Photo: Eén

Brussels Sprouts Genius Crime Series with Salamander

The Wheel Of Murder pretty much runs over Al Lowe in Belgium.

Are you old? Do you wear a cardigan to bed? Do you lay out a wine and cheese spread every Friday night to marathon NCIS reruns? You probably enjoy a detective story/police procedural or nine every week and are currently going through summer withdrawals. Fear not, it's always death o'-clock somewhere. You don't even know from a dismembered corpse until you've seen how they do it in the morgues of Denmark! Join Al Lowe as she TV-travels the globe to prove that the international language isn't music; it's murder!

The Show Salamander, a Belgian suspense drama in which a rogue cop, Paul Geradi (Filip Peeters) takes on a secret society made up of members of the Belgian government. Series 1 is available on Netflix, and you'll want to catch up, because not only will there be a second series, but Paul Haggis, Oscar-winner and whistle-blowing Scientologist, is working on an North American remake.

The Formula Police officer too ethical for his own good, placing himself and even his family in harm's way? Check. Mysterious conspiracy against a covert society (called "Salamander"), proving they were right all along to be so paranoid? Yes! Secret meetings held between the 66 unseen power players of the national government who are being blackmailed after their special bank gets robbed? OH, INDEED. It's all there and it's all fantastic.

"[Location] Was Like Another Character" Brussels, across which Gerardi chases and battles with the secret police, has bumped to the top of my World Travels list. Good Lord, it's gorgeous. Is it okay for one country to contain so many attractive people and places, though? Does everyone know about this? Because the Belgians are A LITTLE BIT GOOD-LOOKING. (Even the monks, which, surely, is awkward for everyone.) And they appear to all drive Mercedes and live in luxe marble crypts of leather and gold. And they have the best chocolate and the best beer? Is it fair?

Those Subtitles, Tho Pity the poor jerk who had to subtitle this because guess what? It's in Flemish and about 67 other Belgian-Dutch dialects you never knew existed. Limburgish? Oh, also French. Y'all, the world is a big place and there is stuff going down in Belgium. How anyone there communicates with each other is obviously a mystery, but this show will send you into an endless Google vortex from which you will emerge seeking Belgian citizenship.

What's Best About It? The writing is brilliant, and the pacing maintains intensity from beginning to end. There are unanswered questions that make you scream at the screen after every episode, and what's better than that? If you are not the hugest fan of espionage thrillers, there is still plenty to get into, and let's be real, it is literally refreshing to take a break from the victimization of women and children, for once. Most of those who are murdered in Salamander kind of have it coming, or at least they see it coming.

What's Worst About It? It's only "worst" qualification is the suspension of disbelief required when the 66 targets begin receiving their blackmail envelopes and freaking out because now someone knows their deepest, darkest secrets about the affair they had with Mitzi at Outback Steakhouse. Yes. One of them had what appeared to be a dinner receipt in his safe-deposit box and, well, I had to pause and laugh for…kind of a while. "Ah, let me commemorate my hot encounter over a bloomin' onion in Akron, Ohio by saving this receipt here with my most guarded financial and personal documents. I hope no one ever finds this and uses it against me to try to control the politics of Belgium!" Why did y'all keep this shit?! Did you need to hold onto the evidence of your grandfather's war crimes? Was it essential to set aside for safekeeping that photo of yourself in a Jacuzzi with that young gentleman who is obviously not your son? For a secret society, the Salamanders are not geniuses when it comes to keeping secrets!

Screen: Een

Screen: Een

I can put almost nothing else in Salamander's worst column, honestly, but OH GOD how I wish I could provide video of Filip Peeters running after a criminal. It's a very good thing that they spend so much time doing Bourne-style car chases through Brussels (which apparently features zero traffic), because Peeters on his own legs makes Phoebe Buffay look like a graceful swan. I have sincere sympathy for him -- he's a very tall man and kind of a sex machine and it can't feel great to keep folding himself up inside these Volkswagon Golfs for yet another screeching ride across the cobblestones, but when he runs, it's like Super Grover rushing down Sesame Street and not knowing how to stop himself.

Whatever Shall I Serve? You have here what is known as an embarrassment of riches. From what I can gather, Belgium is the apex of everything that is gastronomically good. Those monks are not making all that beer for their health, so drink up! My sources tell me Piraat is quite delicious, and apparently is good to enjoy with a cigar? Hey, I'm not your mom. Do it!


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