By Will Barber Taylor
Blood is thicker than water. After their parent’s death the five Goethal sisters, Eva, Bridgit, Verlee, Bekka and Goedele, have been inseparable -at least until Goedele married the obnoxious Jean Claude.
Goedele’s husband rejoices in tormenting the people around him including his sisters in law. Having been driven to their breaking point Eva, Birgit, Veerle and Bekka develop elaborate plans to kill their spiteful brother in law, who seems to have as many lives as a cat.
While trying to kill Jean Claude, the sisters uncover many skeletons that their brother in law had hidden in his closet. Apparently, the four sisters aren’t the only ones who want the loathsome Jean Claude dead!
Set in picturesque Belgium, the Out Laws has all the look of a beautifully crafted, idyllic drama. Yet beneath the surface is something more complex and far more enjoyable. Mixing in precision engineered comedy (to coin a phrase) with delicious drama, The Out Laws – or Clan as it was originally broadcast- is a who – dunnit that isn’t so much about the reason as to why Jean Claude died but how he died. Beginning with Jean Claude’s (or as the group call him The Prick) funeral, from the very first episode we are teased as to what exactly has happened. We are given hints by the insurance agents Dewitt and Sons as to the cause of death, yet until the final episode we don’t find out how Jean Claude died. This added layer of mystery to the series gives it greater edge over similar series; the interwoven mysteries are not simply on the surface but much deeper as is the rest of the series.
The comedy used throughout is also exceptionally good. Rather than resorting to obvious gags, the series has extended jokes which not only provide good humour but also tell us something about the characters; for example, Goedele feels frustrated that Jean Claude no longer seems interested in her sexually leading to a long strew of gags throughout the episode. My personal favourite is the instance when Goedele goes to the “Women Going Without” meeting. The humour is also used to carry the plot forward. Without it, the series would be unbelievably depressing. Without the comedy we don’t get the same empathy and understanding of the characters that we do with it.
The cast is brilliant overall, with each actor fully embracing their part. Dirk Roofthooft’s performance as the odious Jean Claude is particularly well done. His squinting looks and maniacal grin when he has achieved some form of malicious insult to one of his sister in laws is character acting at its best. Equally, Maaike Neuville’s Bekka and Geert Van Rampelberg’s Mathias Dewitt have some great chemistry which helps make Bekka’s deceptions to Mathias all the more dramatically satisfying.
The Out Laws is a satisfying, deliciously comic masterpiece that puts recent British output to shame. Like a piece of Belgian dark chocolate, it is dark but utterly delicious and something you can’t resist but consume avariciously.
THE OUT-LAWS is released on DVD Monday 19th September by Nordic Noir & Beyond.