Saturday SkandiCrime: Modus episodes 3 & 4

Mother and Daughter
Mother and Daughter

At the halfway point, already, my conclusion is that whilst Modus is excellent on many fronts, and it is keeping me absorbed, it’s missing that essential element that puts it in the first rank of Skandinavian drama. I won’t miss a second of it, but I w won’t be placing the DVD box set on my ‘must-have’ list at any times.

Why this is so isn’t easy to define, but let’s try to approach it via the events of the latest two episodes.

First, I hold up my hands on a plain error. Richard Forrester (whose name was obliquely revealed in episode 3) was not being assisted to track down young Stina Vik by her father Isak, but by one Lennart Carlsson, an all-round woman-hating bastard, later pulled in by the National Bureau when our profiling heroine Inger Johanna identifies him as a classic internet troll (you mean you can get arrested and convicted for being a foul-mouthed, vicious, stupid, hating bastard on-line in Sweden? We have much to learn from Europe). I make no excuses for my mistaking the two characters, especially as, in daylight, the resemblance is far from obvious, but I put it forward as an example of the series throwing in a hundredweight of characters, with no ostensible connection, and leaving us to sort thrpugh them.

I’m not questioning the technique, but with so many characters (more of whom were added this week) and only eight 45 minute episodes, there’s a paucity of time in which to wait and see how the connections form.

Episode 3 started with the public announcement of the discovery of Isabellas body, which immediately led Inger Johanna to connect it to her autistic daughter Stina’s weird behaviour since that night, and ended with Forrester half-completing Mission 3, killing long-haired artist Niclas – whose art consisted of a naked old man sitting in a glass cage and constantly shifting his position through 360 degrees, with minimal exposure of his aged genitals – by faking a heroin overdose.

Niclas, we are unsurprised to learn in episode 4, was gay, as are our slightly rocky husband and husband couple, Rolf and Marcus (Rolf suspects Marcus of having an affair with Niclas, which Marcus denies convincingly, until he starts snuffling over Niclas’s death). So too are newcomers actress Patricia and her wife (Rolf has provided the sperm for Patricia’s baby), plus Robin, son of Gunilla, who appears to be ‘working’ as a rent boy and who gets attacked at the end of episode 4, but not killed by Forrester. Robin does not appear to be a Mission victim, but rather impulsive disgust on the part of Forrester who, we learn this eek, has a dead wife and son and a pair of angel’s wings tattooed on his back.

Like I say, all these people are being thrown in, without introduction which, whilst it’s faithful to life, is not really meshing.

So, two of the victims are gay, and Bishop Elizabeth was gay-friendly, but might she have also been that way inclined? Widower Erik is certainly hiding something. The first thing he does is take the Bishop’s laptop to an invitingly snowy field near Uppsala and slip it into a dark and cold looking water-hole,  which no doubt invalidates the manufacturer’s warranty. He’s destroying evidence as fast as he can, until Investigator Ingvar orders him not to, though we don’t really believe he’s going to stop then (and apparently the manufacturers can backdoor into the thing and rescue all the information whenever they want, which is rather worrying: do you think I want anyone to see the draft versions of this stuff?)

Then there’s the mysterious Girl in the Photo. Utterly wet and weedy Lukas, Erik and Elizabeth’s son (though maybe not biologically, in the same way Lukas’ two African kids aren’t his by birth). Lukas has always wondered if he has a sister but been too wet to ask. Once prompted by his rather more back-boned wife, Astrid, he brings it up with Dad, whose answer is the one he gave to Investigator Ingvar: it’s none of your business.

But he does visit the mysterious house again and this time we follow him inside, for thick red soup and cryptic conversation with an elderly lady, whose is not Lukas’ sister but could be his mother, but in any event must never tell Lukas whatever it is she’s keeping concealed.

That’s as much as we get this week, so let us concentrate upon the central players in this little drama, Inger and Ingvar. Here, we immediately run up against a problem in that one half of this team isn’t pulling his weight. The Guardian blog eagerly described Henrik Norlen’s Ingvar as ‘moody’ (with a silent sexy attached) but frankly he’s not moody but mopey (and I am incorrectly equipped to comment on the silent adjective).

Ingvar isn’t a presence, he’s an absence. I didn’t comment last week on the cemetery scene where he went to the grave of his six year old daughter, deliberately avoiding the attractive woman already there, who was thus silently signaled as being his ex-wife, the girl’s death having destroyed their relationship. This week, he admits his girl’s death to Inger. He’s also shown to be a bit of a player, by having one of his work colleagues step out of his shower, in bra and knickers, requesting a taxi to take her home to cook for her husband and kids, and the pathologist drops a hint that he’s clearly after Inger’s fair white body, that Inger, affronted, pretends not to understand.

The problem is that that’s about the only clue that Ingvar fancies having his own genitals profiled. Inger’s ex-husband, Isak, clearly suspects hanky panky is going on, but the amount of sexual chemistry being generated would disgrace a home Chemistry Set, and the whole thing feels like some obligatory nonsense, required because the two leading players are of opposite genders.

Besides, amongst this predominantly gay world, who gives a toss about a ‘straight’ relationship? (Lennart Carlsson, for one, being a total anti-feminist twat of the kind Dave Sim really should take a long, hard look at before aligning himself so firmly with such a stance, and the trio of lads on the street who, when their attempts to get off with two young lesbians are rebuffed, respond with brutal punches and kicks that threaten very serious injury.)

The idea of a relationship is doomed to derision because its other half, Inger Johanne, has all the attention. She is a hundred times the personality of Ingvar, with her professional skills, her complicated family life, her concerns about her autistic child, Stina, and the very different ones for the buoyant eight year old, Linnea, already accepting responsibility to look after Stina all her life, her frustrations about the lightweight Isak, who clearly didn’t pull his weight in the relationship. Inger clearly has too much of everything to ever accept a nothing like Ingvar, though she’s obviously an attractive woman, with no apparent sexual outlet – and, more importantly, no apparent concern about this.

It’s a lop-sided pairing as the two are in no way equals yet are set up to be, and the notion of any sexual relationship between them has no basis in their personalities, and would be an entirely artificial insertion.

And it would be remiss of me not to again mention just how superb Esmerelda Struwe is, once again, as Stina, a performance almost solely composed of facial non-expression and body language. There is never a moment when she is onscreen that your eyes are not drawn to her. And I should also praise Lily Wahlsteen as her younger sister, who, along with Esmerelda, gives us evidence that Swedish drama is going to be secure for decades to come. These two just tip the balance even further toward Inger.

I don’t usually comment on such things but I really must record how gorgeous the filming is, and the brilliant sharpness of the HD photography. The shots of the snowy fields where Erik dumped the laptop, and the forest where Forrester has his caravan, are incredible, and there are aerial shots sweeping across Stockholm at frequent intervals that demonstrate the clarity of the detail. The city becomes a field of three-dimensional geometry, its interstices lit by streams of light. The effect is awesome and I could sit and look at rooftops, squares, courtyards all night.

Only two weeks left.


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