TV X-Streamist | Continental Cops: ‘Spiral,’ ‘Salamander,’ and ‘Money Heist’

Rusty Unger Checks Out European Crime Series

Money Heist | Credit: Courtesy

Of course, Europeans commit the same crimes we do, but they’re often carried out in prettier settings, and the detectives who solve them can be much sexier.

Spiral (Amazon; subtitles):  I think this was the very first series I ever binged, and to my horror, they kept shooting more and even better seasons. It takes a little while to adjust to this very fast-paced French cop show with its sinuous plots and textured cast of characters, but it’s completely worth it (unless you value your sleep). The focus is on a homicide squad in a gritty neighborhood, along with the lawyers who represent the accused and the politicians who oversee them. The major characters return each season, so you may become involved with them to an unhealthy degree. One major (usually grisly) crime dominates each season, with an array of smaller crimes to settle every week. The fast slang dialogue requires a high level of subtitle reading.


Salamander (Amazon; subtitles):  I watched this Belgian thriller series quite a while ago, but it always stayed with me. A flashy robbery leads an unconventional detective into a rarefied terrain populated by some frighteningly powerful and duplicitous characters.

Zen (Amazon; no subtitles):  The awful thing about this is that there is just one season and only three episodes. An inordinately attractive Roman detective has to solve some complicated and related murder cases while under mounting pressure from higher-ups both in the force and in the government. It’s very suspenseful, and luckily for us as well as him, Zen gets to work alongside a gorgeous colleague against the backdrop of Rome and the surrounding countryside.


Money Heist (Netflix; subtitles):  “Rollercoaster” is the operative descriptor here when a complex plot to rob the Royal Mint of Spain gets underway. The team assembled to pull off the heist is composed of wild characters who each have a unique skill and a story to match. The electrifying plot twists don’t dampen the dark humor in every episode. The criminal mastermind and cohorts are more vivid than any of the cops caught in their web (the main detective is a woman, which is sort of becoming a trope). I could do without the last season, so I did.

Undercover (Netflix; subtitles):  This Dutch-language production takes place on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands and is loosely based on a true story. Two mismatched agents go undercover in a cheesy campground to live as a couple where a drug kingpin vacations. When they befriend a small-time Tony Soprano and his family, the innocent and the guilty come under threat along with the agents. Meanwhile, there’s a simmering attraction between them to which they shouldn’t yield, even though we really want them to.


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