Code 37: A stylish showcase for one of Belgium’s best stars
Ivan Radford | On 21, Aug 2018
Veerle Baetens should start charging Walter Presents royalties – or at least consider a contract as the streaming channel’s mascot. This week, she appeared on All 4’s foreign-language TV platform for the third time, following roles in The Team and Tabula Rasa. Now, she’s in Code 37, which sees her play a determined detective in Belgium’s special sex crimes unit.
Code 37: Sex Crimes is how Walter Presents rather dramatically retitles the programme for modern audiences, but this series actually heralds from almost a decade ago – it was first broadcast in 2009. Walter has a knack for picking up old shows that never made it to UK shores at the time, such as France’s Mafiosa, and while Code 37 isn’t on par with that televisual masterclass, it’s a compelling piece of crime drama.
Baetens plays Hannah Mae, a detective with stations from Berlin to Chicago on her CV. When she’s parachuted into Belgium’s sex crimes unit to lead a male team, though, her chauvinistic subordinates refuse to recognise her experience or expertise. So far, so familiar, right down to the supporting characters around her – the veteran smoker with a cynical sneer, the fresh-faced recruit looking to earn favour and the womanising man in the middle who never misses a chance to make disparaging remarks. It’s not a million miles from Prime Suspect 1973, which aired on ITV in 2017.
There’s more grit than your average ITV drama, though, from the dialogue delivered with a tough, cool edge – “Cold cases don’t exist,” says Hannah. “Only cops who don’t look long enough.” – to the graphic nature of the crimes being solved. The first case is a woman found in an expensive hotel room, who was strangled to death during sex, placing her firmly in Code 37’s remit. Hannah takes no prisoners within her police force, as she wrestles the case away from homicide for her department to head up, and begins to delve into the deceased professional head-hunter’s connection to the hotel. Even the token baggage our lead detective is carrying around is nastier than your cliched drinking problem: her mother was assaulted and killed years ago.
Directors Jakob Verbruggen and Joël Vanhoebrouck indulge in darkly stylish visuals, although they leave you wondering what the show’s more explicit scenes and flashbacks would look like in a female helmer’s hands. But while there’s too much familiarity in the content and presentation of the opening episode, it’s worth tuning in just to see Veerle Baetens sinking her teeth into a substantial lead role – it’s no surprise that with her front and centre, the show ran for three seasons when it first aired. 30 episodes of Veerle Baetens solving crimes? Walter Presents just made another winning investment.
Code 37 premieres at 9pm on More4 every Friday, with episodes then available to catch up on-demand on Walter Presents.