season One premiered on French TV on 10 April 2017, more than a month before Showtime aired Twin Peaks The Return. So, it is almost impossible for Missoffe and his production team to have drawn any inspiration from the 3rd season. Whether by mere coincidence, or synchronicity, Black Spot embraces the alluring High Strangeness that Twin Peaks only flirted with until S3.
The name “Black Spot” (“White Zone” in the original French) is a reference to the location being so deep in the Ardennes that cellular service is patchy and technology in general is unreliable. We learn the town is so small and so isolated that it doesn’t have a church, even the medieval technology of Catholicism is inaccessible in Villefranche. Celtic paganism takes the place of the vaguely defined Native American lore and obscurant occultism. The spooky forest is more than an atmospheric setting, it is a character whose role in the drama is revealed to be central to the plot. The locals speak of the forest like it is alive, as if it has consciousness and the capacity to manifest its will.
The show is brilliantly modern and intelligent and I think it is well worth your time.