Géraldine Pailhas as Rachel Taro, Benoît Magimel as Lucas Barres.
We are all Rachel Taro. The surprisingly fitting capper to Marseille’s penultimate episode shows the wife of the city’s philandering, coke-sniffing mayor climbing onto her balcony and throwing herself off the side as easily as one might dive into a hotel pool. Her lethargic suicide attempt is supposedly due to an unhealthy cocktail of emotions: the progression of her disease, the shame of giving up her cello, the restlessness of remaining trapped in her husband’s shadow, the embarrassment of having Barres reject her advances. But you can tell us the truth, Rachel: Things were just too dumb to go on.
It’s telling that the character seems to have more screentime in “Voted” than in every previous episode combined. Rachel never played a consequential role in the story, so her Ophelia-like succession of betrayal and madness (accentuated by Géraldine Pailhas’s cartoonish overemoting and her immortal toast, “Here’s to your father’s defeat”) is beyond cheap as a ploy. It reinforces the idea that women in Marseille are only valuable when they’re screwing or dying. Even if we accept the show’s crooked perspective, there’s no reason for Barres to reject Rachel’s advances, especially after he’s crossed so many other ethical lines. Was he trying to drive her off the edge, or has he experienced an out-of-nowhere crisis of conscience?
More likely, Marseille has written itself into a corner — but to be fair, there was no logical way to escape these credulity-straining plot threads. The second round of elections is gearing up, Taro and Barres are preparing to go mano-a-mano in a televised debate, and members of each rival’s staff are defecting left and right. Why? That’s not important. What is important is that Julia’s beloved Selim, caught supporting the wrong candidate in the wrong place, has died. This inflames Julia against Barres, and she devotes herself even more fully to taking him down, which means she’ll soon discover that the two of them once pulled a Luke-and-Leia.
Maybe things would turns out okay if those pesky criminals didn’t keep interfering with the democratic process. An ill-advised Taro photo op in Félix Pyat almost turns to violence due to some especially brazen gang members, whom I thought had the smarts to not bother the mayor when there’s press everywhere. (It’s remarkable how openly all the bad guys in Marseille parade themselves through the streets.) Maybe Farid knows all the journalists in this town are incompetent: Throughout the series, we’ve watched countless nonsensical conversations between a hive-mind press scrum and a politician who directs their coverage through the mere power of suggestion.
All of this happens as Alexandre Desplat’s shrieking, plunking score brings our collective transcontinental migraine to new heights — perhaps listening to that score on repeat is what drives Barres to his debate-prep hissy fit. Elsewhere, a conversation between two campaign aides makes a strong case for the most idiotic dialogue of the show’s run. “I respect women who don’t have children,” one says. “A tumor stopped me from having children,” the other clarifies. “Oh, shit,” the first says. “That’s what I said after the operation,” comes the punch line. The capper of the scene is somehow even more dumbfounding: “I admire men who have some balls — in other words, conviction.”
We could all use some conviction from Marseille, some attempt to depict its characters as approximate human beings. But with only one episode to go, that’s not going to happen. There is one good moment in “Voted,” when Barres notes that even if the campaign can’t prove charges of drug addiction against Taro, merely leveling them will drag down the mayor’s poll numbers. Honestly, if the man is really as ruthless as he’s led us to believe, he wouldn’t hesitate at all before pulling that trigger. Hurry up, though. That ledge looks awfully tempting.
- This episode begins with a character who just stabbed a guy saying, “I’ll go turn myself in.” Like he got caught with a hand in the macaron box.
- In other allegiance-shifting news, we waste no time jumping from Barres and Barbara discreetly boning in the car to the two chewing each other out in front of the entire campaign staff.
- Gérard Depardieu’s nose seems ready to attain sentience, leave his body, and liberate Marseille from both these schmucks.