Le Bureau des Légendes (The Bureau)
A French style brooding Bond, deep fried in love.
How to write a show where the main antagonists are Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, ISIS, and the vestiges of the KGB without it coming off as a tacky American spy soup? Dripped in style, cogent writing, and a cast that is both suave and vulnerable aided by brilliant production design makes Le Bureau des Légendes a sophisticated espionage thriller that manages to keep you hooked throughout its 50-episode saga.
The initial episodes waste no time in setting up the story and are a bewildering ride but the lead character Guillaume Debailly played by a mesmerizing Mathieu Kassovitz brings together all the confusing story lines to a precipitating point by his screen presence, where he broods and ponders, a humane French 007.
Though in the latter seasons Le Bureau des Légendes falls into the familiar TV trope of the copious intermingling of characters, it does not come across as forced, the show borrows this leeway from the sharp writing and its intensive focus on the key material that moves the story forward. Guillaume Debailly's love for a Syrian dissident Nadia El Mansour forms the central conflict beneath the operations of the French Intelligence Service, the DGSE.
The cinematography and production design of the show are top-notch, almost making many of the settings seem impossible from a logistical viewpoint: The scenes set in Raqqa, Syria, and Tehran make one question how a TV crew pulled off these falsifications. Any espionage thriller should be inviting its audience to invest in its believability through kinetic action pieces and a story full of contradictions, an act Les Bureau des Légendes pulls off without relying on any overt action pieces.
At its core Le Burueau examines the question of a man having multiple identities and his yearning for a love long lost, one that is further befuddled by the intrigues of espionage and geopolitics. Le Bureau treats this as sacrosanct, making way for a pensive finale that spins the show on its head by asking about the legitimacy of victory in politics and extension, espionage. It's a perfect show to accompany grey days and internal turmoil, an accompaniment for contemplation in a media landscape that offers one a few avenues.