Amazon’s latest series, “The Collection,” aims to please the senses in a tale of fashion and deception in post-war Paris. Visually stunning, the series takes place during a time in which France hung on the precipice of reconstruction and chaos. The City of Love had to work hard not only in restoring the damage caused by the German occupation, but also in reinstating their status as a fashion center. This is where Paul Sabine (Richard Coyle, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”) emerges as frontrunner for the restoration efforts, appointed by the wealthy to reawaken the arts movement from the oppression experienced during the war. However, with a family under the scrutiny of press and country, “The Collection” tests the limits of secrecy in the high-stakes that come with redesigning a country from the ashes.
Fashion icons of France, the Sabine family is just as talented at designing beautiful pieces as they are with keeping secrets. Even to the point of risking repetition, Coyle never fails to cue viewers into Paul’s shady past, which manifest itself throughout the episode under moments of duress in shady looks and tight smiles. However, with storylines often converging upon one another, it becomes difficult for the interested viewer to discern one deception from the next. As a result of the shifting focus, the momentum that begins the episode suffers under the stress of a heavy plot. Though at times the plot may become burdened under the weight of clichéd dialogue reminiscent of most drama series on air today, the juxtaposition of France’s war refugees is beautifully representative of a time often forgotten amid the bright lights and sparkling couture of the upper class. Unfortunately, “The Collection,” once again, moves forward before the vision can fully form into a cohesive aspect of the series.
In the ruthless, unyielding world of business, “The Collection” reminds us of the strain that familial relations can hold on entrepreneurs. Though the character of Claude (Tom Riley, “DaVinci’s Demons”), Paul's brother, is far more intriguing than Paul, his screen time is limited to interactions with other characters and leading backstories. This is especially fitting, however, as Paul Sabine is regarded as the frontrunner in fashion design while Claude is the designer working behind the scenes. Though the Sabine brothersare French, their markedly different accents only serve to further highlight the stark contrasts between the two brothers. “The Collection,” being a collaboration effort between Amazon Studios and the BBC, features strong differences between the studios (most likely in response to Netflix’s sudden power surge in streaming). This being the case, there is a great divide in the accents which shift, quite noticeably, between British and French. Perhaps this could further highlight the ongoing power struggle between the two brothers and the industry with the press, but at this point, the discrepancy is obvious and unnecessary. It’s yet another aspect which dulls a series that is otherwise an aesthetically pleasing piece for Amazon.
Showcased sporadically throughout the episode is the photography of Billy Novak (Max Deacon, “Into the Storm”), a young American in Paris whose talent with photography does not go unnoticed by Sabine. In fact, his minor character shows off the best of “The Collection,” as his eye for beauty coupled with visually pleasing sets ultimately pulls together remarkable scenes. The lens through which Novak sees the world is stunning, and in a series that draws from the tired trope of hidden secrets and gloomy pasts, it’s refreshing to find a character who is quite conventional, in any meaning of the word. Perhaps even “The Collection,” a series that thrives on the lavish lifestyle that accompanies the fashion scene, could learn a thing or two from simplicity if invited for a second season.