Episode 1 of Notre-Dame begins with a flash of a fire rescue that young rookie Alice Adamksi will never forget. She is a new recruit in the city’s fire department. But due to her traumatic maiden stint as a rescuer, she has been unable to make strides in her career.
She looks at the honor board where the names of martyrs of the department are listed. The last two names, Sapeur Klarsfeld and Segreant Ducourt, mean something special to her. As she prepares to go for a run, local business owner Max tells her about Michael’s Jackson death in 2009. Not the death itself but its significance and how it froze people in time. They remember the very moment when they heard the news, making it a personal one for everyone.
This perhaps alludes to Alice’s nightmarish moment in her first fire rescue act. The memories of the fire and her traumatic past, along with the faces of the ensemble cast a flash before her eyes as she tries hard to forget. Additionally, it is revealed that Max owes some people money and that his wife is battling with cancer in the hospital.
Doctors have given up hope and she does not have long left. In a flashback, we see Ben comforting Alice before going in with her to that doomed fire. We saw his photo on her fridge door along with Denis’ who also went. Unfortunately, the fire was too overwhelming and both Alice and Ben were stuck under the falling crumbs of the building’s ceiling. Ben was fatally injured and lost his life, but Alice survived with some luck.
Two months later, she visits Colonel Varese’s office to present her intention to go into the field again. Varese feels it is yet too early for Alice but the young rookie is determined. The Colonel agrees to send her in again but warns her to take it easy. Max beats two men sent by the loan shark who lent him the money and attends to his wife in hospital.
Max hasn’t been in touch with her daughter, Victoire since she took an unexpected career detour to become an escort. He beseeches her to come back to be with her dying mother. In the Notre Dame cathedral, we see the first sparks that will eventually ignite the entire building fire.
Although the Vicar and other people feel it is another false alarm, the fire starts to pick up. General Zacharie Ducourt gets ready to go to an event. He and his wife Catherine have not yet recovered from their son Ben’s loss and now the former has decided to leave his unit. If something like this happens again, which is highly probable, he won’t be able to bear it.
The General gets a call from the department about the fire and he gets ready to reach the spot. Sergeant Taupin, who had previously expressed his skepticism over Alice returning to the field, is paired with her. They are the first to respond and go inside the building. We see another flashback to Alice’s first rescue when help arrived.
The General held his son’s dead body and rued the missed opportunity to save his boy. A big hump of smoke now starts to emerge from the building, which is located in the center of the city. People start noticing it and ballyhoo begins to take shape.
A communications and command tent is set up outside as fire trucks and more men flock to join in on the rescue. Max tells his wife about the incident and she alludes to his previous remark about how Jackson’s death had frozen people in time. Perhaps this is another build-up to a momentous occasion.
Victoire parties with her clients, including a wealthy man, James, who is a regular at the club. She has no idea about the fire or any care for her family. Her drug use is relentless. She spends the night at a friend’s house. When she wakes up in the morning while still doing drugs with another friend, she notices that Pam has overdosed and is fallen on the ground. She quickly gathers her things and takes off.
The team of fighters, led by tries to search for the source of the fire but cannot detect it. There is a possibility that it may have originated from the spire but the team is not sure. The Vicar remarks that the Apostle statutes were removed from the cathedral four days ago for renovation, something that had never happened before. And now the fire starts in the building.
Varese instructs Taupin to move higher to locate the source but he is skeptical as the risk would be extreme at that point. He takes Alice on a reconnaissance mission of the frame to move higher. Just then, the General arrives on the scene and if he had come minutes earlier, he would have not taken the risk. Max goes to his old friend Carmen and takes her help to locate Victoire. He cannot get many clues but some to start the search. Victoire, meanwhile, meets with another client on a cruise.
Next, we are introduced to a small boy. He takes his football and heads towards the fir after hearing about it on the news and seeing a photo of his father (who was also a fireman) in his collection. He reaches the spot as Zacharie briefs the media about the situation and learns that Taupin and Alice have gone into the risky area. Taupin leads the way but Alice isn’t able to keep up.
The relentless smoke won’t let up and through the thick fog, she sees a familiar face. Ben stands in front of her as she has a nightmarish replay of that damned day waiting in front of her.
The Episode Review
A burning Notre Dame is a sight no one would like to see. Perhaps the opening episode would make devout Christians anxious. Episode 1 of the French miniseries is sufficiently obtuse and rich in details. It spreads out the groundwork and introduces us to the main characters. Each somehow has a personal crisis and with the one large episode unfurling in the center of the city, things are bound to get “hot”.
A decision will be made in the upcoming episode if the show will focus on the fire itself or those involved in any capacity to it. Episode 1 is a teaser of things to come albeit one that does not offer too much. Will have to revisit this in hindsight by taking all the episodes together.