Spies are trained to blend in, and the spies of France’s 'The Bureau' are the best of the best. These are the ones to keep an eye on.
Anthony Morris

25 Jun 2020 - 2:16 PM  UPDATED 25 Jun 2020 - 2:16 PM

After four award-winning seasons of lies, betrayals, double-crosses and the occasional severed foot, things can get a little complicated at The Bureau. Here’s a handy guide to the spies doing the spying at France’s top top-secret organisation (spoilers for seasons 1 - 4).

Guillaume “Malotru” Debailly (Mathieu Kassovitz)

The Bureau begins with Malotru (which means “Brute” – don’t worry, it’s ironic) returning to Paris after six years undercover in Syria. His superiors at France’s elite undercover spy agency the Bureau were worried he wouldn’t be able to put the thrill of the undercover world behind him. They were right; over the course of the next few seasons, Maltrou sneaks away from his handlers to continue an affair, becomes a CIA double-agent, travels to Syria pretending to be a suicide bomber, is taken hostage, escapes to France then flees to Moscow, and becomes a prisoner of the Russian secret service.

While Malotru’s seen his fair share of action over the course of the series, it’s when he’s in a room with his opponents using his charm and intellect to win them over (or occasionally, not) that he really shines. He’s almost always the smartest man in the room, and the series makes sure to constantly put him up against people who are no dummies either. That’s not to say he’s invulnerable though, and at the end of season four it looked like he’d been killed by Russian separatists. Can The Bureau continue without its super spy?


Marina Loiseau (Sara Giraudeau)

A 20-something scientist, she was recruited by the Bureau when they needed someone to infiltrate Iranian’s scientific establishment (turns out it’s easier to train a scientist to become a spy than the other way around). Since then she’s had a bit of a love-hate relationship with spying, having been scarred by what she’s been through but never fully able to break free from the world of espionage.

Last season she was also in Moscow, using her skills to infiltrate a Russian cyber-security institute. Once again she was confronted with the heavy personal cost of spying, with agencies constantly using up people then casting them aside. Combined with her central role in what looks like Malotru’s death – when her cover was blown, he was the agent sent to retrieve her, putting him in his enemies' sights – will she even return to the Bureau in season five?


Marie-Jeanne Duthilleul (Florence Loiret-Caille)

Marie-Jeanne was Malotru’s handler when he was undercover in Syria, and when he first returned to France she still had his back. Together with Maltrou, she worked on Marina’s initial training, and became her handler when she went to Iran. She remained a major player in the constant political games back at HQ, and she took on the mantle of chief of the Bureau half-way through season three.

Unfortunately for her, the top job didn’t give her much time to relax. Constantly under attack and undermined by the new head of internal security, her reign proved to be surprisingly short, and by the start of season five she’s back working as a field agent.


JJA (Mathieu Amalric)

Erratic yet pragmatic, when JJA arrived at the start of season four it was clear he was going to shake things up. As the head of internal security it was almost understandable why he was going after Marie-Jeanne; she was close to Maltrou, and he was both a double agent and a renegade. That didn’t make him any more likable though, and while season five sees him settled into the top job (and clearly running a few schemes of his own), he’s still enough of a loose cannon to have the rest of the Bureau on edge.


Raymond Sisteron (Jonathan Zaccaï)

With Malotru constantly on the run across Europe and the Middle East, he’s got to have someone on his side back at home base. While Malotru might be the spy we’d all like to be, Sisteron is probably closer to the reality of the job – which is to say, he’s more comfortable in an office than he is being shot at. Which is hardly surprisingly considering he lost a foot to terrorists in season two. Season five sees him as the new deputy director of the Bureau, with his days rescuing hostages (and being taken hostage) behind him. Unfortunately, being the level-headed one who balances out JJA comes with its own set of risks.


Nadia El Mansour (Zineb Triki)

As a married professor in Damascus, having an affair with a French spy probably wasn’t the smartest thing Nadia could have done. But that’s what true love does to you, and when she turned up in Paris in season one, her old lover Malotru quickly resumed his old identity to keep their romance going. But she wasn’t just in Paris to see him, and soon their relationship had them both on a knife-edge.

While their love was real, any kind of real relationship is all but impossible in a world of double-crosses and hostage-taking. The last we saw of her (aside from a flashback or two) was at the end of season three, when she allowed herself to be captured by the Bureau so Malotru could go free. That might have been the perfect ending to their story… but The Bureau isn’t a series that’s big on happy endings.


“The Mule” (Irina Muluile)

The Bureau has a range of indispensable supporting characters, but none more indispensable than The Mule (real name: Daisy). Whenever they need support on a mission (or just help with their teenage daughter), The Mule is there with her headset and sandpaper-dry wit. A mix of driver, bodyguard and occasional interrogator, she rarely takes the spotlight – but she’s not someone you forget in a hurry.


The Bureau seasons 1 - 5 now streaming at SBS On Demand.



Follow the author here: @morrbeat


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