Cheyenne and Lola

4 out of 5

Created by: Virginie Brac

It is probably easier to initially describe Cheyenne and Lola based on what it is not. It’s not really about Cheyenne (Veerle Baetens) and Lola (Charlotte Le Bon), but rather mostly about Cheyenne, and the way Lola pings off of her. It’s also not the Breaking Bad-ish setup that its cold open – of the two leads, cleaning up a bloody murder scene – would suggest. It’s not even necessarily a crime drama, which you could piece together from the way Cheyenne finds herself loosely tied to local gangster Yannick (Patrick d’Assumçao), and the smuggling-immigrants-across-the-border act she gets into. So it’s Cheyenne’s show, but even that has some indirectness to it: we don’t sit with the character and learn all the ins and outs of her life, but rather see her respond to them – to her sister’s irresponsibilities; to the incarcerated husband that threatens her with eventual reunification…

But the starting point for the way Cheyenne’s life seems to complexify is Lola: Cheyenne stumbles across Lola murdering one the former’s bosses – a woman whose house she cleans – because said woman is the wife to the boyfriend Lola had recently been using for clout and money. This kicks off that most generic of forced complicities: Lola convinces Cheyenne to keep the murder quiet, because surely the police will suspect Cheyenne as well. This is certainly one of the weaker elements of the show – it’s not really a convincing reason for the logical Cheyenne to assist with body disposal duties – but it’s moved past quickly enough, as this is what leads to a favor being owed to Yannick, which leads to a series of illegal activities from which Cheyenne, who wants nothing more than to leave town and start afresh, can now not easily escape. And very much not helping is the flighty Lola, who rather vacantly just wants to be liked by everyone… consistently making things worse off for herself and others via her mixed-up needs.

Across eight episodes, we track this relationship, and it’s not clear if it always makes sense: it’s not clear if Lola – who, again, is more a whirlwind of trouble than a character – actually offers Cheyenne anything, but as we see more and more of the world that surrounds Cheyenne, it’s also more apparent that this type of constant imbalance may be something that she unconsciously seeks.

Which is all to say: Cheyenne and Lola is an interestingly structured, and paced, show. It’s nervous – Cheyenne is always looking for a way out – but then it’s also very laid back and localized, reveling in the small town feel of the setting, and the cast of neighbors and family members who also all seem to know each others’ bad business. By making it a show of reactions instead of proactive actions, it avoids a lot of predictable story avenues. At the same time, it also makes some of the avenues it does take feel like larks, and questionably necessary to the central story of Cheyenne’s path to a modicum of self-acceptance. (And thus acceptance of Lola as well…) Both Baetens and Le Bon are wonderful in their roles – they are these characters first, and actresses second, and writer / creator Virginie Brac fills the world of the show with terse, selective dialogue, so we have space to reflect on its unique, indirect approach.