“What a brilliant programme. I was so upset when we got to the final episode.”
“Sara Mortensen is totally convincing in her portrayal of the autistic Astrid.”
“Astrid has to be one of the best TV shows.”
These are just a few of the comments made on our site when we previewed the first series of Astrid: Murder in Paris, in September 2022. Now the programme is returning for a second run on More4, with the first episode showing at 9pm on Friday 31 March. All the episodes will be available to stream as a box set on Walter Presents after transmission.
Astrid Nielsen (Sara Mortensen) is an autistic woman who works in the Criminal Records Bureau in Paris. Her unique ability to organise and retrieve information, as well as to identify patterns within evidence, makes her an invaluable ally for the police detective Raphaëlle Coste (Lola Dewaere). While Raph operates instinctively and follows a process that is messy around the edges, Astrid brings rational analysis to their investigations. An unusual empathy has developed between them, and by the beginning of season two they are more or less finishing each other’s sentences.
The first episode lands with a real puzzle murder for them to solve. A corporate lawyer is raising a glass with his clients in a Paris office block when suddenly a shot rings out and the man drops dead. At first it appears he’s been shot by a sniper from across the road, but somehow a dead starling seems to have come in through the bullet hole in the glass. Soon, it emerges that the shooter was in the room and used a ploy of misdirection to carry out the killing.
As it happens, one of France’s most accomplished magicians was in the building at the time, but in a different office and on a different floor. However, he becomes their chief suspect. Raph and Astrid enter the world of magical entertainment where jealousy, grudges and vengeance run hot in the blood of the performers, but it’s still baffling why a lawyer should be shot just after sealing a deal, and what is the significance of the starling?
If you watched the first series, you’ll know that Astrid loves a good puzzle and once again her powers of observation and problem-solving skills come to the fore. However, what captivated viewers most about Astrid was her vulnerability. She has autism. She has been a victim of crime and of prejudice. And she just can’t understand the untidy and irrational world of neurotypical people. In season two, she’s still attending Autistic Adults Anonymous, where they talk about their challenges and occasionally joke about both neurotypical and autistic people. However, now Astrid faces a new challenge – her mentor and guardian at the Criminal Records Bureau has died and she feels quite alone.
Like the first series, each mystery in season two is solved in an episode or two. Further cases here touch on the strange, macabre and paranormal. There might even be a suspected alien and a witch or two. Although terrible crimes are investigated, the tone is light and the pace is fast-moving. There are laugh-out-loud moments, there is plenty of quirkiness too, but where the programme excels is in its depiction of an autistic character by Sara Mortensen. People are touched by the way she expresses herself, and how she twitches her fingers, limps slightly and won’t look anyone directly in the face.
There’s a lot of love out there for Astrid and this programme is the perfect way to enjoy some off-beat French crime fiction, which is always moving but never gets too dark or morbid.
Season two comprises eight hour-long episodes. It was originally broadcast by Canal+ as Astrid et Raphaëlle in 2021. If you’re in the US, you can watch Astrid season 2 on Prime via a PBS Masterpiece subscription.