Syndrome E on TF1: when French TV (finally) takes risks in horror

Obscure neurosciences and tears of blood are on the program of this rather innovative series bordering on the supernatural, broadcast on TF1 this September 29 and also available on Salto. The first season is sometimes too classic, but at least has the merit of venturing into genre terrain. Our review.

We told you a few months ago: producing a genre series in France is a real obstacle course. Horror, supernatural, science fiction or fantasy often struggle to find their place on the small French-speaking screen. So when one of these genres finally manages to be broadcast, especially on a mainstream platform, inevitably, we are very interested in it.

It is therefore the case of E-syndrome, available on Salto since July 22, 2022 and broadcast on TF1 from September 29, 2022. Adapted from the terrifying novel by Franck Thilliez, the production ventures into the realms of the supernatural, deserted hospitals, neuroscience and slightly creepy police investigations. Far from being the series of the century, E-syndrome, of which we had seen the first two episodes at the Series Mania festivalall the same has attractive assets to put on the table.

TF1 adapts a safe bet with great freedom of tone

Lucie Henebelle is a cop with a rather banal life, mostly devoted to her son, Enzo. Everything changes the day when one of her childhood friends dies in strange circumstances and she begins to cry tears of blood, before shooting her teammate. To understand the origin of these bloody murderous crises, she teams up with Commander Sharko, a disillusioned and depressed investigator, on the verge of losing his footing… An already intriguing starting point, imagined by the author Franck Thilliez. This daring mix of thriller and advanced scientific research has already proven itself in bookstores, with approximately 750,000 copies sold.

Syndrome E, a detective series bordering on the supernatural, in which some characters cry blood // Source: TF1

By producing this adaptation, TF1 is therefore relying on a safe bet and taking limited risks. And yet, E-syndrome is far from being conventional, even if it remains torn between the classic specifications imposed by the chain, as its author, Mathieu Missoffe, told usand a relatively unprecedented freedom of tone for a French production.

A neat, disturbing atmosphere

First, there is this agreed investigation, imbued with the usual know-how of TF1 in the matter. A somewhat gruff cop with questionable practices, disagreements in the police team, a superfluous and gnangnan semi-romance… All the ingredients of detective series are there for E-syndrome can appeal to as many people as possible, and especially TF1 viewers. There are also these sometimes very written dialogues, bordering on the ridiculous, these inconsistencies, these situations with more than doubtful credibility and these relationships between the characters, sometimes sloppy. Sorry, you’ll probably still be yelling at these characters moving around at night, with a single flashlight for protection, and coming out of totally deadly situations unscathed.

The duo Sharko and Henebelle // Source: TF1/Escazal Films
The duo Sharko and Henebelle // Source: TF1/Escazal Films

But E-syndrome finally turns out to be a nice surprise, managing to overcome all these somewhat cumbersome limitations, to offer a new look at French genre proposals. With music to children’s choirs chanted in each episode, the series creates a climate of unease from its first scenes. The atmosphere is neat, disturbing to wishes, supported by an inventive realization. As for the plot, which takes us on a journey from France to Morocco via Canada, we cannot hide our pleasure in front of this ever darker dive into the depths of the human soul, with relentless suspense.

Syndrome E is imperfect, but gives goosebumps

E-syndrome takes malicious pleasure in developing its horrifying narration, which gives goosebumps as much as it surprises. We find ourselves finally surprised, at the end of these six episodes, by the depth of the subject and the intelligence of the writing as much as of the staging. Despite some casting errors, the series also has the significant advantage of being served by convincing actors, from Vincent Elbaz in the role of Sharko, to Bérengère Krief (In short), Kool Shen (yes, yes, half of NTM) or Emmanuelle Béart.

The series ventures into delightful horrific terrain // Source: TF1/Escazal Films
The series ventures into delightful horrific terrain // Source: TF1/Escazal Films

Of course, we’re not going to lie to you, E-syndrome is not perfect. Its flaws are regularly felt, even over a short season of 6 episodes. The series thus constantly oscillates between the classicism of TF1 on family scenes and much more gloomy sequences, worthy of the best horror series.

Quality summer entertainment

But E-syndrome manages to captivate until the end while offering quality summer entertainment, with a singular aesthetic, perfect for all lovers of thrills. And above all, the series is ambitious enough to bring a breath of fresh air to French creation.

Franck Thilliez’s universe itself is rich enough to nurture dozens of potential series, with novels like Gataca Where pandemic. And if TF1 could let go of its creators’ rein more and really dare to venture off the beaten track, the bet could clearly prove to be a winner. We can only cross our fingers that E-syndrome paves the way for other talented creators, in worlds on the edge of fantasy and horror.

For further

Salto on a TV via Apple TV // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

The verdict

Syndrome E, a detective series bordering on the supernatural, in which some characters cry blood // Source: TF1

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Franck Thilliez, E-syndrome focuses on mysterious phenomena that have occurred since the 1960s: why does Lieutenant Lucie Henebelle suddenly start crying blood? Where do these mysterious black and white films with disturbing subliminal images come from? To solve this mystery, Commander Sharko joins forces with Henebelle in an investigation that will lead them to Canada and Morocco. With E-syndrome, TF1 finally dares to venture into the field of genre series, and it was time! The series suffers from a classicism that is often problematic in French productions, but manages to break away from it thanks to an ambitious production and a truly successful horrific atmosphere. Without being the series of the century, E-syndrome is an excellent summer entertainment, which we warmly recommend.

Source: Numerama editing

Syndrome E on TF1: when French TV (finally) takes risks in horror