Moloch, a French series on AMC+, is a psychological drama about a troubled young journalist and a grieving psychologist brought together to solve the mystery of why local citizens are catching fire and burning to death. The series opens on a man walking into a downtown building, clearly on his way to work, when he suddenly bursts into flames. When the cops arrive, Louise (Marine Vacth), a pretty young woman, claims to be an insurance student, but is actually an aspiring journalist. The cops kick her out, but not before we realize how easily and boldly she lies. Meanwhile, a late-middle aged man runs on the world’s most desolate beach. Later we find out he is Gabriel (Olivier Gourmet) a psychologist whose patient was the burning man. Louise finds Gabriel when doing research on the first victim, and after a bumpy start, they go to hell and back to figure out who is causing this phenomenon, and why. Death by immolation is a dramatic concept, but this is not an action-packed series. It moves slowly, and is much more about the interior lives of its characters than the ins and outs of the crimes.
The series’ name, Moloch, is a reference to the God of sacrifice in the bible. Specifically, he is portrayed as an oven that kids are thrown into for the appeasement of God. Soon we realize that the killer identifies as Moloch, sacrificing the guilty in favor of the oppressed. Victims include a banker, child abuser, bad boss, a bully, and more. Predictably, the local townspeople are split between those who agree with what Moloch is doing, and those who draw the line at violence as a means of changing society. One of the characters, Jimmy (Marc Zinga), a bus driver living in the projects, believes that Moloch’s actions are condoned by the wrathful God that he worships. Jimmy is one of Gabriel’s patients, and between his strange behavior and his faith, Gabriel worries that Jimmy is involved in the deaths. In a more literal translation of the title, we find out that Gabriel is grieving the loss, several years ago, of his young son, who died when Gabriel couldn’t save him from a house fire.
Louise and Gabriel
Moloch is actually about Louise and Gabriel. Louise is an unpalatable character: rude, a liar, opportunist, manipulative, friendless. She is obsessed with scooping the Moloch story and moving up from intern to reporter at her local news magazine. When she runs up against Gabriel, she hits a brick wall. Gabriel is the shrink we all wish we had. Accepting, understanding, but firm. He immediately unveils Louise for who she is-a liar using him for information. But he also accepts her as she is, which Louise has never had. It breaks all of her defenses. For Gabriel, Louise is someone he can be real with. In his life, he is pretending all the time. He is completely bereft, but keeping it together to continue with his work, and wrenching his grief down so he can function. His marriage is failing, and worst of all, he worries that he is somehow the cause of his son’s death, but he can’t remember. But with Louise, his artifice comes off. They heal each other. Slowly, they put together the solution to the murders. In the meantime, they journey into their own personal hells, she of her drug addicted past, he of his memory, in order to move forward with their lives.
Our Take on Moloch
As I mentioned above, Moloch is slow moving. Meditative is the best word I can use to describe it. It’s kind of a bait and switch, and I don’t think it’s for everyone. I liked it, however, once I settled into the pacing. Olivier Gourmet, as Gabriel, makes the show. His gravitas and authenticity made me care, both about him and his patients, and ultimately, his relationship with Louise. I wasn’t as taken with the show’s message about how society is unfair. I’ve seen it done better. That being said, I did find some of the decisions the creators made about plot and character to be unique and satisfying. If you are in the mood for something character driven, Moloch might be for you.
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