BBC4’s fascination with Scandinavian crime dramas continues unabated, and I’m more than willing to encourage it. Even those that slip beneath the plimsoll line of quality (I’m looking at you, Crimes of Passion, and you, Arne Dahl) are still interesting for what they reveal to us of another country, and another culture. The latest series to hit Saturday night at 9.00pm, with that chunky double-bill, is Trapped, which is our first exposure to Icelandic television.
Trapped is set in a small fishing port, set around a natural bay, on the Icelandic coast, north of Reykjavik. It’s remote, it’s wintry, it’s surrounded by mountains draped in snow, it’s impossible to look at this and not think of Fortitude. Thankfully, it’s also impossible to look at this and not think how great it is that they’re not trying to sell some fucking stupid story in the middle of all this treacherous beauty, because Trapped had me on that first tracking shot of the motorbike with the two teenagers, racing through will terrain, down into town, and on into each other’s naked arms.
Hjortur (forget the accents) provides Dagny with a high degree of oral pleasure before excusing himself to go down two lights of stairs, using a cigarette lighter for illumination, in order to take a piss. Unfortunately, the building turns out to be on fire, and Dagny, sleeping it off, doesn’t wake in time to get out.
The show then jumps seven years into the future and to a completely different set of characters. Well, not entirely. This is the family home of Dagny’s parents, which they share with one of Dagny’s sisters, not to mention Andri and his two daughters. Andri, a rotund, bearded bear of a bloke, but a gentle placid man, is the local Chief of Police. His separated wife, Agnes, another of Dagny’s sisters, is coming to stay for the weekend, to see the two daughters. Andri does not yet know that she’s bringing her new man, Sigvaldi, with her.
But that’s the least of Andri’s problems. The ferry is due in, and when I say ferry, I mean cruise ship size: this is coming from Copenhagen. Unfortunately, as the ferry honks its way towards the dock, its wash washes something into the nets of a fishing boat. It is a dead body. At least, we hope it’s dead, given that it has neither a head, nor arms, nor legs: identification is not going to be easy.
We will see a lot of that body, indeed we virtually get a tour of every severed point, though the camera chastely stays away from what I assume must be very shrivelled genitals.
It’s a murder, which small places like this port don’t get. It’s also Raykjavik’s case, in the form of Detective Trausti and his Forensics team, ordering Andri to keep everybody on board the ferry, stop it from leaving before they get there, but otherwise keep his big fat face out of it. There is some as yet unexplained reason why Andri and Trausti get on like oil and water, which adds spice to the fact that the Ferry Captain is being coldly and deliberately uncooperative (he turns off the heating and shoves the passengers onto the docking ramp, intent on causing a chaos that lets our prime suspect – a Lithuanian Mafia man trafficking two Nigerian sisters into Iceland and raping the elder one – get onto the island).
But the major problem, and the key to the series, is that a snowstorm is blowing up. And it’s a real storm, with acres of snow blowing (either that or special effects have just taken a leap into the uncanny). The port’s cut off. Trausti and his Forensic team can’t get here. Which means Andri is going to have to do this one alone, with the assistance of three uninspiring assistants.
The Fortitude connection is deepened by the fact that there’s a big scheme going on to develop the town and make everybody rich, in these times of economic collapse, by developing the port into a world-class affair to be sold to a Chinese Corporation. Yes, I know it sounds daft, but it appears that Iceland is halfway between America and China, via the Arctic route (which, thanks to global warming, is a lot less ice-choked these days).
Oh dear, spectacular, town-rescuing commercial venture at delicate stage, sudden appearance of dead body, Mayor getting involved, everyone can see a low-flying cliche coming in to land but, in a delightful touch, the Mayor turns out to be ex-Police and wants the job done properly, without the use of any carpets and brushes.
So far, after two episodes, the plot hasn’t developed very far. The body has probably been identified, the Lithuanian is probably the killer, but big bear Andri is, again refreshingly, confessing to almost everyone that he doesn’t know. Worse is to come. Hjortur’s back in town, acting all mysterious, after seven years away and he seems to have had a fight with a Swiss passenger, who is the suspect body.
And he’s certainly acting suspicious, and that’s before he breaks into the fish factory where the headless torso is being preserved in the freezer. Not long after, photos of the torso from multiple angles are uploaded onto the internet and when Andri and Hinrika get to the factory, the torso’s been stolen. Meanwhile, the handcuffed Lithuanian has beaten up Aesgir, locked him in the police cell, and buggered off into the snow.
But this is not the cliffhanger on which part 2 ends, no, that is rather more domestic. We have already seen, in part 1, Andri’s sweet, bouncy daughters being vicious, malicious bullies to little Maggi (Magnusson?), a cute but forlorn redheaded little boy at school who they’re taunting over not having a father. For some reason, in part 2 Maggi is brought round to Andri’s house to play with eight-year old Perla, who promptly behaves utterly shittily to him. Maggi gets up and walks out of the room. when Perla follows, she finds the door to outside, and the rising snowstorm, is open. Unable to tell any grown-ups because she’s not prepared to admit her responsibility, she gets her twelve-year old sister, Thorhildur, to go out into the snow to hunt for Maggi.
This is no weather for children to be out in, white-out conditions with wind and snow blowing. It’s no weather for adults to be out in and there’s four of them desperately hunting for the kids, plus Andri abandoning the missing torso. unfortunately, it looks like the adult who might have found them is going to be Lithuanian…
This is more than good enough for me for now, and I’d stick around for the mountains and the snow and the storm, even if the story was naff. Until I find out differently, I’m going to assume Trapped will run for the traditional Scandinavian ten episodes, two each Saturday, so I’ll see you here for the next month, alright?