En 2004, TF1 hits hard. His summer saga Zodiac attracts more than ten million viewers. On the program: a courageous heroine, a serial killer who eliminates each member of his family one by one, and a cop on the teeth a bit lyrical embodied by Francis Huster. Two years after this triumph, confirmed by the excellent audience ratings of Dolmen aired the previous summerthe first string launches The Master of the Zodiac, adopting the “even more” rule. Even darker, even more sulphurous and alas… even more ridiculous!
In 2004, 10.8 million faithful followed Zodiac and the adventures of Esther Delaître (Claire Keim), illegitimate daughter of Gabriel Saint-André (Michel Duchaussoy), a powerful businessman from Marseilles, all of whose family members are going to be knocked out by a bloodthirsty killer choosing his victims in according to their zodiac signs – to each his own hobbies. Helped in her hunt for the truth by the very inhabited commissioner Antoine Keller (Francis Huster) with whom she of course ends up yelling under the covers, Esther will discover that the culprit is none other than Mathias (Yannis Baraban) her twin brother, evil obviously, of which she was unaware of the existence. Packed it is a success.
When in June 2006, Takis Candilis, director of fiction at TF1, enthusiastically announced the next broadcast of Master of the Zodiac, he willingly underlines the difficulty of following up on a huge success. “We must not disappoint people who liked the first season, but, at the same time, television has evolved,” he seemed to apologize in advance.
Discover the episodes of our Saga cu-culte summer series
“Dolmen”: shells, crabs and neckline
“The Blue of the Ocean”: birds of prey and tortillas on the Basque coast
“The eyes of Hélène”: when Mireille Darc sees double
Hemoglobin without rose water
Indeed, can we still speak of a summer saga when all the romantic ingredients, including baby doll love, have deserted the plots in favor of a plot largely centered on the thriller. “We went further, but with respect for everything that the summer soap opera is still”, assured yet the spawn of TF1, determined not to scare away the housewife under 50, always willing to accept a few drops of hemoglobin as long as he is served his summer dose of rose water.
But in The Master of the Zodiacno room for sentimentality: this time, love affairs take a back seat and turn out to be more of the tortured kind or sometimes gently flirt with bisexuality thanks to the introduction of a police commissioner, Eva Trammel (a clue in you: Trammel, like the name of the ice-pick writer played by Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct), who even takes the risk, in prime time, of touching the lips of the beautiful heroine.
When does it start The Master of the Zodiac, Esther left Antoine and took refuge in New York with her son. And as bad luck is always good, she landed a job as a criminologist with the FBI. She is preparing to return to France to testify at the trial of the Zodiac, who survived her injuries… after having passed away in front of the whole of France two years earlier! But new murders are committed by a new assassin who calls himself the master of the Zodiac… Come on, we’re off again for five episodes: a touch of the supernatural, a swig of esotericism and a handful of dead people ready to rise again at any moment and here is our Esther embarked on a series of grand-guignolesque scenes totally barred according to a crazy and perfectly absurd investigation.
If black has replaced pink in the summer saga, it’s because American series now rule TF1, led by ratings beating The experts the latest version of which, located in Manhattan, began a few months before. So there is no question of leaving them the monopoly of sulphurous and trash. The summer 2006 saga now plays in the court of serial crimes, mass murders and even offers a funny three-way affair between the characters played by Claire Keim, Francis Huster and Natacha Lindinger. At the last minute, the management of the first channel still cut a few scenes that could have shocked the target family audience, reluctant to advise against its saga for children under 12 years old.
Result: like a good old Canada Dry – which had the color of alcohol, the taste of alcohol but which was not alcohol –, The Master of the Zodiac, adorning itself with the tinsel of the American series, offers us a vague parody almost as funny as it is embarrassing. And it starts from the introductory sequence of the series. The one that gives us to see the new life of Esther.
See you in New York and its endless and nevertheless reassuring aerial views of the Statue of Liberty and skyscrapers. It is on this little tourist stroll that Esther’s voice, serious, sums up the situation for us. “Today, I have rebuilt my life in New York and, strangely, after having been the target of a killer, I am collaborating with the FBI in criminal investigations. “Strangely.” In a single word, the scenario thus evacuates any questioning about this curious collaboration. No one, in fact, will come to explain to us on what criteria Esther was able to join the famous American agency. No matter. We feel that all this is just a pretext to get our heroine, now seasoned with the tough methods of the FBI, to take the lead.
The camera then invites us into the agency’s noisy open space. Esther, always blonde curls, anthracite suit, pledge of seriousness and rigor, is at work in front of her computer. When she is challenged by her boss – who addresses her in the language of Shakespeare. If the production does not even bother to subtitle this exchange, we understand that a series of three murders has just been solved in the Baltimore region. And thanks to whom? Thanks to our good old Esther who put all her skills into action to complete this investigation. But not just any skills… because imagine that if this young 29-year-old mother is working with the FBI, it’s as an expert in… astrology! Well yes, a few episodes to run after the Zodiac, that teaches you a lot about signs and decans.
Sagittarius or Capricorn, that is the question!
For the moment in any case, our Madame Soleil does not hide her joy: “I knew it, I was sure it was a Sagittarius”, she writes in a little excess of arrogance. Don’t laugh: the subject seems serious. Obviously, without Esther, the FBI was going straight into the wall. “I was convinced it was a Capricorn”, argues, sheepishly, his boss, who obviously has not crammed his little illustrated Elizabeth Teissier. “C’mon, attractive, charming, arrogant… that’s Sagittarius, sorry Richard,” adds the overbearing little Frenchwoman, manipulating her mouse, all smiles. Close-up of his screen and what looks like extremely advanced astrology software. We see half of the zodiac and data, certainly sensitive, on Sagittarius, written in English. The shot is furtive but after a freeze frame, we realize even better how much Esther’s work is essential to the FBI.
In the corner of the screen, a paragraph of a few lines gives us some information which is supposed to have allowed the arrest of the murderer in question. We learn in particular that Sagittarians are “joyful lovers”, that “they like to try new things”, that “their thirst for knowledge is often quenched by direct conversation in bed, a way of combining two of their favorite pleasures “. Capital ! A question arises: but what would the FBI be without an astro special issue of Current wife ?
With this quickly made, poorly made introduction, the screenwriters of the Master of the Zodiac didn’t bring much credibility to poor Esther. The poor thing will still take five episodes to discover that the killer is none other than Eva Trammel (hello Sharon…), the little girl with whom she had been exchanged at the age of three… Quite simply! Still, we will never know the zodiac sign of the horrible killer. Get us the FBI immediately!
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“The Master of the Zodiac”: Claire Keim as Madame Soleil of the FBI
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