Woah! The blurb in The Observer last Sunday promised a stunning ending to Below the Surface 2, better even than the first series. I’ve been looking forward to this all week. As I’ve often done before, I’m splitting this blogpost up, and writing about episode 7 before I watch the finale.
And what an episode! At first, I thought it was going to be a tension-ratchetting episode, drawing things out until we’re ready to scream: the Russians invade Herdis’s home, bag her, threaten to shoot the little dog, Benji. June’s phone is in an envelope lying in plain site, but the Russian lady doesn’t find it. Neither do SP and Simon, arriving to interrupt proceedings. My fears that one or both of this pair would be killed off were unfounded. There was a mini-shoot-out, with the Russian heavy getting wounded and the ice-blonde abandoning him per protocol, but Herdis keeps her nerve, lies to everyone, and leaves in her son-in-law’s truck, with the phone.
And on the Ferry, things are getting tense. The Engineer’s dead, the tanks are still full, they’ve already passed Provensteen island where the ambush awaits. But Philip finds the valves and dumps the fuel whilst Captain Hvalso convinces Yusuf that it’s Provensteen or drift into the Baltic.
But there are bombs inside the trailer, threatening the hostages. Philip has to get in and disarm them or the ambush won’t work. He’s trying to break through the trailer roof. June wants to kill Rami and Mahdi. Time’s getting tight. Rami discovers that Mahdi used Hassan’s body, that Philip and June are alive and free.
And then it all comes to a head. Mahdi panics, runs for it. Philip orders the troops notto shoot, but Rami does. Mahdi is down, shot in the shoulder, possibly dead. June welts Rami over the back of the head with a wrench. Yusuf orders Hvalso to drive the truck and trailer, heading for the exit. Philip’s in the back, disarming bombs as fast as he can. He gets the last one just as the truck reaches the barricade: a sniper shoots Yusuf through the shoulder: he too looks dead.
Unexpectedly, the hostage crisis is resolved with an episode to go. And if Yusuf is dead, how can TTF track down who was pulling his strings? Mind you, the ferry is yet to be secured, Rami and June. June’s on our side, Philip says, blithely. Andwe cut to June, armed with Rami’s gun, running away, furtively.
Is there a big surprise coming? As I said, Woah!
In the end, though, the ending was not as advertised, and certainly lacked the personal tragedies that made the first series so brilliant. The episode began with June pursuing Rami and Philip pursuing June, assuming she intended to kill him. Not so. June wounds him in the leg and takes him hostage, a clever if short-lived reversal. She’ll let him go once she gets her phone back. This development doesn’t last long: the Strike Team are ready to attack but Philip goes in first, disarms June by shooting her in the arm. As for Rami, who has been defiled by being touched by June (there really are some sick aspects to the fanatic’s version of that religion), he tries to restore his honour by knifing her and Philip,and only loses his life by being shot, several times.
So at last it’s over, barring the mopping up. But the mopping up has heavy implications. Faithful Herdis, no less fanatical in her way than the religious nuts, givesJune back her phone in thee hospital. The blonde Russian, Anna Karashina, is identified from CCTV footage of June’sarrest at the airport. Bulow recognises her. Anna’s going to be deported, or she would be if she wasn’t going to be pulled out first. But she’s taking June with her, the first ever extradition from Denmark to Russia.
June doesn’t mind. She’s handed her phone to Philip who, after having seen that the two dead Danish soldiers were Rangers, his old mob, has promised to get the video out. Philip’s hacker buddies can upload it to the internet, untraceably, via the Dark Web. Unfortunately, Philip has to abort once he hears of June.
Philip rescues June one last time, swapping the phone for her extradition papers. It’s a yielding to the infamous realpolitik, doing the wrong thing to protect the country as a whole, not that anyone ever tests the opposite hypothesis, because they don’t want to, they’re fixated on being tough-minded, the mad arrogant bastards.
June, needless to say, is furious. She has her life back, and her family, at the expense of her cause, and we all know what matters most to her. Philip is left with a troubled conscience, the desire to expose wrong set against the knowledge that the entire State apparatus will be turned against him if he tries, andthis now he’s decided to go back to TTF.
I spent the last six or seven minutes expecting something explosive, literally explosive, to happen. But the series was too sophisticated for that kind of cliche. Its explosion was metaphorical, not literal: the Hacker Twins still had a copy of most of the video, 88% of it, to be specific. Should they wipe it, or….?
So the video comes out, and questions start to be asked. How much they might affect the now inevitable third series, I don’t know, but I’m happy to wait.
No, series 2 didn’t match up to series 1. It was still a sophisticated, gripping thriller, free from cliches, of a standard I wish this country could reach. But by opting for realpolitik concerns against private grief, honour and commitment, it condemned itself to stay merely a thriller. It avoided the personal on anything except a personal level, and left the hard questions to a credits-covering voiceover.
Even so, if series 3 is no better than this, I’ll still lap it up. But one can dream, can’t one?