• The twelve members of the jury, plus two alternate jurors. (SBS)
The accused is a respected school principal. She’s charged with the murders of her young daughter and best friend. But that won’t necessarily be at the forefront of your mind in this brilliant new series from Belgium.
Desanka Vukelich

14 Nov 2019 - 10:51 AM  UPDATED 14 Nov 2019 - 1:47 PM

One of the reasons this brand new courtroom drama hooks you right in is that much of it is set outside the courtroom. Another – as the title gives away – is that you’ll be thinking so much about the members of the jury. That says something when the accused is charged with a double murder that includes killing her own child.

Co-creators Bert Van Dael and Sanne Nuyens, who are well versed in this genre with their successful two-season run of crime drama Hotel Beau Séjour in 2016–17, take us away from the sterile, too brightly lit courtroom and into the private lives in Ghent, Belgium, of the 12 jurors.

The first person we meet is not the accused, but one of the two alternate jurors, additional to the 12, Delphine Spikers (Maaike Neuville, The Day, Clan). Stressed out mother of three, the timid Delphine is deeply disappointed to learn she too has to attend the trial for its duration. Why does she lie to her husband about her selection? Gradually, what’s at stake for her is revealed. In a clue about how integral her story is, note that Delphine is the face of the series; that’s Neuville’s image on the poster.

Each episode, the writers leave us morsels of information about the jurors, a few at a time. In episode 1, as well as Delphine, we also meet Yuri, a divorced father of two, and Holly, the first person selected for the jury, and who emerges as a natural leader of the group. It feels satisfying to go behind the scenes of these so-called ordinary people’s lives and get a sense of how they must balance their own personal baggage with the revelations at the trial.

The accused herself is school principal Fri Palmers (played by Maaike Cafmeyer, regular cast member of the 10-season long whodunnit, Aspe, based on the novels of crime writer Pieter Aspe). Fri’s ex-husband Stefan Munk (Johan Heldenbergh) is adamant she killed their young daughter, Rose. The scene of the crime is Rose’s bedroom in the home of Stefan and his new wife, Margot. It was Margot and her mother who were at home when the attack on Rose occurred. So why is Fri the one in handcuffs? Burning questions gather and gain tantalising momentum.

The brilliance of the writing and understated commanding performances make for a satisfying viewing experience. The sound of the atmosphere, the weight of the actors’ breath, is so heavy, so poignant, it brings you right into the room; you can almost smell the interiors.  

The set-up of this 10-part series is different in substantial ways to the regular run of crime dramas, making The Twelve addictive. There’s nothing like a very, very good whodunnit to set those cogs turning. Mark this one in your diary.

The Twelve is now streaming at SBS On Demand:

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