Family. Can’t live with them. Can kill them.
What would you do if your sister were trapped in a thankless marriage? If she’d tied the knot with a boorish, sexist, slob of a man. Would you implore her to leave her husband? Or would you, say, just try and knock him off, and send him for a dirt nap? It would probably seem like an extreme solution for most. But most wouldn’t have to deal with Jean-Claude as their brother-in-law, as the Goethals sisters do.
Jean-Claude (Dirk Roofthooft) is as despicable a human as you can possibly imagine, and The Out-Laws goes to pains to paint him as such. For starters, his family has rather fittingly nicknamed him “The Prick”. Which considering what he gets up to is not all that harsh at all. He’s consistently deplorable, starting with misogyny, dabbling in a bit of racism, before rounding off with a spot of kitten murder. Roofthooft himself brings a disturbing sense of glee to each and every one of the character’s heinous acts. He’s not a copy and paste villain. He’s worse, in fact. He simply enjoys causing pain and suffering to family, friends, strangers, and anyone who gets in the way of what he wants, or messes with his off-centre moral compass. His behaviour is dark, disturbing, and works perfectly to make Jean-Claude one of television’s most hateable villains.
Enter the Goethals sisters – our heroines. The would-be bringers of Jean-Claude’s demise. His death is revealed from the outset. We know that he will die. And we know that four of the sisters want his downfall to be at their hands for the good of their downtrodden sibling Goele, Jean-Claude’s wife who he ickily refers to as “Mummy”. But what we don’t know is who is ultimately responsible for The Prick biting the dust, nor how his death came to be. Whilst we begin with the Goethals’ plotting to get rid of their brother-in-law, what we end up with is a whodunit. The potential suspects are queued up around the block; some are more plausible that others, some you would bank on, some sneak up on you…and then there’s the Chinese mafia, in one of the show’s more far-fetched threads. But crucially the big reveal does eventually tick the boxes to give a satisfying, logical conclusion.
We see the sister’s attempts on Jean-Claude’s life through a series of flashbacks, which are in turn framed by their present day dilemma. Owing to the suspicious nature of Jean-Claude’s death, two desperate insurance agents, the Dewitt brothers, start to peek a little too close for comfort into the lives of the Goethals in an attempt to uncover the truth. Whilst the Dewitt’s, and their own imperfections, are key in driving the plot forwards, it’s in the flashback scenes that The-Outlaws is strongest. Watching the sisters make attempt after attempt to kill The Prick is oddly satisfying, though most of their efforts go horribly awry. At times it’s for comedic effect, sometimes it’s with grim consequences, and usually it’s with a mixture of both.
In fact it’s a near constant balancing act between the horrific and the funny across the board for the show, which is largely pulled off. But there are times in which it feels as though to call it macabre humour would be generous. Mostly when Jean-Claude is involved, in particular with the manipulation of his “friend” Roger (Stefaan Degand), a man-child with the darkest of sexual tendencies. Seeing him dance to kids music in front of police officers as a result of Jean-Claude’s anonymous tip to the authorities is somewhat amusing, but at the same time it leaves you feeling both uncomfortable and squeamish. And a lot of the humour here has the same effect. At its core it’s morally murky, with a shadowy underbelly, despite what the floaty score would have you believe.
But then basically anything involving the Goethals siblings on the other hand is generally golden. From the eldest, the family head with a tormented past, Eva (Barbara Sarafian), to Veerle (Kristin Van Pellicom), a cheat whose lies are mounting up around her, Bibi (Ruth Becquart) an eyepatch wearing cross-bow champion (think: Kill Bill – a visual link not lost on the show), and the youngest of the clan, Bekka (Maaike Neuville), who becomes involved with one of the Dewitt brothers. And let’s not forget the long-suffering wife of The Prick, Goele (Inge Paulussen). Each of them is cast to perfection, distinct individually from the outset, and yet even stronger onscreen together. There isn’t a group potential murderers I’d like to spend time with more than this lot.
Rating (out of 5):
The Out-Laws is released on DVD Monday 19th September by Nordic Noir & Beyond.