Follow the Money, BBC4

Programme Name: Follow the Money (Bedraget) - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 4) - Picture Shows: Mads Justesen (THOMAS BO LARSEN), Alf Rybjerg (THOMAS HWAN) - (C) DR - Photographer: Christian Geisnæs

Shady business – Mads (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Alf (Thomas Hwan)

Saturday night Nordic noir fans are in for another treat with this intricate Danish conspiracy thriller

★★★★ BBC4, Saturday, 19 March, 9pm

THE LATEST Scandinavian crimer to come in from the cold on BBC4 is this multi-stranded thriller about boardroom corruption.

Programme Name: Follow the Money (Bedraget) - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: Mads Justesen (THOMAS BO LARSEN) - (C) DR - Photographer: Christian Geisnæs

Mads man: Thomas Bo Larsen in the show’s title sequence

Where part of our devotion to previous Nordic hits such as The Killing and more recently Trapped has been their twist of Scandi-otherness, Follow the Money is not so alien. Smarmy suits from banks and corporations ripping off the public have been popular hate-figures everywhere since the 2008 crash.

But this Danish production is certainly different from most UK series in the skill and ambition it shows in telling a broad story told through characters ranging from car thieves and Ukrainian migrant workers, to the police, lawyers and onto company chairmen.

A body is washed up near a wind farm. On the scene is police detective Mads (Thomas Bo Larsen). When a bag is spotted floating in the sea, Mads, who’s not the type of guy to hang about, strips off and dives in. The bag reveals that the dead man worked for Energreen, one of Denmark’s top energy firms, run by the slick operator Sander (Nikolaj Lie Kaas).

Natalie Madueño Wolfsberg as Claudia

Programme Name: Follow the Money (Bedraget) - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Claudia Moreno (NATALIE MADUEÑO WOLFSBERG), Alexander “Sander” Sødergren (NIKOLAJ LIE KAAS) - (C) DR - Photographer: Christian Geisnæs

Power games: Claudia and Sander

Mads suspects Energreen is breaking the law in failing to protect Ukrainian migrant workers on their wind farm, but runs into roadblocks when trying to get his boss to back his investigation.

Meanwhile, in the Energreen legal department, high-flyer Claudia (Natalie Madueño Wolfsberg) is having trouble with her boss as well, who likes to take all the credit for her successes. When he then asks her to help him investigate Sander for corruption, she is plunged into a dangerous game against Energreen’s boss.

The title, of course, refers back to All the President’s Men and the Watergate Scandal, when the investigative reporters who cracked the case were told by a whistleblower to follow the money trail. It neatly encapsulates this quality drama’s air of paranoia and double-dealing.

The storytelling is intricate and the characters compelling. The series is created by Jeppe Gjervig Gram, who was co-writer on Borgen. The opening episode concludes with a neat twist that ups the ante beautifully for the forthcoming instalments.

That’s Saturday nights taken care of by BBC4 one again.

Programme Name: Follow the Money (Bedraget) - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: Claudia Moreno (NATALIE MADUEÑO WOLFSBERG) - (C) DR - Photographer: Christian Geisnæs

Crying foul: Is Claudia in too deep?

Trapped – BBC4’s latest crime hit

Programme Name: Trapped - TX: 05/03/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. 7) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Ásgeir (INGVAR EGGERT SIGURÐSSON),, Andri (ÓLAFUR DARRI ÓLAFFSON), Hinrika (ILMUR KRISTIÁNSDÓTTIR) - (C) RVK Studioirs

Asgeir (Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson),, Andri (Olafur Darri Olaffson), Hinrika (Ilmur Kristiansdottir)

FIRST, the autumn/winter look was Sarah Lund’s jumper, then it was Saga Noren in leather trousers. This season it is the big and hairy style, courtesy of Trapped‘s Andri Olafsson.

Ólafur Darri Ólafsson has turned the snowbound Icelandic town’s chief of police into an unlikely sex symbol – at least, that’s what the Guardian says. Show creator Baltasar Kormakur did not want a stereotypical leading man and going for Olafsson – at 6’5″ ‘he looks like one of the looming mountains of the fjord’ – was a bold move that has paid off beautifully.

Andri has literally been at the eye of the storm, both personally (his marriage is broken) and professionally. The Icelandic coastal town of Seyoisfjorou is cut off in horrendous weather and Andri has to deal with the discovery of a torso in the sea.

(ILMUR KRISTIÁNSDÓTTIR) - (C) RVK Studios - Photographer: Lilja Jonsdottir

On the case: Hinrika

In addition, the Christmas card setting is actually a hotbed of people trafficking, illicit sex, political manoeuvrings and unsolved mysteries.

It’s a worthy successor to BBC4’s previous icy hits, The Killing and The Bridge. Andri’s stoicism in the face of having to deal with sneering colleagues in Reykjavik, his wife’s new boyfriend, a nasty Lithuanian gangster and the dodgy mayor has been compelling viewing.

The cast of characters is also interesting, from Hinrika (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir), Andri’s police colleague, to the shifty ferry captain, and the town’s wheelchair-bound peeping tom Rognvaldur. Last weekend’s scene he which he said to Hinrika, ‘We never know when we’re happy, but we know when we’re sad,’ was a moving gem of a scene.

And then there’s the weather, including a howling snow deluge and an avalanche – absolutely epic, though we all wish Andri would do his coat up before he ventures out.

Cool customer: Andri

Cool customer: Andri

As we move into the final two episodes this weekend (BBC4, Saturday, 12 March, from 9pm), the weather is finally improving. The captain agrees to work with the police, but one member of the crew has something to hide…

Apparently, Trapped is the most expensive drama ever made in Iceland. It was worth every kronur. Now, surely, it’s time they got on with making their next mystery saga.

The Killing — Killer TV No 7

3033360-low-the-killing

DR1 (Danish TV), 2007 series one, 2009 series two, 2012 series three

‘Why do you insist on going to work, now you can have a proper life?’ – Sarah Lund’s mother

Sofie Gråbøl, Lars Mikkelsen, Bjarne Henriksen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro, Charlotte Guldberg

Identikit: In Copenhagen, Detective Inspector Sarah Lund is about to begin her last shift before moving to Sweden with her fiancé when she becomes entangled in the disappearance of 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen.


logosFour years after it was shown in its homeland of Denmark, The Killing turned up complete with unknown cast and subtitles on minority channel BBC4 in the UK – and sent a thunderbolt through television drama. Not since Prime Suspect had anyone realised just how engrossing and emotionally deep a crime series could be. The advantages it had were that 20 hour-long episodes were devoted to the story of Sarah Lund and her team investigating the rape and murder of Nanna Birk Larsen; the cast was superb, fronted by an enigmatic performance from Sofie Gråbøl, who single-handedly blew away the cliché of the Nordic blonde dollybird; and the writing (by Søren Sveistrup) focused on character and the impact of a violent crime on the victim’s family, rather than just the whodunit. Moving and engrossing, set in an alien Nordic world, this was a mature, fascinating drama. Series two and three were also a cut above your average TV crime fare, but the first instalment was a true classic. TV execs at the Beeb and ITV hate to hear it, but The Killing was far superior to just about every drama made in the UK in recent years.

Spin-off: The 2011 US copy fiddled with the story and failed to convince viewers, but somehow kept going for another couple of series.

Classic episode: number 18, in which Jan Meyer is murdered at the warehouse. Having spent the entire series trying to get Sarah to clear off and being rude to her, Jan had – without any verbal acknowledgement between them – become a partner with Sarah, a team that had begun to value each other, with Meyer expressing concern for Lund and addressing her ‘as a friend’. His death was a shocking, emotionally affecting twist. Lund almost cracks when she’s told the news.

Music: Soundtrack composed by Frans Bak.

Watercooler fact: Sofie Gråbøl had no formal training as an actor. Encouraged by her mother and having responded to a newspaper ad, she got the role of a young girl in a film about Paul Gauguin and that ‘summer job’ led to others and suddenly she was an actor. She’s done Shakespeare and appeared in a Danish romantic drama, Nikolaj go Julie, before achieving international stardom as Lund.

The Bridge — Killer TV No 19

1286078-low_res-the-bridge1

Danmarks Radio/ Sveriges Television, series 1 2011; series 2 2013; series 3 2015

‘She’s Swedish, and the car came from Sweden. I assume I’m in charge.’ – Saga Norén

‘OK.’ – Martin Rohde

Sofia Helin (Saga Noren), Kim Bodnia (Martin Rohde), Dag Malmberg (Hans Pettersson), Lars Simonsen (Jens Hansen)

Identikit: Two detectives – one from Sweden, the other from Denmark – form an uneasy partnership when they must work together to investigate a murder scene right on the border between their two countries on the Oresund Bridge.


logosThe series that gave us the unforgettable Saga Norén, the blonde Swedish detective who has a laser-focus in solving crimes, but all the emotional intelligence of a Vulcan. She seems to be on the autistic scale, so that her idea of chit-chat is to come out with non-sequiturs like this in mixed company: ‘I started my period today.’ Or to ask a man who smiles at her in a nightclub whether he wants to have sex back at her flat. When it comes to breaking the news to a victim’s husband that his wife is dead, Saga has all the delicacy of an elephant on a flowerbed. ‘How many ways are there to say it?’ she asks her boss when he tells her to tread carefully. Saga, with her Porsche and leather trousers, is locked in a captivating partnership with Danish counterpart Martin Rohde, a shambles of an unfaithful husband who operates a lot on instinct, as they try to track down an ingenious, bitter serial killer who has attacked victims from both sides of Oresund Bridge, linking Denmark and Sweden. The investigation begins when what appears to be the body of a female Swedish politician is discovered straddling the national borderline on the bridge. The perpetrator has managed to plunge the bridge into darkness and staged the murder scene, so clearly this is a killer with huge resourcefulness and cunning. In truth, the plot involving the ‘Truth Terrorist’ staging various outrageous crimes to highlight perceived social problems is far-fetched. But, as with the key to many brilliant dramas, it is the principal characters who pull the audience in. Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia are two stars on a roll here, as characters who, despite their epic differences, slowly develop an off-key but somehow harmonious partnership. Across 10 episodes the tension builds slowly but remorselessly and with some stunning twists. And at the end, the killer is a lot closer to home than Saga and Martin – and the viewer – can ever have imagined. So highly regarded was the drama that the formula was immediately pinched by networks in the US and Britain/France, whose remakes are decent tributes, but certainly don’t outshine the original. Series two of the original came back, however, and developed the characters beautifully, with Martin struggling to come to terms with the murder of his son in series one, and Saga attempting to blend into normal society more – all against the backdrop of bio-terrorism crimes and incestuous lust among the rich. It ends with a heartbreaking cliffhanger and the two detectives divided and alone just when it seemed they were more bonded than ever. Sadly, Kim Bodnia did not appear in series three, and Thure Lindhardt stepped in as a new Danish partner, Henrik Sabroe. Next up for Bridge writer Hans Rosenfeldt is a thriller series for ITV called Marcella, starring Anna Friel.

Classic episode: The opener immediately and subtly establishes the character clash between Saga and Martin, while creating an eerie and perplexing mystery on the stunning Oresund Bridge. It is beautifully photographed, creating an alienating nightscape of highways, streets and the bridge.

Beck, BBC4, with Peter Haber

BECK Buried Alive Channels: BBC FourMartin Beck (PETER HABER), Gunvald Larsson (MIKAEL PERSBRANDT) (L-R)

Good cop, impulsive cop: Beck (Peter Haber) and Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt)

The latest Swedish crime series to hit BBC4 is based on a classic series of books

★★★½ BBC4, starts Saturday, 12 September, 9pm

BECK is the latest Scandi-noir series to fill BBC4’s Saturday-night slot. Since The Killing alerted the channel’s viewers to the distinctive mood and quality of Nordic TV dramas five years ago now, a new audience has been cultivated for death with subtitles in a cold climate.

Martin Beck (PETER HABER), Lena Klingström (STINA RAUTELIN), Gunvald Larsson (MIKAEL PERSBRANDT), Oskar Bergman (MÅNS NATHANAELSON)

Team work: Beck, Klingstrom, Larsson and Bergman

Martin Beck is, of course, the character featured in the groundbreaking Swedish crime novels written by husband-and-wife Marxists Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö back in the 1960s. These two crime-writing pioneers wrote a superb series of novels that often delved into society’s sore points, such as police corruption, while following Beck’s investigations.

The books are well worth exploring and this new series, set in the present day, is a polished adaptation, with Peter Haber – who starred in the Swedish version of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo – playing Beck. Mikael Persbrandt co-stars as Beck’s rough, tough colleague Larsson, a guy who, on taking out a biker in an alley fight, says, ‘Sometimes you have to make your mark.’

Beck’s on the trail of a serial killer

The first story, Buried Alive, starts with the discovery by a child of a crate buried in her playground’s sandpit. Her mother thinks she can hear a noise from inside and Beck and Larsson are soon on the scene. The crate contains the body of a prosecutor who’s been investigating a criminal biker gang. [Read more…]

Jordskott, ITV Encore, with Moa Gammel

Jordskott, ITV Encore

Eva Thörnblad (Moa Gammel) in the haunting woods

Riveting Nordic crime drama is back with this atmospheric tale of child abduction and conspiracy.

★★★★ ITV Encore, starts Wednesday, 10 June, 10pm

WHEN The Killing crept into BBC4’s schedules without fanfare in 2011 it famously became a word-of-mouth sensation, making a star of Sofie Gråbøl and igniting our near obsession with subtitled Nordic dramas.

The Bridge, Borgen, Arne Dahl have since become the stand-out successes from Northern Europe. Along the way, British viewers also fell in love with series such as Spiral and Inspector Montalbano from France and Italy.

But while Scandi devotees are stuck waiting for the next series of The Bridge (which will sadly be without Kim Bodnia, and is due late 2015/early 2016) and Arne Dahl (series 2: 2015), the new network ITV Encore has uncovered another quality thriller from Sweden.

Moa Gammel as detective Eva Thornblad

Jordskott immediately hits its stride as an engrossing drama with that quality of Nordic mystique. A vast ancient forest, a child’s disappearance, murky business dealings and a haunted blonde heroine – it’s the full smorgasbord.

Moa Gammel is police inspector Eva Thornblad, whose daughter disappeared by a lake, Silverhöjd, near her hometown seven years ago. When we meet Eva, she is confronting a deranged father, who shoots her.

During her convalescence, she has to return to her hometown to sort out her father’s estate. Conventional wisdom has it that her daughter, Josefine, drowned at the lake, and perhaps Eva has even made herself believe this.

[Read more…]

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