Vincent Cassel & Eva Green Shine in Fine Spy Series
Feb 24, 2023
Liaison, the new English-French language espionage drama from Apple TV+, is everything you’d expect — there’s plenty of intrigue, action, politics, anti-terrorism measures, and something of a romance subplot to boot. It’s a perfectly fine and entertaining watch, but there’s not really anything new or earth-shattering to mine.
Vincent Cassel and Eva Green are Liaison’s main stars — Cassel as a dogged long-term spy for the French, Green as a by-the-books agent in the United Kingdom’s Home Office. You quickly learn that their paths have crossed before, a long time ago, when you observe Alison’s (Green) reaction to seeing Gabriel (Cassel) on a CCTV video. Their past romance is hinted at through longing looks, knowing stares, one-off comments, and a reunion with so much sexual tension, it might melt your screen (though nothing happens between them… yet).
This storyline is where Liaison’s suspense both prevails and falls a little flat. You want to find out what happened between them, why they look at each other the way they do, why everyone in Gabriel’s life says, “even after what she did to you?” The show does a great job of slowly building this connection between them, and it propels the story forward. At the same time, the plot of Liaison persists too long without telling you their history, and when you find out why they split from each other 20 years previous, you might feel a tad disappointed. I was hoping for a searing love story, one for the ages, and I’m not sure the show capitalized on all that could’ve been between its main characters.
Image via AppleTV+
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That said, both Cassel and Green give superb performances. Cassel is aloof and cocky, Green is serious and very controlled. The chemistry between them is palpable, and it makes for a great side plot. (They also both kick ass when they have to, and in a show like this, they have to… a lot.) Another complication on the romance side of things is that Green’s Alison is very much involved with another man, Albert (Daniel Francis). In fact, they live together with his daughter from a previous relationship. He doesn’t seem to know a lot about Alison’s past with Gabriel, much like the audience in that way. He’s the sweet guy who you know Alison should probably choose in the long run — but do you want her to choose him, really? Albert’s also in sort of the same business as Alison and is tasked with finding Gabriel at one point, not knowing the man has been right there at his own flat.
However, romance aside, the main plot of Liaison is the threat of terrorism against Britain, in the form of cyberattacks. This type of terrorism may sound boring on paper, but the way it plays out in this series does get the heart pumping. The first attack consists of flooding London by bringing down the Thames Barriers, which protect the city from too much rainfall and high tides. The next is even scarier, as hackers take down the railway system’s navigation, leading to a head-on collision between a cargo train and a passenger train full of students on their way from London to York. If you never considered cybersecurity a viable threat to people’s lives, this show will change your mind. There’s also a scene with a passenger plane flying low through London’s skyline that may bring back traumatic memories from 9/11, so fair warning there.
Image via AppleTV+
The show starts with two Syrian hackers, Samir (Aziz Dyab) and Walid (Marco Horanieh), who are sought by multiple agencies for their knowledge of the planned attacks on the U.K. Cassel is assigned to withdraw them from Syria and take them to a safe(r) location in France. The powerful organization has means even beyond the military and will stop at nothing to find Samir and Walid, as well as keep them from disclosing their plans.
Interspersed with the drama between the hackers, and the involvement of and simmering tension between Gabriel and Alison, Liaison has a complex political plot involving the French government and two top advisors to the president, La Roche (Irène Jacob) and Didier (Stanislas Merhar). It won’t take long before you figure out which one is good and which one is only out for themselves and their interests. On the British side, Alison’s boss Richard (Martyn Ellis) has her on call basically 24/7 while working to secure a deal with the EU Commission to help stop the cyberattacks. There’s a lot of back and forth between the Brits and the French, both of whom are working to one-up the other and protect their own country’s interests. This being an espionage thriller, not everyone is who they seem, and by the series’ final episode, you may not know who our main characters should trust — or if they should trust each other.
Image via AppleTV+
One unique aspect of Liaison is that it is multilingual, with large parts of the plot completely in French. We Americans will have to rely on our subtitles to know what’s going on, but hey, it might help you remember a good part of the language you’ve forgotten since high school or college. Cassel and Green switch back and forth between French and English effortlessly, and they truly make this show a pleasure to watch.
It’s a very good show, overall, but I didn’t find myself clamoring to see the next episode, even though several of them end on cliffhangers. There’s lots of action for the lovers of that genre, and just enough of the espionage and romance to keep others tuned in as well. All in all, it’s a fine spy thriller, but it may not particularly be one you remember years from now. There’s no word yet on whether there’ll be a Season 2, but Liaison does end in such a way that there could be — with new villains and terror plots and everything you may very well find yourself wanting more of by season’s end.
Liaison premieres February 24 on Apple TV+.
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