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Le Bureau des Legends

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This espionage series hasn't gotten that much attention in the US but based on the positive reviews which were available, I started watching it.





I'm only up to episode 9 of the first season but in the last two episodes, it's really gotten terrific, as season-long plots build up to their climaxes.  But it is a slow build to learn about this world of foreign espionage.

So much more intelligent than Homeland but it brings all the ambiguities and ambivalences that spies endure, similar to The Americans.  For instance, they are trying to rescue an operative in Algeria and they kind of strong-arm the secretary of a general to implant a bug on the general.  Well she's caught and back in France, the spies who forced the secretary to swap in a shoe with a bug show remorse for having forced the woman into their plot.

Two of the main characters though are French spies, one who went to Syria to develop assets there and one young woman who's being trained to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear weapon institutions.  The more experienced one falls in love with a Syrian woman who happens to be part of a team conducting negotiations between the Assad regime and the opposition in Paris, with the participation of the Russians.  But the trainee has to find a way to get an Iranian scientist to invite her to go back to Iran with him, without seducing him sexually, because doing so will make him not take her after he got what he wanted.  So she has to try to discourage real seismologists in this French institute from accepting the Iranian invitation.

But both struggle in their roles, including the experienced one.  In Homeland, they just would find Arab or Muslim "assets" to give up information against their countries but they were basically redshirts, expendable characters.  In this show, the French spies are putting their lives on the line, going into these hostile Islamic countries.

The plots don't insult you like Homeland.  They're all plausible, so far, and make you aware of all the political considerations that spies and bureaucrats juggle in their interactions with counterparts of potentially hostile countries.  You don't know how accurate they are but you learn the way spies think, or at least they lead you to believe that's the case.





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It's really one long continuous story about the main character.

The cast changes a little, with departures which aren't really explained.

One thing is striking to American viewers.  The show films in locations Americans rarely see in a show or movie -- Algeria, Damascus, Turkey, Kurd regions, Moscow, etc.

The war zones look convincing and they seem to use actual nationals of the countries being portrayed like Kurds, Syrians, etc.

Several languages are spoken in addition to French -- English, Russian, Arab, etc.  The French characters all speak English well and it makes sense that they'd communicate with Russians and Arabs in English as well as French.

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Well finished it.

So many great characters, including even the villains.

You understand why they did what they did.  And when revenge comes, it's simple and personal but still very devastating.

They don't have these ornate revenge plots, just a bit of tradecraft and a simple type of attack.

The creator and the show runner is leaving after 5 seasons, the last of which ran this summer and fall.

So a new person is taking over but sounds like the cast are still on board.

Lot of suspense for relatively mundane things like losing a tail by changing clothes and dumping a phone and using a burner phone.


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