French series Trauma on Walter Presents is an amnesia thriller that’s also a meditation on identity. Captain Adam Belmont (Guillaume Labbé, reminding me of Andy Garcia), is hot on the heels of a serial killer when he gets shot in the head. Adam survives, but he has amnesia. While in recovery, he finds out that he is being targeted by Internal Affairs for possibly compromising the serial killer investigation. Of course he has no idea if he did or not. When he goes home from the hospital and discovers a woman chained up in his basement, Adam wonders if HE was the killer his team was chasing.

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 Who Are we, REally?

Have you ever wondered if you are a good person? Now imagine you have amnesia and find a woman chained up in your basement. Would you assume the worst about yourself? Even if people tell you that you ARE a good person, how would you know if you could trust them? You really would have to rely on your own intuition about yourself. This is the central issue of Trauma.

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 Before Amnesia, Ambiguity

When we meet Adam Belmont, he and his team have tracked a suspected serial killer to a trailer park. Once they get the suspect in sight, Adam says, “I’ll get him,” and chases him into the woods. When he catches up to the suspect, Rakim (Mickaël Chirinian), Adam throws him a phone and says “You answer when I call,” and shoos him away. A confused Rakim retorts, “What kind of cop are you?” Adam’s team suspects that Adam purposely let Rakim get away, compromising their investigation. Driving home later, we see Adam on a call with his colleague, Julie (Olivia Ross), who wants to know the status of their affair. “Things are complicated right now,” he says, noncommittally. As he pulls into his driveway, a shadowy figure shoots him through his windshield.

 After Amnesia, Fear and Doubt

After his accident, Adam is haunted by troubling images of a teen girl screaming and a little boy hiding. Are they flashbacks to his childhood? Has he been traumatized and is now taking it out on young women? Adam is torn between fearing the worst-that he is a serial killer-and yet not quite believing it. The woman in the basement (Margot Bancilhon) isn’t giving him any clues as to who she is, but she doesn’t seem scared of him. In fact, she’s quite aggressive, calling him “a shit cop”. His instincts tell him not to let on that he has amnesia, and to keep her chained up while he figures out how she got there. So he has clearly retained his detective skills and mindset, even if he doesn’t remember being a cop.

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 Cat and Mouse

As Adam scrambles to figure out who the woman in the basement is, his colleagues, led by the IA officer, are reluctantly acting under the assumption that he is the killer, and are trying to find evidence in to arrest him. After many twists and turns, Adam pieces the serial killer case back together to the point where he was before the amnesia. Then the game of cat-and-mouse begins.  Trauma is a high-quality cop thriller with an interesting premise, but what makes it stand out for me is the examination of identity. The “trauma” of the title is about childhood trauma, and how it shapes us. But it also refers to the sudden loss of memory and having to ask ourselves, “Can I trust myself?” “Was I/am I a good person, despite what is before my eyes?” You don’t need amnesia to be anxious about those questions.

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