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


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 3, BBC4, with Sofia Helin

Programme Name: The Bridge - TX: n/a - Episode: The Bridge - series 3 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN) - (C) Carolina Romare - Photographer: Carolina Romare

Bridge over troubled water: Saga faces a personal crisis

Saga Noren returns – without Martin Rohde – in a typically strange, chilling new investigation


BBC4, date and time to be announced

SERIES 2 finished on a shattering note with the arrest for murder of one of The Bridge‘s two principles, Martin Rohde. Together with his detective partner Saga Noren, the characters had defined one of the most original and popular of the new wave of Nordic noir series.

Now series 3 is here, but Martin is not. Kim Bodnia, the lugubrious actor who had played straight man to Sofia Helin’s Asperger’s detective, did not like the direction the show’s writers wanted to take Martin, so he left.

Like Laurel without Hardy, or Lennon without McCartney, there is no doubt the show’s chemistry is upset. However, The Bridge is largely Saga’s story and on first glimpse of the new series I would say there is a good chance that the writers could be about to take her in intriguing new directions.

We meet her again as she about to be plunged into another weird and chilling new case. A Danish woman, a campaigner for lesbian and gay rights, is found murdered in a grotesque tableau with a group of mannequins, all having lurid smiles lipsticked onto their faces. Because she has been discovered in Malmo, Sweden, Saga is called in, once again partnered with a detective from Denmark.

So far, so familiar. But there is needle in the relationship, as Saga’s new sidekick resents her as the woman who is responsible for getting Martin imprisoned. And then Saga’s robot-like mask cracks a little when her boss, Hans Petterson, asks why she never mentions Martin, to whom she had grown close despite their initially awkward relationship.

She replies that she will visit him, but only when he is released in nine-and-a-half years. ‘I can’t associate with murderers’ – which is as close as she’s ever going to get to saying that she misses him badly.

The opening episode ends explosively for Saga

With her new partner, Saga investigates Morten Anker, the alienated and volatile son of the victim, who suffers from post-traumatic stress after serving in Afghanistan. As Saga and her partner close in, the opening episode ends explosively, and we see our heroine plunged into a personal crisis like none we’ve ever seen her in before.

Bridge fans will no doubt be disappointed that Kim Bodnia has departed, but by the end of the episode they will probably be hanging on to see what happens next.

Creator and writer Hans Rosenfeldt has a genius for coming up with twisted killers and he’s done it again. It will be fascinating to see what he does with his next thriller, Marcella, which has been commissioned by ITV, set in London and stars Anna Friel.

Check out…

Sofia Helin on the new series

Kim Bodnia leaves The Bridge

Arne Dahl series 2, BBC4

Big shot – Gunnar, 'probably Sweden's strongest policeman'

Big shot – Gunnar, ‘probably Sweden’s strongest policeman’

The Swedish cops are back to blast a hole in BBC4’s Saturday nights 

★★★½ BBC4, week of Saturday, 17 October

SWEDEN’S A-Team – or A Unit, as they prefer – is back for a second series of the cop-action show that proved a break-out hit on BBC4 in 2013.

As Nordic aficionados know, these stories are based on the crime novels of Jan Arnald, under the pen name Arne Dahl. The first series was a big enough international success to propel Matias Varela, who played the hacker member of the team, Jorge Chavez, to Hollywood for the blockbuster Point Break. Alexander Salzberger takes over the role in this new series.

Close liaison – Paul and Kerstin

Close liaison – Paul and Kerstin

It opens with a two-parter, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, picking up the action a couple of years after the first series. Paul Hjelm is now divorced and in a relationship with Kerstin. While he is now in charge of the internal affairs section, she is made head of the A Unit to investigate a nasty outbreak of Polish mafia murders in Sweden.

The old gang are reunited, including Gunnar – ‘Probably Sweden’s strongest policeman’ – Arto the analyst, and Jorge, of course. Sara is the team’s expert on paedophile crimes, also returns, while Ida – pronounced Eeda – is the new face, and a multilingual asset.

Polish hitman on the loose

Arne Dahl series 2

A Unit – Sara Svenhagen (Vera Vitali), Jorge Chavez (Alexander Salberger), Arto Söderstedt (Niklas Akerfelt), Kerstin Holm (Malin Arvidsson), Ida Jankowicz (Natalie Minnevik), Gunnar Nyberg (Magnus Samuelsson), Paul Hjelm (Shanti Roney)

Arne Dahl is a fast-paced, multi-stranded mix of personal cop stories and brutal crime, and this latest offering sticks to the formula. The crimes being probed involve Polish hitmen taking out female health workers from Poznan, who’ve fled an ingenious funeral racket.

That’s right, funerals. The Polish godfathers control the funeral business and upped demand for their services by having the health workers euthanise old folk in their care.

Trouble is, some of the women have fled to Sweden and the men chasing them think nothing of marching through Swedish hospitals shooting anyone who might cross them.

It’s not as good or original as The Killing or The Bridge, but Arne Dahl is a smartly made and pretty gripping action-drama. Scandi fans will be mumbling tack as the series steps into the slot left by Beck on BBC4.

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…]

Spiral series 5, Caroline Proust, Gregory Fitoussi, Thierry Godard, Audrey Fleurot PREVIEW

Spiralling out of control? Herville, Tintin and Laure. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC4: starts Saturday, 10 January, 9pm

Story: Following the death of Sami, Captain Laure Berthaud is trying to cope as best she can. But with her personal life a mess,  she receives some unexpected news and is then plunged into the investigation of a shocking double murder. 

THANK GOODNESS for BBC4’s Saturday night crime slot. It has transformed viewing habits in the UK, creating a passion for subtitled, high-quality Euro-crimers such as The Killing, The Bridge, Inspector Montalbano and the French contingent including Braquo and the even better Spiral.

Which returns tonight. The police drama is a cut above the norm with its superb interweaving of stories involving the detective squad under Captain Laure Berhaud – caught between the criminals and her own backstabbing bosses – and the machinations of the legal eagles, particularly the cynical Joséphine Karlsson.

It is a tough drama, full of hard-bitten cops and the realpolitik of the justice system. Series four even ventured into the realm of home-grown terrorism in France, a subject that became horrifically real this week.

Captain Berthaud’s hard-bitten boys

Back in the fictional world, Captain Berthaud is wilting a bit under all the pressure. She may be a female role model as she holds her crew of hard-nut cops together, but she’s no paragon. She makes mistakes, shoots suspects and slaps people around. Somehow, she usually just about gets a result.

Crime scene – Gilou and Laure

Not so in her personal relationships. As series five begins, she is in a bar picking up a stranger for some car sex. However, things don’t go as planned and Berthaud makes a shocking discovery about herself.

Her lieutenant Gilou tells her in his usual blunt way that she’s acting like a zombie. That’s when she’s not screaming at their colleague Tintin for having a plaque made commemorating their much missed colleague Sami, who died in series four.


[Read more…]

The Code, BBC4, Dan Spielman, Ashley Zukerman, Lucy Lawless PREVIEW

Jesse Banks (ASHLEY ZUCKERMAN) The Code
Jesse’s hacking skills open up a world of danger in The Code. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 11 October, 9pm

Story: Australian political thriller set in the heart of government. Reporter Ned Banks is alerted to a strange accident involving a couple of Aboriginal teenagers. Unwittingly getting his computer genius brother involved, Ned stumbles on a national conspiracy.

SATURDAY NIGHTS on BBC4 have become a vicarious getaway for crime fans in the last few years. Sweden, Denmark, Italy and even Belgium have all been on the itinerary, but this weekend it’s Australia’s turn with a new six-part thriller.

Which is unusual. Oz has not offered a whole lot on the crime front. There’s been Wentworth Prison, a descendant of the prison soap of Prisoner: Cell Block H. Guy Pearce turned up in 2012’s pretty decent Jack Irish drama, which was based on the novels of Peter Temple. And then there was the very average Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries around the same time.

Sophie Walsh (CHELSIE PRESTON CRAYFORD), Randall Keats (ADEN YOUNG) The Code
Stirring trouble – Sophie and Randall

The Code is a change of gear from all of these, and from the Swedish period whodunit Crimes of Passion, which has just ended. It’s a conspiracy thriller with techno and political themes.

Government leak gone wrong

It starts in a traditional way for the genre, with a journalist stumbling onto a huge story by accident. Ned Banks is leaked a dossier by government spin doctors that is designed to destroy a minister’s career.

However, in the envelop containing photos showing him getting into a scuffle after groping a woman is also a reference to ‘Lindara’, where two Aboriginal teens on a joyride have run into serious trouble. Clarence is found by teacher Alex covered in blood, apparently unable to account for what happened to his girlfriend or the car he was driving.

With Alex’s help, Ned – who is assisted by his brother Jesse, a hacker and Asberger’s sufferer – soon uncovers a video that suggests the teenager’s accident had more sinister causes. When his internet newspaper publishes the video, some outside agency causes the whole operation to crash and disappear off the web.

The Code is pacey and looks great

The setting, switching from government HQ in Canberra to remote Lindara, should easily satisfy the

Ned Banks (DAN SPIELMAN) The Code
Poking his nose in – reporter Ned

Saturday night BBC4 crowd’s wanderlust, and the story is a good mesh of political cynicism and Big Brother menace.

Ned’s disobedient pain of a brother is initially annoying, but comes to fill a vital role in the story. The narrative balances several threads with pace, from the Alex’s story in Lindara, to Jesse and Ned’s increasingly desperate attempts to avoid danger, to the political shenanigans.

It’s not in the same league as more haunting dramas, such as Edge of Darkness, but The Code shifts at a sharp pace and the cinematography is superb.

Cast: Dan Spielman Ned Banks, Ashley Zukerman Jesse Banks, Adele Perovic Hani Parande, Adam Garcia Perry Benson, Chelsie Preston Crayford Sophie Walsh, Paul Tassone Andy King,
Dan Wyllie Lyndon Joyce, Lucy Lawless Alex Wisham

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Crimes of Passion, BBC4, PREVIEW

Island nightmare – Christer, Eje and Puck are confronted with a murderer. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 30 August, 9pm

Story: In Bergslagen in the 1950s, amateur sleuth Puck Ekstedt, her student boyfriend Einar Bure and their police superintendent friend Christer Wijk set out to solve a series of murders.

NORDIC NOIR in the shape of The Killing and The Bridge has really refreshed UK television, influencing brilliant recent series such as Broadchurch. The chilly settings and brooding, brilliantly acted dramas were a thrilling departure from much of the crime fare previously being produced here.

Which makes the arrival of this new six-part Swedish series a tiny bit disappointing. It’s a handsomely made drama. It’s just that it feels so familiar.

‘What the hell is this?’ says one character when a body is discovered. ‘It’s like Ten Little Indians.’

Agatha Christie with a Swedish twist

Exactly. Crimes of Passion are 90-minute whodunits, strongly infused with Agatha Christie. A bunch

Crimes of Passion. Christer (OLA RAPACE), Puck (TUVA NOVOTNY), Eje (LINUS WAHLGREN)
There are tensions between the friends

of stock characters in a period setting – an isolated island for the opener – someone is bumping them off one by one, an inspector calls and in a drawing-room denouement all is revealed.

It’s Marple, Father Brown and The Lady Vanishes, with Mad Men styling and subtitles.

Puck is writing a thesis on murder in modern novels, and she is invited by college academic Rutger to a midsummer party on his island, which has no phones and is only reachable by boat. The setting is the 1950s, and the fashions are lovingly recreated while the island is filmed beautifully.

Infidelity and betrayal

So, Crimes of Passion, which is based on the novels of Maria Lang from the late 1940s and 1950s,

Puck has been invited to a party, which turns into a murder spree

looks terrific. It’s the story that feels light and formulaic. Puck discovers one of the guests, Marianne, has been murdered in the woods. Her boyfriend Eje calls in his detective friend Christer. After some shenanigans with the body going missing, it becomes clear the guests are a dissolute lot with a tendency towards infidelity and betrayal.

Misdirection is the cliche of whodunit and the characters who are absolute stinkers and look bang to rights are, inevitably, not the culprit. It’s the same here, with a lot of dull questioning, much running about the island and furtive comings and goings, before a second guest is shot in the woods (strange that no one hears the gun being fired).

For non-fans of the whodunit, the genre is just a puzzle with stock characters. Is the killer flirty Lil, shifty Rutger or annoying Carl? The acting is OK, the victims are plot devices and the set-ups contrived.

Beautifully made whodunit

Christer (OLA RAPACE)
Looking for clues – Christer

But it would be a surprise if Crimes of Passion does not find an audience for its stunning setting,
lovely costumes and the traditional format.

Others will undoubtedly miss the emotional pull and the chilly strangeness of the worlds of Sarah Lund and Saga Noren.

Cast: Ola Repace Christer Wijk, Tuva Novotny Puck Ekstedt, Linus Wahlgren Einar `Eje’ Bure, Suzanna Dilber Ann, Ida Engvoll Lil, Peter Viitanen Carl Herman

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