Netflix Sci-Fi Crime Thriller Series Turns Time Into A Mystery

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Updated


Attention streamers: if you’re in the mood for a thriller heavily intensified by sci-fi, one blending time, tragedy, and tech to significant effect–check out Vortex on Netflix. The compelling show takes current technological trends and runs with them (namely VR), setting a noticeable benchmark for narratives employing facets of the here and now to revamp sci-fi. 

Virtual Reality Loses The Virtual


Shaped by co-creators Camille Couasse and Sarah Farkas, the series seeks to upend the very fabric of reality–not exactly a humble ambition. How? By launching viewers into a narrative revolving around a conceit blending philosophic questions about fate and free will with the fascinating, terrifying potential of VR.

Indeed, in Vortex, VR is more R than V, and glitches in the virtual simulacra amount to more than bugs but portals into the past spawning enormous consequences. 

It’s a multi-timeline show in the vein of similar projects, also on the streaming giant, like Bodies and Dark, both critical darlings and, like the VR sci-fi thrill-fest in question, foreign productions. 

Old Wounds Reopened

The tale starts in a darkened, intimate bedroom in 1998–only to leap rapidly to 2025. In this future age, the protagonist, police captain Ludovic Béguin (portrayed by Tomer Sisley), wrestles with grief, haunted by the tragic passing of his first wife, Mélanie.

But when a body is discovered, a corpse on the same beach where Mélanie died decades before, old wounds in Vortex reopen, propelling Ludo on a quest muddying the waters dividing past and present, real and unreal. 

Undoubtedly, what makes the series a streaming contender is its employment of VR technology as a narrative device. In a novel twist, the captain discovers a time warp upon donning VR glasses to examine a reconstructed crime scene.

Ludo returns to the scene of his wife’s final moments–except, at least in this virtual world, and as long as Ludo can help her, she remains alive.

This VR glitch at the heart of Vortex’s plot facilitates the widower (at least in real life) to alter past events; of course, in a sci-fi trope bordering on the cliche, altering past events and provoking the wings of the butterfly effect shifters the present. 

Trying To Change The Past

Trope or not, this conceit entails the series exploring the tantalizing possibility of tweaking the past, all through the technological anchor of VR. Each show episode builds on this general premise, amounting to an episodic yet complex web of time travel, itself enmeshed with a good old murder mystery.

Yet Vortex’s drama surrounding Ludo’s attempts to steer his wife away from her fate, a dance with destiny hinging on interactions with the VR environment, involves gripping tension and significant emotions. 

Produced initially and airing in France, the series enjoyed stellar ratings in its home country, commanding a considerable percentage of the nation’s audience. Quad Drams produced it, the outfit responsible for popular titles like Women at War and The Bonfire of Destiny.  

While the series is too new of a debut for English-speaking audiences for critics to convene cohesively, it’s already winning audience support. For example, on IMDB, Vortex sports a 7.6 out of ten–not bad. 

It Could Earn A Global Audience

One leading review on the iconic film website sang praises for the show’s gripping psychological “whodunnit” format, a tried and true approach backed up, in this case, by powerful performances.

Particularly Ludo’s, who channels the pathos provoked by his hellish dilemma admirably well. The twisty storyline, enlivened by red herrings, also strengthened the series, the reviewer noted. 

Should it take off and enjoy a global audience, the show would follow in the footsteps of several successful non-English productions, including significant French projects, to win a worldwide following. 

Other Global Series


For example, before Vortex, Lupin was a beloved series also produced in France and inspired by the adventures of the fictional, infamous gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. It blended mystery, action, revenge, and, of course, above all, an incredible performance by Omar Sy to engender a breakaway hit.

The story of Assane Diop, relying on skills in disguise and thievery to avenge his father’s wrongful conviction, continues to earn views.

Another French export, the comedy-drama Call My Agent!, satirized a Parisian talent agency, blending humor with real-life, and serving up hilarious, almost meta “celebrities playing themselves” scenarios. 

True, South Korea remains the reigning champ when it comes to harnessing Netflix to broadcast content worldwide—as proven with Squid Game. But perhaps Vortex, with its head-turning take on sci-fi, will help even the score for France.