Walter Iuzzolino’s series on Channel 4 – Walter Presents – selects the most popular, critically acclaimed television dramas from around the world, allowing anyone with a laptop and Wi-Fi in Britain to falsely feel like they are cultured through watching handpicked shows (such as Spain’s Locked Up to Belgian black-comedy thriller The Out-Laws) for free on Channel 4’s streaming service All 4.
Each week Sinead McCausland will be reviewing a new show that the titular Walter has selected, hopefully encouraging more fans of world drama TV shows that aren’t American. Here are her thoughts on The Passenger.
Each episode of The Passenger is titled after a figure from ancient mythology. The figures include Oedipus, a tragic hero who gouged out his own eyes; Icarus, who flew too close to the sun; and Prometheus, a Greek mythological figure who shaped man out of mud and tricked Zeus.
The first episode is centred on a decapitated, naked body wearing a bull’s head, which is, of course, a reference to the premiering episode’s choice of mythological figure: Minotaur. As the characters discover within the episode, the eponymous figure was a creature made of the body of a man and the head of a bull, placed in the centre of a labyrinth. This is a clever starting point for the atypical French crime thriller, then, as the rest of series one plays out like a complicated maze viewers have to try and navigate their way around; trying to discover which turn is the right choice to make while watching the show’s central figure Captain Chatelet (played by Raphaëlle Agogué) make the opposite choices.
Captain Chatelet also uses the help of the prime suspect of the murder – a psychiatrist called Mathias – to try and solve the case. As each episode continues, the relationship created between potential-murderer and detective becomes more tense and captivating, mirroring the escalation in mystery due to the increase in body counts. It is these dead bodies that make The Passenger’s cinematography seem so self-assured. Reminiscent of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, the programme is able to showcase the murderer’s appreciation of beauty and Greek myth through their victims, yet still stay grounded within the moral compass of Chatelet. Art and murder is infused in The Passenger, with the final episode taking place in a painting room with what looks like blood, but is in fact red paint, on pouring from the walls.
With a twist ending only six one hour-long episodes, The Passenger is a thought-provoking and un-stereotypical French crime thriller mini-series that can easily be watched in one sitting, but appreciated for many more.