Saturday 11 July 2020

Streaming on SBS On-Demand - Rod Bishop welcomes Series 5 of THE BUREAU (Eric Rochant, France, 2020)

If, after finishing one season, you immediately want to binge on the next, then France’s The Bureau (Le Bureau des Légendes) has that key performance indicator in spades.
Although it occasionally lacks subtlety - regularly wiping out its most sympathetic characters, and in this latest series, having at least one semi-explicit sex scene in every episode – its greatest strengths lie in the obvious borrowing from le Carre’s intelligence world. Like the Brit author, the often-labyrinthine plot strands are actually less important than the enthralling characters.
The central character is an agent capable of changing allegiances between security agencies, France’s DGSE, America’s CIA and Russia’s FSB. He needs multiple ‘legends’ to do this and goes under the names of Guillaume Debailly, Paul Lefebvre, Malotru and in Russia, Pavel. He is also known around the DGSE cafeteria as ‘pain-in-the-arse’
Persistently lonely and unable to spend time with his daughter Prune, he does have one true love, Nadia El Mansour, a Syrian activist and history professor whose own career is juggled with international flights to catch up with the mercurial country-and-name swapping Malotru. Towards the end of Season 5 they muse about the length of time they can spend together – no more than three days is their record. 
Back also are Malotru’s boss JJA, now haunted by PTSD and voices-in-the-head; the beguilingly porcelain-faced, girlish-voiced Marina Loiseau (code name Phenomenon); previous Malotru handler Marie-Jeanne Duthilleul; agent Raymond Sisteron, now impressively recovered with his “peg-leg”; Cesar (codename: Pacemaker), the electronic hacking geek whose head still seems too big for the rest of his body; the large and wonderfully taciturn Daisy Bapes (codename: Mule) and a big new addition, the Russian FSB operative Karlov, whose name shares more than a passing reference to le Carre’s Karla from Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People
These characters roam between Cairo, Moscow, Phnom Penh, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Paris in this fifth series whose dominant theme is Russian hacking.
SBS has provided the English subtitles for the last two series, but The Bureau is only available on its streaming platform. Sold to 95 countries and named by the New York Times as the third best international television series of the decade, it’s a triumph for writer, director and showrunner Eric Rochant. 
Showrunner Eric Rochant (r) and Jacques Audiard (l) who co-writes
and directs the final two episodes of season 5
Nothing sums up this fifth series better than this quote from the final episode:
I raise my glass to Pacha who proved to us all that inside each and every one of us there was a drop of goodness and who cleverly used it to destroy us”.

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