Saturday SkandiKrime: Trapped 2 – episode 1

After the sheer risibility of Black Lake 2, the announcement of the long-awaited second series of the Iceland-set Trapped was greeted with whoops and hollers in one Stockport pokey little flat. Superior story-telling for at least four weeks: if the second series was only half as good as the 2014 first, I would be very satisfied indeed.

In fact, I have five weeks of delight to look forward to, as Trapped 2 eschews the recent Scandinavian trend towards eight episode series and adheres to the traditonal ten parts we came to know and love from The Killing onwards. And whilst BBC4 is showing them in the usual block of two episodes weekly, the first episode was so rich and deep, and the experience so wonderful, that I’m going to watch (and blog) only one at a time.

Last time round, Andri Olafson (Olafur Darri Olafson), detective, was the Chief of Police in a tiny, northern town, a little piece of nothing in a deep fjord. It was a place of vast whitenesses, a deeply attractive, entirely quiet place. Andri, who came from this unnamed town, had been posted there in disgrace, after failing badly on a case. But with the town cut off by blizzard and avalanche, he was left to tackle a complex murder case. Andri’s successful resolution, amidst substantial family problems, saw him regain his old post at the capitol, Reykjavik.

Four years have passed. The opening episode doesn’t waste any time: Halla, Minister for Industries, is walking with three aides in front of Parliament. She’s approached by a semi-derelict man, rough clothing, dishevelled hair, unshaven, anxious expression, red-faced. She knows him, she stops to talk to him but it’s only to tell him, not for the first time it appears, that she owes him nothing. He grabs her, holds her tight, produces a lighter. His clothes are soaked in gasoline. He sets them both alight.

It’s quick, it’s direct, it’s shocking. It’s the crime, and it’s the way into what, after only one episode, seems to be a potentially infinite web of secrets.

Andri catches the case. The man, Gisli, is Halla’s brother, her twin brother. She hasn’t had contact with the rest of the family for twenty years. He’s died. She’s severely burnt, in hospital. He, they, are from a town up north, where there are recurring protests against an industrial plant in the process of construction, as well as an obscure political sect calling itself Hammer of Thor (as you expect, they are extreme nationalists, Iceland for Icelanders, a bunch of racists). The town Gisli comes from, where all this is happening, is Andri’s old town.

Before flying up there, to be re-united with his old colleagues, the imperturbable, quiet and brilliant Hinrika (Ilmur Kristjansdottir) and the rangy, rather more negligible Aesgir (Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson), Andri calls upon his ex-wife, Agnes, and younger daughter Perla, to let them know he’s off up north, but mainly to let us know that elder daughter Thorhildur (Elva Maria Birgisdottir), now 15, has gone to live there with her Aunt Laufey (Katla M Thorgirsdottir). Thorhildur won’t speak to either her mother or father and has a record of stealing things: a troubled teen.

Even before Andri arrives, we are pitched into things we don’t yet understand, and relationships we have to learn. The show simply drops us into them. It doesn’t telegraph anything, doesn’t put up cue cards so we don’t have to pick it up, doesn’t tie anything up in pink ribbon, which is why I think so highly of it. Even when Andri arrives and has people introduced to him, it’s difficult to work out just who is related to who, and in what manner, because nearly everybody seems to be.

There’s Vikingur, Gisli’s son, who is gay, by the way, and works at the plant, where the impressively bearded Finnur (his father’s brother-in-law), apparently a homophobe, is warning the black-skinned Ebo to stay away from Vikingur or get deported, because he doesn’t want something revealing to Vikingur. Gisli’s ex-wife, Steinum, Vikingur’s mother, divorced him ages ago and married his brother, whilst her sister is married to Finnur, and their son Aron, aged 17, is Thorhildur’s boyfriend (and probable bedmate: there’s a wonderfully dry line from Hinrika when Andri, dubious about whether his elder daughter’s virginity is still something for her to bestow, asks what she thinks: Hinrika asks what age Andri first had sex, then warns him, if he says it was different, he was a boy, she’ll lock him up!).

Gisli doesn’t seem to have been well-liked even among his family. He was a miserable, grumpy sod who seems to have thought the world owed him something. His sheep farm had just failed, his mortgage foreclosed, his home stripped by the bailiffs. That’s enough of a cause for anyone to crack up and make a futile, suicidal gesture, but things are not so simple. Gisli was friends with another farmer, Ketill (Stein Armann Magnusson), a reactionary with about a dozen grown sons, a farmer protesting the plant, protesting governments and Mayors who spout bullshit about the plant and how it’s going to mean money for everyone, because Ketill knows it will only release poison gas to kill all their sheep and spoil all their countryside, which will be sold off to foreigners like a cheap whore (overused phrase).

In short, Ketill is the fanatics fanatic. Gisli’s sheep are all dead in the barn, killed by a boltgun, same as his dog. The inference is that Gisli did it, because he was driven crazy by his insurmountable losses, but to Ketill, Gisli was both a victim and a martyr, and the dead sheep get dumped in the town centre as evidence of how he’s right (oh, this man is always going to be right, in his own mind anyway) about the plant.

He may not be entirely wrong: the drilling is causing quite substantial earthquakes.

So there’s a lot going on, on personal and criminal levels, and just plain secrecy. Back in Reykjavik, the Prime minister does question Trausti, Andri’s old enemy, as to whether they can trust him on a case like this: we’re going to have to, Trausti sighs. It’s going to be fun watching Andri and Hinrika unpick this.

One thing that worried me was that in series 1, everything was white, and now it’s green and brown. It’s not global warming, however, but simply the Icelandic summer. Last time round, people were physically trapped. This time, it’s psychological. I am already very, very pleased.

Saturday ScandiCrime: Trapped – Parts 3 & 4

An old friend and a new

As if proof were needed after the first two episodes, a second week establishes that Trapped is more than worthy to follow in the footsteps of The Killing and The Bridge. Like the former, this Icelandic series is as much concerned with the consequences of crime, the often long-standing consequences on the survivors. Though it wouldn’t surprise me to see it ultimately rolled into the overarching plot that you can just feel is rising to the surface, Dagny’s death in the fish factory fire seven years ago is still playing itself out across a lot of the characters, including Andri, the Chief of Police in the snow-bound port of Sigjusfjordur.

To begin with, episode 3 very quickly wraps up the dangling threads of last week. The girls (Andri’s daughters) find Maggi, the little boy, in the snowstorm. Agnes (Andri’s estranged wife) finds them. Andri finds them all and brings them in out of the cold. Come the morning – and that place is stunning to look at in daylight – he and Hinrika release Aesgir from the police cell and go looking for the missing Lithuanian tracker, who has crashed the stolen police car and broken his fool neck.

This is a very handy bit of deck-clearing  for a cool, quiet Sunday-set episode, which gently shifts the plot forward in a couple of gentle directions. First, Aesgir – who is now set up as Sigjusfjordur’s resident Police geek – identifies the photos of the stolen torso as having been uploaded from Hjortur’s phone: you know, Hjortur, Dagny’s partner in sex, drugs, but not death.

Hjortur is immediately brought in, which the entire town seems to regard as only to be expected, and which Eirikur, Dagny’s Dad, Andri’s father-in-law and the one member of the familiy who is still unable to live with her loss, sees as justice. His anger towards Hjortur, a part of which washes towards eldest granddaughter, Johanna, who has spoken kindly to and of Hjortur, disrupts the family’s otherwise still Sunday.

Whilst Eirikur is fulminating about Hjortur, Andri is questioning him over the photos, including those of Johanna. Now it’s become personal. Andri persists in talking to Hjortur, even after he’s ordered to keep his beard out of things by Reykjavik, whilst Hjortur’s sullenness and inability to explain even to himself why he has taken them slowly grows into an admission of deep loss. He was badly burned trying to save Dagny, was dragged outside by some unknown person. He thinks of her every day, believes he should have died with her. Seeing Johanna makes him feel as if Dagny is still alive.

It’s slow, but it’s painful, but brilliantly played as it is, it’s nothing to the scene in episode 4 when Andri brings Eirikur to Hjortur’s room. Eirikur has never spoken to the boy before, never forgiven, not even for one second, but he begins his own healing by talking of his baby girl. Hjortur, though silent, struggles to keep his self-control, reliving Dagny’s existence in Eirikur’s every word about her, as the two come to some sort of understanding without words that both have suffered crippling losses.

It’s flawlessly written, and made all the more heartfelt by the two actors, old and young, and I wish that I thought for one second that British TV could produce something this raw and real, but then I watched the utterly ridiculous Fortitude, didn’t I, so I know we can’t. Yeuch. Bitter taste at even the mention, let’s not profane Trapped by bringing it up again.

Back at the overt plot, the frustrated Andri may not be able to question anyone but he can start a search of the shoreline. The torso may have been pilfered, but there are at least five other sections of the poor victim out there somewhere, and hopefully discoverable.

So Hinrika’s cheerfully dope-smoking hubby goes out on his boat into the fjord, with a diver and comes back with one of those bits. It’s an arm, with part of a jacket, or maybe jeans in the binliner with it. Unfortunately, there’s a bar receipt dated three days ago, before the Ferry arrived: he victim wasn’t on the boat after all.

And neither was the murderer.

The investigation swings into another direction in episode 4, with Trausti in Reykjavik grudgingly allowing Andri to keep plodding on until Forensics can finally get there. The plot, like a rich soup, thickens. Thanks to the all-talented sketch artist Aesgir, the stranded MP Fridrik (who’d drunk the other Bloody Mary on the bar receipt) helps the local team to identify the victim as a local bad boy, not known to have been back in town, whose file has unaccountably disappeared. And Mayor Harfn, ex-Police Chief, is being very dismissive about that fact.

It’s all getting very wierd. Hafrn’s still all for the port scheme, and pressing harbour master Sigurdur to press his recalcitrant Dad to sell up and make everybody rich. Agnes, who’s a Reykjavik lawyer when she’s not trapped in town seems to be asking some awkward questions about how this will actually work out in practice that Hafrn isn’t (he’s to busy insulting, beating and at least semi-raping his wife because she hasn’t got a hot dinner on the table for him).

Sigurdur’s dad hasn’t got much time for his rather weasel-like son (who’s own wife is enthusiastically shagging a toy boy whilst the tourists sheltering at the school are either asleep or playing video games). Apart from his cheerful refusal to countenance change, Gotmundur’s main concerns are skinning, beheading and gutting a dead reindeer onscreen, with no thought had for dubious tummies, not to mention the prospect of an avalanche burying the town once it all warms up a bit.

The Press coerce the victim’s name out of Trausti’s sidekick. On the Ferry, Captain Carlsen (I knew he looked familiar, it’s the superb Bjarne Henriksen, Theis Birk Larsen from The Killing 1, hurrah!) The Captain’s all set to leave now they’re obviously cleared, but his dodgy sidekick is having none of it: not without their cargo of hot Nigerian girls they’re not.

Add in Hinrika’s finding the Lithuanian’s phone and discovering the only two Icelandic numbers he’s called are cheap pay as you go phones. One was bought by the Hotel owner, though he’s denying it flatly (and he’s straight onto his proper phone the moment Hinrika leaves). The other is the old man with the beard and the telescope (and a wheelchair as we also discover this week) who’s spying on Hinrika’s house where Bardur is laughing with the elder Nigerian girl).

Before that conversation can get even more creepy than it already is, an explosion occurs. It’s Godmundur, blowing up a part of the snowscape to stop it enveloping the town. Andri and Sigurdur are trying to stop him but Godmundur knows what he’s doing. Like a firebreak, his artificial avalanche will fall away from the town. He knows what he’s doing. He gets it right. Until another large chunk of snow gets loose, right above Godmundur, Sigurdur and our bear-like hero Andri…

So while we wait for next Saturday night, here’s a shout-out to the principal cast, Olafur Darri Olafsson as Andri, Ilmur Kristjansdottir as Hinrika and Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson as Aesgir. not to mention many fine others too numerous to copy slowly and carefully. Roll on Saturday next.