Revenge comes more naturally to some people than others. For the Dessureaux family, putting passion above the law is something they’ve all – well, almost all – devoted their lives to standing against. But it’s one thing to uphold the law as an abstract principle; it’s something else entirely when you have to choose between those all-important principles and being able to sleep at night.
The now separated parents, Ludovic (Patrick Huard) and Lucie Dessureaux (Macha Grenon), are both judges in the criminal court of Quebec; daughter Alicia (Mylène Mackay) is a defence lawyer while son Raphaël (Olivier Gervais-Courchesne) is the family’s black sheep. As for youngest daughter, promising eighteen-year-old triathlete Gabrielle (Myriam Gaboury) with her whole life ahead of her? She has tragically been murdered and found in a park.
Law student Tristan Rabeau (Kevin Houle) is rapidly arrested for Gabrielle’s murder and put on trial. But despite their relief and their conviction that he’s the killer, the Dessureaux family know they can’t rest until a conviction is secured. Making matters worse is that Tristan is skilled at both manipulating the law to his own advantage and being an arrogant jerk.
Les Honorables skilfully walks a fine line here, aided by a first-rate performance from Houle: he’s enough of a jerk that we totally understand why the Dessureaux family would want to take him down – he even taunts them later on, which considering they’re grieving the loss of a family member is a real classy move – but it’s totally possible that his actions are just that of a jerk, not a killer. He’s the kind of smug villain that you don’t even love to hate: he’s just a bastard through and through.
Unfortunately, it turns out his personality alone isn’t enough to secure a conviction. Whatever the Dessureaux family might know in their heads, in their hearts having Rabeau walk free is like having their daughter die all over again. It’s not just that they have no closure on her death. They’ve devoted their lives to a system that has seemingly failed them in their hour of need. The bedrock of their lives is crumbling: how will they go on?
Series creator Jacques Diamant was a Crown attorney for a number of years before becoming a writer, and his knowledge of the legal system adds some real nuance to this tale of vengeance. The story he’s telling is far from straightforward anyway: a number of mysterious events suggest there was more to Gabrielle’s murder than first seems, while Alicia’s behaviour hints that she might know more than she’s telling. But on top of a gripping story, the drama comes from the way the characters find themselves tested to their limits and beyond.
The Dessureauxs know that the entire legal system is set up to dispassionately judge the accused on the facts. Yet they find themselves swept away by their hatred for a man who – if the system is to be believed – had nothing to do with the death of Gabrielle. How they move forward will shape the rest of their lives… and just possibly end the life of someone else.
For Lucie and Alicia, even as their faith in the system wavers they devote themselves to having the not guilty verdict overturned. When Rabeau arrogantly asks Alicia how she can go back to defending rapists and murderers after the death of her sister, there’s no easy answer – unless the duo can find a way to turn his arrogance against him and prove that the system can work.
For Ludovic, a darker path beckons. Something deep inside him is broken, and he can’t go back. At one point he says “If I could get away with it, I’d tie him up and throw him in the river”. Seeing Rabeau back inside a courtroom just isn’t going to be enough for him. Fortunately, he has other options.
Turns out there’s a good reason why this upstanding legal family turned their back on son Raphaël. He’s now neck-deep in the criminal underworld, a shady character who’s become everything they stood against – until now, when a desire for a more visceral, personal form of justice will finally bring father and son together with a united purpose.
Together with his brother Gaétan (Sylvain Marcel), Ludovic is about to take the fight to Rabeau. But if he really is a murderer, is there any reason to think when the net tightens around him he won’t kill again?
Les Honorables now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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The wait is almost over. The first episodes of The Handmaid's Tale season 4 will premiere in Australia on SBS and at SBS On Demand on Thursday 29 April, so you know what that means: we are coming back to talk it out after every episode. Join Fiona, Natalie, Haidee and Sana as they dive deep, recapping every episode of The Handmaid’s Tale's long-awaited fourth season. This year, they’ll be joined by special guests, as some of the stars and the creators of the show, stop by to give even more insight into everyone's favourite dystopian drama. As soon as the new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 screen in Australia, we’ll have the recap ready for you. Join us from April 29 and until then (as always) don’t let the bastards grind you down.