Dropping April 17 on Walter Presents, Kepler(s) follows Paris cop Samuel Kepler (Marc Levoine), who has been demoted to desk duty in the port city of Calais (which you may recognize from The Tunnel), but he is immediately drawn into the case of a Caucasian teen found dead in the refugee slum known as “The Jungle”. However, Kepler suffers from multiple personality disorder (or dissociative identity disorder, as it is now known) and is forbidden to participate in any investigations because doing so triggers a relapse where he might not be able to control which personality is in charge. Should he risk his sanity to solve this crime?

*If the Multiple Personality Disorder thing is an immediate deal-breaker for you, I get it. But I ended up liking the series despite my initial misgivings about MPD and how it would be handled.

Calais’ Refugee Problem

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I like about international TV is that I get to learn about a place or culture outside of the U.S. In Kepler(s), we see the dark side of port city Calais, where hundreds of migrants live in a tent city known as “The Jungle” while they wait for passage (legal or not) from France to the UK. As you can imagine, they are regularly rousted and harassed by authorities. When a missing Caucasian high schooler is found dead and posed in an symbolic way in The Jungle, police immediately round up suspects from the migrant community. But detective Kepler, who has just arrived with an assignment to do bureaucratic “make work”, doesn’t believe that a refugee perpetrated this crime. Kepler also notices how poorly immigrants are treated by the authorities in Calais, especially by the port police force who are tasked with busting stowaways to the UK. One of the port officers is the ambitious Alice Hadad (Sofia Essaïdi), whose mother is an activist on behalf of refugees. Alice, although she is of mixed ethnicity herself, is battle hardened from working the port, and she butts heads with her mother regularly. Meanwhile, a group of wealthy investors and politicians are working to revamp the waterfront of Calais, which means dispersing the refugees.

Madness without, Madness Within

Kepler has been expressly forbidden by his wife, his boss and his psychiatrist, who is in Calais to see Kepler get settled in, to participate in any investigations because it triggers his multiple personality disorder. Kepler has three “passengers”, as he calls them: a violent brute that surfaces when Kepler is angry or threatened, a charming and arrogant gay man who manipulates others to get what he wants, and a scared little boy who was abused as a child. Without medication, Kepler can’t control his passengers, and apparently there was an incident in Paris where his brute passenger killed a suspect, hence his demotion. But Kepler is a detective at heart and he can’t resist this case, so he and Alice pair up to solve it. Alice is unaware of Kepler’s mental illness, and Kepler has to do some fast talking to lie to her, his wife and his boss while working on finding the killer.  When a second teen ends up murdered, Kepler becomes the main suspect-even to himself-as he can’t remember what happened the night before.

A Race Against Insanity

As Kepler and Alice work to solve the crimes before more teens are murdered, Kepler dumps his medication and battles his demons, all of whom we see throughout the investigation. While the passengers torment him, they also help him solve crimes, but often in unethical or dangerous ways. It’s an interesting concept for a show, and according to the creators, they got the idea from a real-life U.S. case where the suspect was acquitted of rape due to his multiple personality disorder. I was worried that the MPD would come off as cheesy, but it worked OK for me, mostly because of the stellar performance by Marc Levoine. I am a fan of French dramas because of their grit. They don’t shy away from having difficult or unlikable characters, and they often highlight political or social issues. Kepler(s) fit nicely into this category. I also liked the friendship and respect that grew between Kepler and Alice. That being said, there were several points at which I had to suspend disbelief or accept outlandish coincidences, and there was one shocking and gratuitous twist with Kepler’s shrink that we didn’t need.  I didn’t binge the series, but I did go back to it and finish, which is saying something in this time of abundance in TV.  If you can roll with the multiple personality disorder concept, Kepler(s) is a thought provoking series with good performances and an engaging mystery.

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