crossing lines

Well, that was a pleasant surprise. The old Netflix suggestion algorithm threw up another fascinating show this week with the recommendation of the series Crossing Lines.

Down in the depths of Netflix and Hulu, I occasionally miss a series that is shown on broadcast television. Such is the case with Crossing Lines, an English language French-German production that appeared on NBC over the summer. The full 10 episode first season is available for streaming on Netflix.

The series, which has been renewed for a second season, stars William Fichtner who is a personal favorite of mine. Most I suspect know Fichtner for his role on Invasion as Sheriff Tom Underlay or possibly on Prison Break or the movies Crash and The Dark Knight. I however was spellbound some years ago by his incredibly nuanced and superb performance as Judge Christopher Mulready on ‘The Supremes’ episode of The West Wing. As the slightly to the right of Genghis Khan federal judge, who was nonetheless charismatic, opinionated and brilliant, Fichtner’s acting ranged from the condescending and dismissive when dealing with White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler, to engaging, combative and friendly with fellow potential supreme court nominee Evelyn Baker Lang and finally to respectful and reverential when dealing with the president. It was an absolute tour de force and it still pains me that the producers of The West Wing didn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to do a spin-off show featuring Fichtner and Glenn Close’s Baker Lang.

Here Fichtner plays Carl Hickman, a former detective with the New York Police Department who joins a fictional new crime unit at the International Criminal Court. Made up of various officers of different nationalities, the unit investigates cross border crime that has not been picked up by individual countries. It’s an excellent premise as the freedom of movement guarantees within the European Union for their own nationals allows travel that is akin to traversing the individual states here in the US.

Nominally listed as the star of the show, Fichtner seems comfortable in what is really an ensemble cast. French singer and actor Marc Lavoine is the head of the unit as Detective Major Louie Daniel with Gabriella Pession, Tom Wlaschiha – Jaqen H’hgar from Game of Thrones -, Moon Dailly and Richard Flood round out the team of different nationalities and expertise. And it all works surprisingly well. Back-stories for each of the characters are fleshed out nicely and there are two over arching plot lines for the season on which the individual episodes are presented. Donald Sutherland is also around as Daniel’s boss at the ICC, but I suspect that was a casting decision made with a potential sale to the US in mind. Sutherland is fine, as he always is, although any number of other actors could have performed the role.

About the only complaint I have is the title. Crossing Lines is a terrible name for the show that evokes nothing of the basic premise of the series.

The series, shot mainly in the Czech Republic, Germany and France, takes advantage of the wonderful landscape with an excellent use of stereotypical European locations. Travel times and distances, particularly by train, make sense and there is an overriding sense of a production comfortable with itself from the first couple of episodes. Unlike some recent shows such as The Blacklist and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., both of which became tiresome after a few episodes, Crossing Lines does a good job of drawing the viewer in with stories spread over two episodes and unusual story lines. I found myself looking forward to the next episode rather than watching for the sake of it, which is always a good sign.


– Wallace Poulter

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