Netflix’s first foray into a non-English language series began with “Marseille,” which debuted its entire eight-episode first season on May 5. The show is headlined by famous French actor Gérard Depardieu (“Life of Pi”). It is a political drama set against the backdrop of the French port city of Marseille, hence the name. But, apart from the stunning locales, the series feels very much derivative of many similarly-themed American shows. Reviews have been mostly negative and the show may not get a second season.
Bustle notes that there hasn’t been any official update on Season 2 of “Marseille.” However, Netflix has so far renewed its shows for at least a second season, if not a third. The New York Times review of the show says that the it is filled with clichés of such American TV series like “House of Cards,” “True Detective,” “Vinyl,” and “Boss.” Its central character, Robert Taro played by Depardieu, feels like a second-hand version of Tony Soprano from “The Sopranos” TV series. Depardieu is dependable but it is the other elements that let the show down.
Depardieu’s character, the mayor of Marseilles, is ready to pass the baton to his younger protégé, Lucas Barres, played by actor Benoît Magimel. Barres isn’t content with the gift. He plans to snatch everything away from Taro including a casino and wreck his former mentor. Taro confronts him both personally and politically and the battle ensues.
Lucas Barres as a character could have been interesting but instead is a bare bones villain who just wants to be evil because the script demands it. His intentions do not seem convincing. Benoît Magimel’s hammy performance of a corrupt politician with ties to the mob feels straight out of a low-budget ‘80s TV show. His stock villainous expressions give a cheap feel to the show and borders on parody.
The women characters are another part of the problem. They have no interesting role to play other than wives, daughters, lovers and mistresses. They are not treated with respect, nor are the characters given much depth. Also, as the NY Times notes, Marseille’s predominantly Muslim population is reduced to thugs and henchmen.
The show could have actually worked as a parody of the similar-themed American politics and crime dramas. And as such, it could’ve served as a sharp comment on many such a series. Instead, “Marseille” exposes a creative vacuum of France, at least as far as television is concerned. It seems they are opting to depend on foreign sources for inspiration.
In the end, it’ll depend on viewership and fans. If they support the show which is only available with English subtitles, then it will go on. Otherwise, it will remain as a disappointment.