Let’s face it, Belgium doesn’t get a lot of love cinemagraphically. It is always playing New Jersey to France’s New York. And, even when it is depicted, it is usually not in Flemish, but rather in French, German, or English and serving merely as backdrop to someone else’s story.
Salamander takes place in Belgium and is performed in Flemish. It is the first real exposure of that culture I’ve seen in a long time. Poirot really doesn’t count on this point, and neither does In Bruges, as they are both performed in English and the Belgium aspects are mostly background. Admittedly, Bruges is a character unto itself in the latter, but it is still from an outsider’s point of view.
The story is very much in the vein of The Bridge; an ever growing and evolving mystery that takes many turns. Some of the twists are easy to guess from early on, but the path to those revelations or choices isn’t as simple as you’d expect. While, perhaps, not as tight or shocking as The Bridge or Broadchurch, it is certainly engaging.
Admittedly, the series does take its time getting started. It slowly builds to its points and revelations. It also has an odd sense of episode structure. Installments tend to end on incomplete moments early in the series that don’t feel natural. However, the politics, culture, and relationships all feel very new for lack of exposure to them. That alone makes the show intriguing. The story itself manages quite well on its own too and pays off everything it sets out from the beginning. From the unexpected revelations of the opening to the final denouement, it is a good 12-part ride.