Thirty tears ago Tina Turner lamented about not needing another hero, and the same must be said today about European detectives. They’re ten-a-penny, solving crimes across the continent and audiences have been able to visit more countries than a student on a Eurorailing trip. That doesn’t stop Salamander, a Brussels-based conspiracy featuring a rumpled cop and an unbreakable case. It doesn’t break new ground for the genre, but it is an absorbing drama that has a few decent twists and turns to keep you entertained through this 12 episode series.
Salamander begins with a Michael Mann/Christopher Nolan style bank robbery, which sees the safe deposit boxes of Belgium’s most important people cleaned-out in a mysterious blackmailing plot. These boxes contain deep far secrets, secrets which could destroy the country (dun, dun, dunnn). The robbery goes unreported until Paul Gerardi (Filip Peeters) stumbles upon the case. Gerardi follows in the long tradition of television detectives – he’s a loose cannon, who ignores his superiors. He’s warned off the case, but that doesn’t stop him sticking his nose where it’s not wanted. Geraldi is suspended, but even that doesn’t stop him. Snagging hot lead, after hot lead, Geraldi’s goes on the run, leaving behind his wife and daughter to solve Belgium’s biggest mystery since the disappearance of Jean Claude Van Damme’s movie career.
The odd mass child sex scandal aside, Belgium isn’t known as a place for drama. Sure, it’s the land of waffles and beer but high-octane conspiracies aren’t normally par for the course. The makers of Salamander do a decent job of ramping-up the tension – but this never hits the level of recent detective dramas. It’s feels a bit too superficial, too perfunctory – it’s almost as if it’s makers were afraid to go too dark (not that there’s anything ring with that). Even the car chases are safe. Salamander is more Midsommer Murders than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This is a mystery that your grandmother could enjoy.
Detective shows have become a staple of Sunday night television, and that’s what Salamander feels like – perfect Sunday fodder. It works as far as it goes and it’s pretty inoffensive – but it never feels like essential viewing. Salamander lacks the grit of the Scandinavian thrillers which have captivated recent audiences and it doesn’t have that edge-of-your-seat factor – but it’ll keep them entertained until Wallander cracks his next case.