It can be argued that Netflix generally produces better science fiction shows, especially non-English ones, than its other genres, and Vortex is perhaps another reminder of that. A science fiction thriller with a healthy dose of drama as well, this French miniseries is quite engaging to watch. The plot follows a police officer, Ludovic Beguin, as he stumbles upon a peculiar glitch in the police’s virtual reality system that allows him to interact with his wife, Melanie, who has been dead for twenty-seven years now. Vortex is nowhere near being perfect or flawless, as it does show some inconsistencies over the six episodes’ runtime. But it still manages to prioritize the right things, mostly, and give us an entertaining watch.
Vortex takes place in the near future, in 2025, when virtual reality has been made a commonly used tool in police investigations. The procedure is simple enough, with a team of drones scanning the entire crime scene for hours, which is then developed into a VR space that detectives can access to find more clues. During such a time, our focus is planted on Ludovic Beguin, or Ludo, who is a police officer in the French city of Brest. On the 7th of July 2025, Ludo and his team reach Corsen Beach to investigate the drowning of a woman, as foul play is suspected in her death. Getting hold of clues and evidence scattered around, the woman is recognized as Zoe Levy, but nothing else about her can be immediately found. On the other side, Ludo is a bit shaken by visiting the beach, as he has a very traumatic personal memory associated with the place.
Twenty-seven years ago, in 1998, Ludo’s wife Melanie was found dead on the very same beach after supposedly falling from the high cliffs accidentally during her running session. Having become father to a baby girl at the time, Ludo was in shatters as he had to grieve the loss of his beloved while playing the role of both parents to baby Juliette. But life eventually moved on, and at present, Ludo is married to Parvana, with whom he also has a son. However, his usual life and sanity are all up for grabs when Ludo walks into the VR space of Corsen Beach to further investigate the death of Zoe Levy. Due to a peculiar and unexplainable glitch, he is able to cross over the boundaries of space and time and interact with Melanie from 1998. Determined to save his beloved wife from the misery of death, Ludo starts to think of ways that can be used to avoid Melanie’s death in 1998.
Soon it becomes a very plausible theory for Ludo that his wife had not died from an accident but was actually murdered, and the series takes the shape of a crime thriller in this way. This involves a series of investigations as a number of suspects crop up on Ludo’s list. Although not all of these investigations are completely convincing, these sections of the show are enjoyable to watch. Vortex also successfully manages to keep a certain shroud over the character of protagonist Ludo, as the man is not always on the right path. There are moments when chinks or cracks in Ludo’s mental stability start to appear, and such times naturally raise the question of whether he is actually witnessing things or if they are all part of his imagination. The desperation to help Melanie makes Ludo suspect even the closest of his aides, and at times he genuinely stands out as a figure who is against everyone else. The series successfully manages to maintain suspense over whether Melanie was actually murdered or if it was really an accident until the very last episode, which adds to the experience.
Vortex is also equally concerned with the idea of the butterfly effect, i.e., the fact that a small change made elsewhere can affect something completely different in the present space and time. After all, Melanie and Ludo’s interactions are because of a glitch, which is an indirect form of time travel, and therefore, an action in the past has repercussions in the present for obvious reasons. The initial few episodes are indeed spent presenting this cause-and-effect relationship, as some of Melanie’s reactions completely change the present for Ludo and his associates. Certain steps are then taken to undo these changes, and they work in the characters’ favor too, which gives the feeling that Vortex chooses to select which scenarios to give importance to and which to ignore. In effect, undoing one decision in the past cannot totally ascertain that the very same situation in the present can be reinstituted, as there are possibly numerous other small choices and decisions that all lead to a certain moment. This is also the main drawback that I had with the series, as the crucial butterfly effect is not very consistent in every scenario, taking away from the depth of the whole concept.
Another personal gripe here is that Vortex heavily stresses the dramatic over the science fiction element, which is, of course, a creative decision by the makers. The show sticks to this choice throughout the six episodes, as it focuses on human relations, bonds, and emotions, and there is no inconsistency here. No exploration into why or how this mysterious glitch was occurring, and especially why Melanie from the past did not appear to every character who accessed the VR glasses, is presented. While this is not necessarily a con for the series, it would have perhaps been even more interesting had such elements been introduced.
The acting performances, visual effects, and general direction are all adequate as well, even though none of them stands out as remarkable. There are also scenes, particularly towards the end, that are shot well to express the emotional value of the situation portrayed. Overall, Vortex is fairly interesting and entertaining and can be a good watch for fans of science fiction and drama.