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Notre Dame Season 1 Review – A delirious disaster drama with zero bite and appetite for thrills

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Notre-Dame Season 1 Episode 1-6 [TV Series]
Notre-Dame Season 1 Episode 1-6 [TV Series]
There is no doubt that filmmakers should experiment with genres in whichever way it suits their story. Quite certainly, if you have a disaster of immense magnitude unfolding in a city, the focus can shift to the people. The actual drama inside the central conceit will take a backseat. This should ideally allow a thorough, serious-minded effort to carve the changing realities for some residents of the city.

Notre Dame, however, never manages to impress with its digression. The choice of focusing on people with no remote connections to each other and how they come out of the fire “together” was without a bite. It seemed like an empty promise the writers made to each other to deep dive and fetch something profound. However noble the intentions, the end product reflects poorly.

The world-famous cathedral is inadvertently set on fire in Notre Dame and the local fire department is tasked with helping out. Rookie Alice Adamski must confront her own torment of the past, like Colonel Varese and General Ducourt, to make an impact. At the same time, the lives of others – father-daughter duo Max and Victoire, a rogue kid Billy, and fledgling freelance journalist Elena – also converge to offer you a well-rounded package. However good that might have sounded on paper, the makers have unfortunately not translated that into a compelling narrative on the screen.

Notre Dame lacks any conceivable engagement with the story. In hindsight, the decision to go with so many moving parts might have led to its downfall. The runtime of about 40 minutes should have positively been stretched to at least an hour for these subplots to make any impact. In their current form, they come across as an empty formality and distraction from the central premise.

There is so much going on that the makers find it untenable to be able to explain the origins of how these events started and why they did. Putting together all these characters without any clear action plan perhaps wasn’t the wisest choice. Do you know when sometimes footballers seek out their tall number nines by punting the ball in their direction? That is what’s happening here – hoping that something would rub shoulders and present an emotional spark.

Well, there are no Nesta and Ibrahimovic in Notre Dame to do that. There is a semblance of a vibe between Victoire and Billy for a while. But some of the creative choices for the latter’s character prove to be utterly disastrous. Instead of coming across as a sensitive, curious kid looking for his father, he is branded a spoiled brat with no regard for civilities and a potty mouth. It ruins the experience of watching them together and kills off any chance for that dynamic to take off and compensate for the lack of energy in other such relationships.

The makers have consciously tried to weave strong female portraits in the mix. Adamski, Varese, Elena, and Victoire, all cumulatively represent that particular element. For once, it is not annoying as that is not the intention here. They do set good examples in theory but are in absolute shambles given how recklessly they are written. The jarring turns in their arcs do not complement the groundwork put in to establish their presence.

Another deeply problematic aspect of Notre Dame is the wastefulness of resources. The anticlimactic treatment of Bassem and the ghost of his wife, Sherine, is absolutely ridiculous. All it did was waste time and distract you from the central conceit – the burning cathedral. And that is the final nail in the coffin.

The show is even titled Notre Dame but we actually do not see any attempts by the fire department until episode 6 to be successful. There are no inroads made for so many hours and then in just a few in a single night, the entire fire is extinguished. In every episode, Bastien came up with new sketches and blueprints of the building, advising Ducourt on how to proceed.

The makers should have made sure there is continuity for the viewers to keep track of how exactly that is supposed to happen. The entire rescue mission evokes confusion for us and is handled quite disappointingly. After the command center was set up in episode 1, hopes were aroused that we might see a Money Heist-like dissection of small steps leading to the eventual big result.

But none of that comes together. In fact, in terms of story structure, both shows are not that different. Perhaps if the makers of Note Dame could have tried to replicate that winning formula, things could have been different. The general theme of Notre Dame is that a rough sketch is made in the ideas room and then there is no expounding on details. It is all “hit and pray” stuff that hardly works out. Watching the show really leaves you in bad taste. It is a clear skip for us and hopefully, those of you who have watched will take solace in the fact that it was a miniseries. The horribleness ends here.