Coming to you incredibly late for me, what with yesterday’s day out and the Manchester Derby this afternoon. And perhaps it’s because I’ve watched it mid-Sunday evening and not late Saturday night, but so far I’ve found little to impress or enthuse me about Denmark’s latest offering.
And there is a seriously dubious title sequence showing the four main characters going about their business with water welling up from everything until they’re trying to function normally in rooms full to the ceiling with water. It’s clearly symbolic but at this point there isn’t a clue what it’s symboliic of.
Follow the Money is a very dull title (the Danish title, Bedrag, sounds far better, and it literally means ‘Deception’), and the fact that the central mystery appears to revolve around some as-yet-undisclosed dodgy financial dealings involving one of Denmark’s most successful companies, Energreen, seemed to confirm a certain lack of imagination in the first instance. There was, however, a glimmer of interest by the end of episode 2 when this over-literal title took on an even more literal meaning, as a well-contrived blunder put two seemingly minor characters – one of them the biggest numbskull in the show – in possession of 2,000,000 Euros in brick-thick bundles. Someone, and probably more than one party, is going to be following that money around.
The opening opted for the piecemeal approach, giving us three disparate strands, each with its own central character, before wrapping them into one interwoven package with a briskness unusual for Scandinavian Crime.
Firstly, we have Mads, our forty-something maverick detective. Mads is called out to a dead body, recovered from the water, which turns out to be a Ukrainian worker from the nearby offshore wind farm owned by Energreen. Lacking any immediate means to getting over to us that the quiet, ordinary-looking Mads is a maverick, the writer opted for the unusual and somewhat risible method of having him strip off and dive into the undoubtedly freezing water to retrieve a safety jacket, rather than wait five minutes for a boat.
This had the story value of establishing for us that Mads doesn’t do patience very well, which would become a salient feature of part 2.
Mikhayil’s death turned out to be an accident caused by deliberate breach of Health and Safety regulations by Energreen, not for the first time. Mads tries to exhort the Ukrainians to file a complaint but all that achieves is to get the lot of them fired, and Mikhayil’s distraught father, Alexander, to hang himself in his storage container hut bedroom. That made it personal for Mads, at which point I got a chilling echo of the utterly inept Salamander, glimmers of which kept reflecting off him for the rest of both episode.
I’m sorry to harp on about Mads, but he is our star but we also have to reflect upon his home life, which is two children – one boy, young, one girl, youngish, shades of Borgen – and a wife suffering from sclerosis attacks. Mads is doing everything he can, and the tears he cries when she unexpectedly recovers from her current, bad attack, are a touching testament to his love for her, though I can’t help but wonder that, her first words when introduced in bad shape being that she dreamed of having sex, once she recovered – and she really is an attractive woman – there wasn’t the slightest hint of him even thinking of sex: this might be implanting something extremely subtle to be realised later, and I have some insight into situations like this, but that would be to give the series credit it’s far from earning yet.
Let’s leave him for a while and transfer our attention to lead 2, one Claudio Moreno, of Energreen’s legal department: thirtyish, divorced, young son who lives with his father Steen (also a lawyer). Claudia’s just uncovered a contract clause that will save Energreen 20,000,000 euros a year, but it’s head lawyer Mogens who’s going to take the credit for this.
But Mogens enlists Claudia to hunt out an insider who’s insider trading, and he hints that the corruption goes as high as CEO, founder and all-round hotshot Sander Sodergren, so she’s got to keep it extremely quiet, from everyone. It all involves some company called East Manchester Invest (which, sadly, proves to be registered in Copenhagen rather than Openshaw) but Claudia, who is ambitious, decides Mogens is trying to frame Sander and takes it all to the big Boss. Who promptly, a), fires Mogens, b), appoints Claudia as his new Head Lawyer and, c), admits to her that he did, in fact, after all, as it happens, authorise his best trader, Peter Sondergaard to go off insider trading, providing the then financially-strapped Energreen got its share of the profits. Oi!
And then there’s Nicky, a car mechanic and ex-car thief, married with a small, one year old baby, and living in a high-rise flat. From which he and his wife want to escape but they haven’t got the money for it. So, despite his initial, and eminently sensible refusal to join blatant moron Bimse in car-thieving for quick profit, Nicky decides to supplement his income the old-fashioned way. After all, there’s this rude, arrogant jerk called Peter Sondergaard who’s running a BMW that the Serbs can sell on…
So now let’s stir the mix. Maverick Mads can’t get anywhere with trying to bring Energreen down over these deaths (remember, it’s personal). His by-the-book boss Preben shuts the case, like all the others. Fortunately, Detective Alf (yes, Alf, a Danish cop, of Chinese extraction, called Alf, do you want to make something of that? There is also an Albert in this series, move along) offers him a chance to tag along with the Fraud Squad to get some satisfaction.
Of course, Fraud Squad cases last sometimes for years, and Mads, as we already know, doesn’t do patience, so when they can’t get a wiretap of East Manchester Invest due to minor details like having no evidence whatsoever, Mads cons a fellow cop into adding it to the warrant for a completely different case (it is, it’s bloody Philip Gerrardi all over again).
Claudia meanwhile recommends Peter Sondergaard and his colleague are separated from Energreen tooty-de-sweet, before the Police investigation finds them. It seems a simple job, a silent severance, that sort of thing, no publicity, and even a fun one when Peter starts treating Claudia as the secretary, but it transpires that Peter has something on Sander, not financial, but personal, and something that has him immediately willing to hand over 4,000,000 euros, cash, to buy them off.
(He has an associate, named only P, who handles the transactions, and who appears to have hidden, shall we call them, talents? I mention him because this time, unlike Captain Carlssen in Trapped, I recognised him immediately: Claus Ljungmark, aka Norlander in the first five Arne Dahl movies).
Which brings us back to Nicky and the idiot Bimse, who’s going to get someone killed, preferably himself. P hands over two hold-alls, each containing 2,000,000 Euros to Peter and the other one (Mark?). Peter drives home, does the Patrick McGoohan in the opening credits of The Prisoner bit and re-emerges to find his Beamer gone. With the cash, and the iPad containing the incriminating evidence against Sander. Which are in the hands of Nicky and the Bozo.
I shall, of course, continue to watch and blog the whole series, but after two episodes it has not filled me with confidence. The strength of the various Scandinavian crime series, apart from the fascination of seeing a familiar subject through the eyes of a different culture, has been in how it has immersed itself in the impact that murder has, on victims, families, the Police themselves. It has relied heavily upon the characters of the Police involved, from the eccentric yet fascinating Saga Noren of The Bridge to the utterly down-to-earth Hinrika in Trapped.
But we have none of that here. The deaths we have had to date are of importance only to the detective, who is not, as yet, distinguishable in any way from a generic ‘maverick cop’. Nicky loses points for being involved with Bimse the Bozo, someone that a three-month old baby would avoid for utter unreliability, whilst Claudia, who already only sees her little boy four days a fortnight, puts up the feeblest of resistances to her ex-husband Steen taking him to live in Paris for two years.
The only character who genuinely interests me so far is Mads’ wife, Kristina, and that may be due to personal things on my part.
Follow the Money has four more weeks in which to prove me wrong, but on the evidence of two episodes, it’s biggest problem is that it’s just so damned ordinary. And we don’t go in for ordinary in the Saturday SkandiCrime slot.