Astrid, on Walter Presents, is a charming episodic procedural in the vein of Professor T . Paris police detective Raphaëlle Coste (Lola Dewaere) enlists an autistic employee in the criminal records department, Astrid Nielsen (Sara Mortensen), to help her solve cases. Astrid’s actual responsibilities are to scan in and file all of the case records, but she has a photographic memory, so she is a great help in finding patterns, for example. She is also compulsive, which gives her a keen eye for things that are out of place at a crime scene. Raphaëlle is Astrid’s opposite. She is loud, always late, a little disorganized, yet is a people person. While the concept of a crime-solver who is considered “atypical” is not new, and certainly the odd couple story is as old as time, Astrid feels fresh. The leads are perfectly cast, and it’s nice to see two women working together to solve cases.
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Astrid and Raphaëlle
Astrid is further along on the spectrum than say, Saga from The Bridge. With her inability to look others in the eye, her oversensitivity to noise, and her rigid routine, Astrid is definitely autistic. Through flashbacks, we see that she had a devoted father who exposed her to new things, helped her build a routine that would keep her functional, and nurtured her love for puzzles. A delightful regular segment is the autism support group, where “atypicals” express bewilderment at the behavior of “neurotypicals”. Meanwhile, Raphaëlle has troubles of her own. Although she is clever, and a good detective, she tends to run roughshod over her colleagues and superiors. She is always running late, and often distracted, which has cost her full custody of her pre-teen son, who she does see regularly. Throughout the season, Astrid and Raphaëlle develop a true friendship. In every episode, the women learn something from each other. Whether it’s Raphaëlle learning to speak literally when addressing Astrid, or Astrid learning that Raphaëlle will protect her, their relationship changes them both for the better.
Characters and Cases
Astrid features a regular cast of characters who are forced to contend with Raphaëlle’s new sidekick. Dr. Fournier (Husky Kihal), the coroner, was initially dismissive of Astrid’s blurted insights, which come in the form of a contradiction to his opinion, but now grudgingly admits that she is usually right. Nico (Benoît Michel), a fellow detective, is jealous of Astrid’s new role by Raphaëlle’s side. Commissioner Bachert (Jean-Louis Garçon) was adamant that Astrid return to the records room, but has relaxed his stance since seeing his solve rate go up. Raphaëlle’s son, Théo (Timi-Joy Marbot), and Astrid are puzzle-solving pals, often waiting for Raphaëlle to catch up. The crimes in Astrid are always murder, and while Astrid’s oversensitive perception provides crucial clues, it’s Raphaëlle’s understanding of human nature that eventually solves the case.
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Our Take on Astrid
As I mentioned above, the concept behind Astrid isn’t new, but the execution is excellent. In fact, it reminds me of the movie Amélie. There are funny moments, such as grumpy Fournier handing over 20 bucks to Raphaëlle when Astrid’s cause of death turns out to be right. But there are heartbreaking scenes as well. Often the flashbacks of Astrid’s childhood are painful. Her mother left when she was young, she was teased mercilessly in school until the headmaster insists that she go elsewhere, and her dear father died young. In present day, the overwhelming nature of working in the field exhausts her, causing her to break down several times. But her obsession with puzzles always brings her back. If you need a break from the darkest of noirs, and you want a series that puts a smile on your face, Astrid is for you.
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