Saturday SkandiKrime: Follow the Money 2 – parts 9 & 10


A very nice actress, underused

Watching the end of the latest SkandiKrime series, I was prey to mixed emotions. Though Follow the Money 2 has been, overall, a much superior experience to the first series, with a stronger story, with more serious implications and much less utter dickery, even from Maverick Mess, I’ve sometimes found it unengaging and, dare I say it, ordinary.

The ending of the story, which spread as much justice around as it could, turned out to be flat and disappointing. It was confused and hurried, as if the show realised, too late in the proceedings, that it actually needed eleven episodes to tie up its loose ends, and that it was going to have to skimp on all of them.

And, not least with Maverick Mess’s resignation from a job he had never been suited for, it gave the strongest impression that the door was being shut to the almost-mandatory third series.

The last couple of episodes covered a lot of ground, and put a few characters in it as well. We started in predictable, and predictably dumb fashion, with a direct continuation of last weekend’s cliffhanger. P/Bo Peterson, the lifelong efficient troubleshooter, the expert, the ever-prepared, the man who keeps a silenced pistol in his bathroom cupboard, shoots Inscrutable Alf twice through the stomach at jig range and Alf not only survives (one flesh wound, one ruptured spleen, and spleen’s are just so 2016) but he’s back on his feet in Fraud Squad headquarters before episode 9 is over.

And, in contradiction to my gloomy assumption-of-cliche last week, Nicky breaks into Mess’s house to retrieve Claudia’s file (which Big Bad Knud burns), gives poor Kristina a wallop across the chops that knocks her to the ground and breaks her waters prematurely but doesn’t even leave a mark on her still-pretty face, but though it’s eleven weeks early, one Caesarean later, the baby’s in an incubator, and the little tyke is going to live.

Of course, Mess is going round telling all and sundry that everything’s going to be perfectly fine, he’s strong, she’s strong, nothing bad can possibly happen because I say it won’t, call me Pollyanna, and it all is.

But after that, the stupidity was over and the rest of it was all serious down the line.

By now, all three stories were tangled together, so I’m not going to try to split them up. The rapidly recovering Alf quickly identifies Big Bad Knud’s cunning scheme, which is to bankrupt Denmark. Not just Absolen Bank, and Nova Bank, come to that, but the entire country, send it into economic freefall (are you sure he isn’t a member of the Tory Party?). That’s been the plan all along, and when he’s trapped into confessing by a cunning and utterly immoral move by Claudia and Amanda, he even seems proud of it, since the krone was artificially high and needed taking down and peg or two (the billions of it pouring into the coffers of an obscure holding company in the name of his senile wife were just an unfortunate side-effect).

After a night of desperate selling to no avail, Absolen goes down, dragging Nova after it. Simon gets taken in to custody, on the basis that he can’t have been so all-fired stupid as he looks and been completely oblivious, even though we know he was. This leaves Claudia floundering to find a way, any way, to get Christensen. Both Amanda and her ex-husband, Steen, correctly point out that she’s only cared about that and revenge, not about the Bank that’s been the now-bankrupt Absolen siblings’ lives, nor her financially-straitened father-of-my-child, who she shops to the Police, guaranteeing him the same jail-experience she’s had, and provoking him to an unsuccessful suicide bid.

No, Claudia manages to keep Amanda onside by going to senile Grethe and getting her to sign a Power of Attorney in Claudia’s name that cannot in any world be remotely legal for an atosecond, but which gets her full access to Grethe’s company and passwords (thanks to a Bank Manager? Financial Adviser? Complete-and-utter no-mark who’s totally unaware that Grethe Christensen is, as Uncle Mort would put it, pots-for-bloody-rags: plothole of convenience of major proportions here).

Still, it’s not like Claudia and Amanda want this access for any legal purpose. No, they find a cool 450M krone accumulated since this time last night, break it into five equal parts, and shuffle it into five of Big Bad Knud’s Official Accounts and tip off Mess. Knud spots the difference, realises he’s been blindsided and comes in with his lawyer.

Knud’s willing to confess to massive currency speculation and economy-shafting because he knows two things. One is that, thanks to Nicky, he’s insulated from all the deaths and mayhem, and the other is that he’s going to negotiate a deal because he’s really only small fry: he can give them the Englishman, Henson.

You’d expect all this to infuriate Mess, but it doesn’t. Still, we’ve arrived at Nicky, let’s deal with his part in all things final.

P turns up at the garage, seeking sanctuary from Bozo Bimse, only to be spotted by a passing customer. P wants to be driven to Frankfurt, where he’ll disappear. Nicky retrieves P’s pills from his summer home, which the Police are pulling apart, but receives orders from Christensen to tie up the loose end in a more permanent way, by offing P. The Swede is still a bit too canny and has Bimse drive him off at gun-point. Bimse’s a bit clever though, contriving a stop during which he hides P’s pills as a lever against being let go. So P sticks a screwdriver through Bimse’s heart, for which Nicky puts a bullet through P’s head.

Nicky plans to disappear and send for Lina (who really is lovely: it would have been nice if Julie Gruntvig Wester could have had more screen-time) but when she gets pulled in by the Police, and is questioned as to whether Micky has had anything to do with the death of Benjamin Jepson – the now-deceased Bozo – it’s the final straw. Lina cuts all ties with Nicky, for both herself and little Milas.

But Nicky has a final mission: Christensen’s patience has evaporated and he wants Claudia to vanish. So, with everything lying in financial ruins, the Absolen siblings leaving their home, Steen suicidal and refusing to speak to her, Claudia comes home, strips off all her clothing and gets into the shower. Which is when Nicky levels an extremely phallic silenced gun at her.

Luckily, she’s put the television on in another room for the news she’s not listening to but which Nicky can hear. All about how the crisis is over, the Henson Group have saved the day, and about the tragic death of Knud Christensen, shot outside Police HQ today by Helge Larsen, grandfather of the dead teenager, Olga. Nicky steals away into the bright early evening, Claudia gives us a flash of tit, and Lina comes home to a shoulderbag full of 5,000,000 in bills, currency undefined, which Nicky had attempted to bribe Steen with. She cries, Nicky slides off into the night.

Wait a minute. The financial crisis is over? Henson has bailed Denmark out? Are we missing something here? No, it’s Maverick Mess, reversing all his characterisation. Mess has got the goods on Henson. He can put him away. He can break the biggest financial crime in Danish history. And he offers to shred the file. If Henson props up the economy.

So Mess goes back to HQ and, under the disbelieving eyes of Inscrutable Alf, shreds all the evidence. Because Mess has stopped caring. Because it doesn’t matter. Because before he was allowed to arrest Big Ban Knud, the Danish Finance Minister wanted him first, to bale out the country. Because for every Christensen there’s always someone bigger, richer and more distant behind him. Because Mess can’t do this any more. Because Mess is resigning.

It’s the Blake’s Seven ending again. The bad guys are too powerful for the good guys. It’s defeatism and gloomery and we-really-don’t-want-to-do-another-series-of-this.

And just like that, Follow the Money 2 ends, having thrown all its balls into the air and run away before they start coming down and someone might have to catch them. It’s a non-ending, really, a scorched-earth stop. You can’t say that there won’t be a third series, but on the evidence of the way this one was run into the ground, you can’t say that there’s obvious enthusiasm for doing this again.

It’s not just Blake’s Seven, it’s Douglas Adams/Mostly Harmless as well.

And it’s not at all satisfying.

Maybe we can have a Disappearance 2 next? I’m in the mood for something a bit not-Skandi…

Saturday SkandiKrime: Follow the Money 2 – parts 7 & 8


It was a long old double episode this week, covering a lot of ground, so much so that the two episodes felt, at times, like transmissions from different series. That this was so was down to the performance of Maverick Mess.

The first part, episode 7, could have been sub-titled ‘that idiot at his fucking worst’ and I would have still thought it didn’t go far enough. The BBC blurb had it that Mads was impatient, and that too was an understatement. Given that he spent the entire hour either raging at his boss, or raging at Alf, his trusty sidekick, for not being willing to completely smash the law to pursue Mess’s vendetta against Big Bad Knud, or else lying and bullying to smash the law in direct defiance of temp boss Henrietta’s instructions, and incidentally seeing Amoral Claudia at Absolen Bank, jumping to completely the wrong conclusion about her working for Big Bad Knud and then lying and bullying first her Parole Officer then Claudia herself, this was a fine example of how not to run a Fraud Squad based on intricate investigation, careful collection and interpretation of sensitive and intricate information and, above all, PATIENCE, you cretin!

Mess was on the rampage, convinced of his own rightness, his own righteousness, heedless of the concept that just because a thought had crossed the lonely wastelands of his mind, that did not make it concrete and irrefutable fact.

No greater demonstration of this was there than the end of the episode when Claudia (being illegally wiretapped) accepted the lovely Amanda’s suggestion to set up a meeting with Big Bad Knud. The Police have the meeting (legally) wire-tapped and Mess is all sweary and up himself about how Claudia lets Mr Christensen know the fuzz are onto his Risk Management Departmennt scam, so he’d better hut it down (on, and by the way, hand us back those one-sixth of Absolen customers you were stealing, to put through the ringer).

Mess goes mental, he goes postal, he goes abso-bloody-lutely crackers at how he’s been betrayed, until even Alf spits back at him for what a fucking disgrace he is as both copper and human being. And then the script slaps Mess one around the chops as Claudia phones them up to tell them what she’s done, and that they now have her in a trusted position where she can get the dirt for them on Big Bad Knud.

Ah.

Collapse, if there were any justice, of stout party, but Mess is our hero, so the twonk gets away with barely even apologising, and behaves properly, sensibly, reasonably and even to a large extent like a Fraud Squad policeman throughout episode 8.

Then again, much of Mess’s time in the second half is diverted towards his real agenda, which is Vendetta. Mess still wants Sander Sodergren, and he wants him bad, so now he’s actually on good terms with Claudia, she spills to him two key facts. Firsrtly, that Sander’s first destination on leaving Denmark was to be Frankfurt, and secondly the alias under which he was traveling: Stig Lorentzen. She also tells him that Sander was not alone, that P, the Swede, was with him.

Thus, by a process of real deduction, our Maverick is able to track Sander to Sao Paolo in Brazil (it looked like Greece to me, but hell, I’ve never been to either one), where he disappears. At this point, a very Sander-specific unsolved murder victim crops up, soon DNA-ed and ID-ed. And by comparing passenger lists on the flight route, our boys track one Bo Peterson, a Swede aged 59, who’s recently been in hospital…

So Mess and Alf call on P’s home away from home, catching him as he’s packing to leave. Mess has warned Alf in advance that this is the guy who killed his lady reporter friend Mia in series one. P shuffles about weakly, denies everything, fakes a heart attack, needs his pills. Alf follows him to the bathroom, but instead of pills, P )or should we now call him Bo?) produces a silenced gun from the bathroom cabinet and shoots Alf twice in the stomach with it.

Alf is not yet dead, which is a surprise, given P’s experience and skill level, but he’s in a really shitty situation, and that’s the cliff-hanger on which we pause.

Obviously, I’ve concentrated for so long on Mess, but Claudia’s story has gotten intertwined with his, and as we reach the end, Nicky’s is about to cross lines in a manner that has been so thoroughly foreshadowed this week that we don’t need the last two episodes to know where that’s going.

But Claudia first. I’ve already mentioned how Nova are digging their claws into Absolen by extending their Risk Management team role to one whole sixth of Absolen’s customers. Amanda is horrified but Simon isn’t. He’s so very thoroughly already gone native with Nova and Big Bad Knud, the muppet, and is using Nova to expand Absolen by taking over a progressive French Bank, Credit Thingy (whose chief Legal Adviser just so happens to be Amoral Claudia’s ex, and father to her boy Bertram, Steen).

Claudia tries to head Nova off by getting Steen to slow down the sale, put conditions on that will shut Nova out, but Steen’s on the edge of financial ruin if this deal doesn’t go through. Demonstrating that she can be at least as ruthless when she wants, Claudia goes behind his bank, only to find that Credit Wotzit (begins with an S, that’s all I can remember) is desperate for the money.

And we find out why in the second half, courtesy of a Nova risk manager who gets abruptly terminated, and who should be escorted out of the country by Nicky. He spills the beans to Amanda and Claudia: Credit Oojah has a lot of dodgy loans out to French tech firms and if the tech market drops just one leedle percentage point, it’ll drag the French Bank under.

And if it drops just one half more, guess which Danish bank goes with it?

And whilst we’re guessing things, just what do you think Big Bad Knud is manipulating?

Simon, the would-be Knud Jr, gets presented with the evidence that he’s been nothing more than a sheep in sheep’s clothing among all these wolves, and can see for himself that all those promises Christensen made aren’t worth the air in which he spoke them: Big Bad Knud does not write things down, as Claudia has found, trying to get some evidence of fraud that points to him, not her. Whilst she and Amanda rally to call an overnighter to rescue Absolen, all Simon can do is sob.

And Claudia, after Christensen didn’t fall for her ‘sign here and here’ trick, is mortally afraid she’s been blown. When she hears about Sander, it’s not just him and the memory of that screw on the kitchen table she weeps for. Mess’s assurances that he and Alf will look after her are of curiously little comfort. And she’s right to be scared: she’s being followed by Nicky.

About time we got to him. After last week’s balls-up with little Olga, Nicky’s in the doghouse. P won’t return his calls, two men in a black car are permanently hanging around the garage, his little boy Milas goes missing for a few minutes. Nicky can’t take it: he grabs and tortures one of P’s men, holds the Swede’s daughter and gunpoint and tracks him down, threatening him to his face.

But P/Bo has been training Nicky up to take over for him, and he talks Nicky down, until the only person he uses the gun on is the thug who led him there, killed in cold blood.

So Nicky replaces P as Big Bad Knud’s go-to guy. He’s still not flawless, but he’s getting there, and all it costs him is the ability to respond to his lovely wife, Lina.

And right at the end there, he’s following Claudia, and she leaves a file for Mess at his house, with the lovely but weary Kristina. Kristina, whose late-life baby bump is now showing a long way out. Kristina, who’s been told that her sclerosis has been concealing a quite advanced case of cystitis. Kristina, who’d been told she needs complete rest or she’s at risk of premature delivery (i.e., miscarriage). Kristina, whose idiot husband is so obsessed with nailing Big Bad Knud, he can’t spare a second to listen to her so she has to confide in Alf instead.

Kristina, home alone with a file in a house towards which Nicky is advancing, under instructions from Christensen to get it back…

So  tune in next week for the inevitable, and whatever else is planned to end series 2. And don’t worry about Alf, shot twice in the stomach at contact range by a master-assassin: whilst trying to find out the name of that blasted French Bank, I happened to catch site of the blurb for episode 10. Alf hasn’t bought it. The Main Character Exemption applies again. I bet Mess could survive being hit by an Atom Bomb…

Saturday SkandiKrime: Follow the Money II – Parts 5 & 6


The one on the left is a Detective. Can you believe it?

In the the week that Follow the Money II reaches its midpoint, no less a TV authority than Mark Lawson has pronounced that ‘Scandi Noir is Dead’ (find your own link, I’m not supporting that), which leads us to the obvious question: where does the Guardian get  allthese wankers from? Lawson, an intellectual, was part of the infamous televised sneering session about Terry Pratchett, during which Tom Paulin claimed Pratchett couldn’t write because he didn’t even put chapters in.

The reason for Lawson’s recent pronouncement of execution is a rather contrived Swedish/French crossover crime series, which sounds unlikely to threaten the likes of The Killing or The Bridge, but to assert that the whole genre is dead – less than a year after Trapped – demonstrates the by now inevitable confusion between opinion and concrete fact.

A real intellectual would not have ignored the fact that television has always broadcast a mixture of good, bad and indifferent series, and that no culture is free from the urge to cash in on successful and innovative concepts with cheap, derivative and inferior copies.

We are watching Follow the Money, after all, aren’t we?

That said, it was disappointing to find that, in it’s new, more serious and better-plotted style, the middle two episodes were, well, dull. The storylines began to mesh more closely, our three principals moved forward in the face of obstacles, Mess didn’t do anything massively dickish, and it was pretty much boring. Short of summarising developments, I have little to say.

I’m not totally without adverse comment, mind you. On the Fraud Squad side, a new figure came into play, one Helge Larson, former staunch collaborator with Big Bad Knud, until he went down for Fraud in 2007. Larson can put the finger on how the wily Knud operates, that is, if he can refrain from blackmailing the self-satisfied old bugger for his silence. All this gets him is Knud delivering direct instructions to Nicky the Apprentice to kidnap Larson’s bright, perky, sixteen year old granddaughter, Olga, in return for the relevant paperwork. No police.

There are a couple of egregious cliches coming up on this strand, and the pre-episode 6 warning of ‘Disturbing scenes’ pretty much gave away that little Olga was not long for this world. Firstly, she’s wearing one of those Fitness watches which, when she switches it on, enables Mess and Alf to track her via its GPS to the factory where Nicky is keeping her. Except that when they arrive, she’s gone… but the watch has been left behind.

Next, Nicky takes her to a house in the woods. Olga manages to escape, brains him with a fire extinguisher, but not hard enough (once you’ve got them down, smash their head in with the blunt instrument: that’s a cliche I’d like to see get established). So she runs, and he runs after her, until she slides down a mini-cliff to the beach, and gets a chunk of rotted wood right through the abdomen. From which, of course, she dies.

Second egregious cliche time: Mess tracks Olga’s footsteps back and finds the deserted house. Nicky’s inside, doing a professional job of cleaning the place under P’s instructions. Mess is prowling around. Any moment, he’ll see Nicky’s car, with the open boot showing the full clean-up kit… except that at that very moment, Mess’s phone goes, with the sad news of Olga’s passing, so he returns without completing his investigation. Sigh.

Having brought Nicky’s strand in so close, let’s stick with him. He’s still the model Apprentice, though he risks alienating Bimse further when Annika, P’s daughter, turns up at the garage, drops hints as heavy as lead balloons that he shagged her after the club last week, and wants more of it, in the office chair. Bimse, who’s a friend of Lina as well, is well pissed-off, but when Olga dies, and Nicky, suddenly scared shitless of where he’s arrived in his part-time career path, decides he has to run, the Bozo is immediately supportive, and tops up Nicky’s getaway 10,000 kr. with 5,000 of his own.

To no avail: P turns up, mob-handed, and Nicky gets the shit kicked out of him.

But we’re ignoring Claudia, who gets shafted in more ways than one this week. Enter Nova, with a 50% increase on their last, already inflated if for Absolen Bank, the literal ‘Offer-you-can’t-refuse’. Claudia helps Amanda put together a last minute pitch to a better buyer, the progressive Italian bank, Banco Fiore, who’ll match the deal. Amanda’s pretty wiped out by now, so Simon has her sign Power of Attorney over to him, so he can conclude the deal.

By sacking Claudia with immediate effect, blowing off the Italians and going direct to Big Bad Knud, waving the listening device, and negotiating a ale on condition Simon only is Manager.

A semi-drunk Claudia invites Jens Kristen around to mope with, and ends up shagging the arse off him, though she will learn, at the darkest hour, that not only does he have a partner already, said partner is about eight months pregnant. Is that enough to be called an egregious cliche? I think it is. Let’s make that number three, then.

But Claudia is not giving up her battle against Big Bad Knud in only episode 6, so she cleans up the manic Amanda (a bit too quickly and efficiently for direct plausibility, but then how long had plausibility been a key factor of this programme?) and sets her off to blackmail dear brother Simon. It just so happens Amanda has some pretty potent stuff up her pretty sleeve, so Nova Bank buys Absalen, with two Managers, one of whom has promptly re-hired Claudia.

But what, you are all demanding to know, about Maverick Mess? He’s pretty damned rational and reasonable this week, which is oddly offputting. True, he subjects his son Albert to a Police interrogation over Albert’s mate’s missing iPad, which is there at the Justesen household (GPS comes in so useful). But the moment he finds the missing electronica under his car seat, he immediately goes and apologises to the lad.

But Mess cannot leave off being Mess totally. In his grief over Olga’s death, Larson supplies the key information which will let the Fraud Squad, under the pretty, blonde Heenrietta as acting Chief, get Knud for offences sufficiently serious as to not be statute-barred, but that’s not good enough for Mess. So they can put Knud in prison for two years, destroy his standing, have him disbarred from company ownership, etc. Two years is not enough for Mess, who personally demands life, rot in there, man’s a shit.

That’s the Mess we are used to. Instead of catching a guilty man now, let’s do nothing, monitor his takeover of Absolen Bank, catch him out doing something more serious. We do have four episodes left, remember. Let’s do something really stupid, just because one idiot detective says so.

Seems like the show comes through in the end, eh?

Saturday SkandiKrime: Follow the Money II – episodes 3 & 4


So far, she’s coming out the best

After last week’s snark-infested introduction to the second series of Bedrag (Deception), I found the next pair of episodes to be extremely confusing. On the one hand, the show is displaying clear signs of taking off into very serious, and very deep-lying waters, in all three of its inter-twined strands. On the other, my distaste for each of its’ trio of heroes is growing, and in one case is turning into disgust.

The dichotomy presented itself in the opening moments of episode 3, which immediately had me both admiring and groaning, and which became emblematic of what was to follow.

We ended last week with Nicky, growing increasingly curious about the business of the enigmatic but laid-up-with-heart-trouble P, tracing the fruits of the wiretap back to the Big Bad, Knud Christensen, but being caught out trespassing by the man himself. Christensen is all avuncular and secure, wanting Nicky’s name and threatening him with the Police. But Nicky, who in series 1 would have panicked nearly as badly as would Bimse the Bozo, counter-threatens by revealing that he is wire-tapping for Christensen, who lets him go (though not without a warning, to both Nicky then, and P very shortly afterwards, about how unwise such things are).

Nicky, having successfully faced down the Man, returns to his car. Where he promptly reverts to most abject cliche by pounding on his steering wheel to relieve his frustrations. Seriously, does anyone outside crap television ever pound on their steering wheel in frustration? And they always do it three times: not four, not two, but bam! bam! bam! Cripes.

But the problem is that, as the various stories start to unroll properly, we start to see that Follow the Money 2 is getting very serious indeed. On the one hand, we have the Fraud Squad, investigating what appears to be a disgusting scheme by one of Denmark’s major financial institution, Nova Bank, to force small but promising businesses into bankruptcy so that their assets and customers can be taken over by already-established businesses at an undervalue.

Then we have Nova Bank trying to takeover the up-and-coming and entirely innovative Absolen Bank in a very hostile manner, applying public pressure and naked appeal to Shareholders’ greed on the one level, and dirty tricks on the other.

Christensen is behind both of these schemes and, on the third hand, we have P carrying out the dirty aspects of the jobs by remotely operating the increasingly efficient Nicky to wire-tap, deal drugs, blackmail and, entirely off his own bat, viciously assault and probably seriously injure someone who stands up to him.

Let’s stick with Nicky for the moment. Remember that he started off in series 1 as an experienced car thief, looking to clean up his act for his wife and her baby bump by becoming a garage owner, but getting mixed up with the rather more active P. By this series, he was a regular ’employee’ of the Swede fixer, as primarily a messenger boy, but P’s health problems (double-bypass heart operation) have led to him being promoted to an active role as his stand-in.

What we’re watching here is Nicky going through an apprenticeship to become another P.  He’s taking to it like a duck to water, which is disturbing to watch. For the sake of his wife and his trusting kids, you want him to come to his senses, back out, go back to just petty crime (because this guy is never going to actually go straight, you can tell).

But already it looks like its going to be too late. Nicky forced Bimse into a dangerous scheme to recover P’s Black Audi, that Bimse has sold to an East European gang for shipment abroad, and all so that he can tell Bimse to take it to the Police, cough for Nicky’s assault on Mess last week, and do Nicky’s time for it. Sure, he’ll get 20,000 kr a month for it, but if the Bozo won’t voluntarily do a head-first into the shark-infested pool, Nicky will kick him in there, without a a qualm, and without any 20,000 kr a month.

If that’s not enough of a bastard’s trick, Nicky’s next job is to provide drugs to the son of a major investor in Absolen Bank, and blackmail the Dad into voting Nova’s way to ensure the photos don’t get into the Press. On the way, Nicky ends up snorting coke himself and, whilst coked out of his brain, staying out all night and impliedly shagging P’s daughter.

Let’s just go back a moment for a brief scene where Nicky tells his missus that he hates his dead father, who assaulted him and cheated on his mother. Unusually, the scripters have her ask and him explain why he’s never told her this before, which he passes off, indirectly, as a determination to leave it in the past, but which is really so that we will readily understand his loss of control when, the takeover bid having failed, he pursues the Dad, who didn’t vote for Nova Bank, and kicks the potentially living shit out of him for not defending his son.

One youngish man, on a dark path, leading only downwards. I bet P doesn’t take too kindly to Nicky shagging his daughter…

I’ve already had to reveal that the Nova Bank takeover has been thwarted, at least for now. This is the story for Claudia the Amoral. Claudia is determined to stop Christensen having this victory, and says so, impassionedly, to convince another top-ranking businessman to enter the fray as a White Knight. The big problem, and this is directly voiced by our old friend, Jens Kristian, is whether Claudia means this, or whether it’s a ploy.

Claudia says she means it, but we have our doubts still. Claudia is still set on getting her life back as quickly as possible, which suggests that she’s not thoroughly internalised the message that massive fraud and dirty financial tricks are not ideal behaviour. She’s already trying to skirt some of the conditions of her parole, and expecting her Parole Officer to bend the rules in her direction, just because that’s what she wants.

Of course, she’s ideal to head off Nova Bank’s takeover, because she knows what sort of dirty tricks, above board, that they’ll use. Pardon my ignorance of such things, both here and in Denmark, but do companies aiming for a takeover really get to go on TV finance programmes and basically say that the people refusing to sell smaller, successful, innovative, creative enterprises are a bunch of shits for not letting us buy them out considerably over the odds so that we can destroy absolutely everything remotely innovative about them and just make shitloads of money (I paraphrase)?

Claudia’s biggest problems are the Absolen twins. Simon is basically a wet and a weed and of no practical help whatsoever (until the very end of episode 4, to which we’ll come shortly). Unfortunately, the very much more effective Amanda (hello, Sonia Richter) doesn’t like Claudia that much, doesn’t agree that she’s completely and utterly right, and is, let’s not forget, a recovering coke addict (and I don’t mean Diet, or Cherry).

And Amanda is struggling. There’s a powerful scene, opening episode 4, where she’s at Narcotics Anonymous, where she’s bitter and sarcastic, wanting – needing – a fix, and unwilling to accept what she sees as platitudes from the others in the group. It’s suggested, very cleverly, that Amanda is a very intelligent woman, much more so than the people her life causes her to associate with, and that her use of drugs and drinks is to suppress the frustration of cdealing with those she sees as stupid.

That’s bent in a slightly different direction later when, to Claudia, she affirms that she’s starting one of those periods where she keeps getting strange thoughts. She says this whilst constantly sipping from a wine-glass she keeps refilling. The inference is a mental issue, as is a reference to enjoying being the centre of attention, but it’s not inconsistent with the notion that she’s simply too bloody bright for everyone else. There also some hints at secrets in the background of the relationship of the twins (an incestuous fascination frustrated by Simon’s supposed homosexuality?).

Anyway, Amanda’s out of control and in no fit state to be the Bank’s public face in the EGM that will decide its fate. But when the already lesser Simon is completely floored by having his entire speech, word for word, given by Nova Bank’s representative, Claudia has to get Amanda in at the last second, for a crowd-turning speech that saves the day.

Am I the only viewer who is wondering if this miracle recovery was brought about by Claudia slipping Amanda a fix? Let’s see.

Before leaving this strand, let us pause to recognise that Simon isn’t quite the weak link he has been presented to be thus far. Claudia’s too busy putting out fires (and enjoying a surely premature sneer at Christensen) to care about the plagiarised speech, and the excitable Amanda dismisses it as Simon having been too bloody predictable, but he’s suspicious. Very suspicious. And on the right trail. It takes ripping the room apart, but episode 4 ends with Simon finding the wire-tap, with an entirely justifiable cackle.

I’ve saved the worst for last, and the worst is Maverick Mess. You already know what I think of him, but honestly, throughout these two hours, this idiot topped himself over and over again. I mean, at one point, his boss, Nanna, head of the Fraud Squad, screams in his face that he’s so bloody naive, he only sees things in black and white, which is spot on the money (he also can’t wait two seconds for anything, the big kid), and then the programme has him acting like he’s the winner, and in the right.

Basically, he and Alf, with the increasing assistance of the computer wizard, Henriette (this series’ version of The Bridge‘s John: there’s only ever one person who know how to do more with a computer than surf Facebook), are building a case. It starts with Nova Bank’s Bjarke Strand, the middle-manager on the Crisis Team, who selects which small businessmen are to be forced to the wall. Mess and Alf investigate him for signs of unreasonable wealth, of which there are none, until he’s caught stepping out with an attractive blonde (tsk. And he with the lovely and trusting Lise for a wife, plus eighteen month old twins).

Mess proposes to stalk Strand, get proof of his affair and blackmail him into coughing up, which is probably page 5 of the Fraud Squad Operating Model. Instead, it turns out far more than an affair. It’s a business deal, with prominent businessmen. The blonde is a professional Trustee in Bankruptcy, who sells off the businesses forfeited by Nova Bank (at a precise 7% below valuation every time), to these very businessmen.

Mess, very professionally, and now on page 7 of the Fraud Squad Operating Model, shows her photos of Hans Peter with his head in a pool of his own blood and shouts in her face until she inadvertently gives something away.

Moving on to page 8, he arrests Strand and, when he won’t talk, promptly calls in a favour and has the claustrophobic Strand taken to a spare cell in prison for the 24 hours until he has to be arraigned. Fur hilven! I don’t mean the Police cells, I mean an honest-to-goodness, doing-their-bird, fucking State Prison!

It works, of course, we are in idiot country here and given what issues the series is starting to develop (and I haven’t even finished exploring them all), we get stupidity like this? Strand knows nothing more than that he’s told who to push over the edge, from a higher-up department, but he has something interesting to tell them: he knew they were coming.

That catches our intrepid pair’s attention. Yes, Strand was warned they were on the way to arrest him, and was told to get out of the country for a few days, because it’ll all blow over, the fix is in, the case will not proceed, the Head of the Fraud Squad will kill it.

This isn’t actually news to the viewer. Episode 3 ended with Nanna insisting on getting every detail of the burgeoning case, and then calling on Christensen, though episode 4 suggested that she wasn’t entirely under his thumb, just going to make sure that the investigation didn’t get above a certain level at Nova Bank. Of course Mess, with that subtlety for which he’s famed, heads straight for this restaurant-cum-bar where Nanna is out with some bloke and accuses her at thhe top of his voice of being in Christensen’s pay. Smart cookie.

And yes, Nanna has to obey some orders. Christensen’s got a hold over her. And guess what it is? It’s all Mess’s illegal fuck-ups from series 1, over Energreen. Nanna covered for Mess and Alf over everything. She put her job on the line for him, and her reward was to have Christensen lean on her to interfere with this investigation, and the dumb, stupid, self-centred fuck can’t even lessen his contempt for her not being as pure in pursuit of crooks as he is.

Do you wonder why I loathe the self-righteous bastard?

What Nanna does next is resign, which is a highly principled step at deep personal cost to herself – cost brought on because Mess was such a stupid bastard in series 1, let’s remember – and what is the git’s response? I mean, she’s not just thrown herself on the sacrificial sword to protect him, she’s left them a lead that points directly to Christensen himself at the top of every woodpile. Does Mess how the slightest sign of personal responsibility? No, he’s just pleased to have an obstacle removed, and Alf drips on his neck that it’s Mess’s shining example that’s inspired Nanna to do the decent thing.

Do you wonder why I find this series confusing?

But that, even now, is not all. There is the lovely Kristina, Mess’s wife (though she doesn’t wear a ring), mother to his children, Esther (who has vanished without explanation) and Albert, and putative mother to a third baby. Only Kristina has sclerosis. And doubts.

Serious doubts. About her age, her condition, her future and the fact that she might not have a long one. She has very serious concerns about birthing a baby that may very well lose its mother at an incredibly young age. What mother, or possible mother, could face a late-life pregnancy in such circumstances without very deep thought about the consequences?

But Mess wants the baby. And what Mess wants, Mess has to get. It’s all dead simple to Mess. We didn’t have Esther and Albert under ideal circumstances. Look at this home movies of our children when they were dead young. It’ll all work out. It might not happen. I CAN’T THINK ABOUT IT.

There’s a line Mess has, when Kristine brings up the real chance that she might die sooner rather than later. “I can’t go around thinking that you’re dead already.” It shows that the scriptwriters are not entirely stupid. It’s an incredible line, I feel it, I understand it, I understand how this feels to him, all from that one line. He loves her, he doesn’t want to lose her.

But he’s also insisting on her having this baby, at her age, in her incurable medical condition, out of her body, with all her fears and doubts, and he’s prepared to emotionally blackmail her to get his way, and take a risk with shortening her life, and he won’t even fucking think about her side of it?

Do you seriously wonder why I loathe the self-centred twat?

So. Let’s hope for something a bit better next week. Suddenly, we have a story worth watching, worth thinking about. I just wish we had a set of ‘heroes’ I could better respect to play it out.

Saturday SkandiKrime: Follow the Money II – Parts 1 & 2


Honestly, we’ve had to wait two months for another Saturday night SkandiKrime series on BBC4, and when we get one, it’s this piece of half-assed tripe, starring Maverick Mess, Alf the Inscrutable and Claudia the high-flyer, who dabbled in high-finance fraud, got busted and is now having to make ends meet making coffee because no-one will give her a responsible job, can’t think why.

Oh, oh dear god, no, we have to put up with Nicky again, now working for the mysterious P.

I have my doubts about this before we start, I tell you, I have my doubts.

Nevertheless, let fairness prevail, especially as this season’s cast includes the fair Sonia Richter, the ultra-Christian v-logger provocateur of The Bridge 3, albeit with the most unflattering hairstyle possible.

To begin with, we have a lengthy recap of series 1, followed by an eighteen months later card. It may be eighteen months later but Mads the Maverick Mess is still obsessed with Claudia and Sander Sodergren (who lies dead on some foreign field, with P’s bullet in his left eye). Mads is a Mess with a Mission, which appears to be to relive series 1, but never mind, he will soon find another cause to blunder about in pursuit of, without any concern for procedure, practice or the Law. Before episode 1 is over, we will get the perfect Mess Moment: a disturbed man, ruined by Bank Fraud, has taken a branch hostage with a sawn-off shotgun, the Police have it under control, the hostage negotiator is on his way, but Mess can’t hang around, Mess has less patience than a five-year old separated from his packet of sweets, Mess charges in to talk to the man (the ever-brilliant Soren Malling in a far-too-small guest role), as a consequence of which he gets his head blasted off by a sharpshooter.

Sigh. The second series starts with an overwhelming credibility problem: how in Yog-Sothoth’s name is Mess still in the Fraud Squad when he can’t stand anything about the way it works and has to go off on crazy, personal jags all the time?

Having said all of this, and without detracting one little bit from it, I have to say that there’s the makings of a decent story underneath, showing through the general crud in fits and starts. We have two principal strands connected by the same villain, Sodergren’s boss, Knud Christensen, acting through his super-competent henchman, the quiet-spoken Swede, P.

Let’s start with Mess. Mess is approached by Hans Peter (Malling), a master carpenter whose once-thriving small business was forced into bankruptcy by his Bank, after promises of support. Hans Peter’s order book has ended up in the hands of another master carpenter, who only happens to be the brother of the Financial Adviser who cut him off. The bank is Nova Bank, headed by Christensen.

Hans Peter is gradually going off his head because no-one will listen to him, those no-ones including Mess, because the personally involved maverick always has to be motivated by the tiniest and most cliched of personal morality: I didn’t listen to an obviously disturbed man who pulled a shotgun on a bank of innocent hostages and git shot, therefore I am solely responsible for his death, not the fraudsters who drove him to this, and I must immediately find a rule-book, so I can rip it up in my pursuit of the truth. Please, can one day we have a policeman motivated by just doing the right thing?

Everybody but the born-again Mess (and his Inscrutable sidekick, who’s clearly been brain-washed over the last eighteen months, since he’s started taking Mess seriously without overwhelming evidence) thinks Hans Peter was an obsessive, but once Mess gets on the trail, people (i.e., P) start covering up (a-ha, it’s Messgate!) and by the end of episode 2 a second victim has come forward, offscreen.

Mess has also had his skull beat in with a pipe-wrench, whilst suffering no more than a cut scalp, which suggests a joke so obvious that you can write it for yourselves.

Incidentally, said pipe-wrench is being wielded by Nicky, who has learned nothing from his experiences of series 1 and is now working as an occasional bag-boy for P, that is, until the Swede has a heart-attack in episode 1 and has to start using Nicky as a leg-man. How can we tell Nicky has learned nothing? He is prepared, until his lovely blonde lady tartly reminds him what a fucking stupid idea it is, to let Bimse the Bozo come along on one of his jobs. So far, the Bozo has been somewhat underused but there are signs that this reprieve is only temporary.

But what of Claudia? This is where the series displays some genuine muscle, and has got me intrigued as to where it intends to go. Claudia has done her porridge and been released, alone and friendless: even her little kiddie wants nothing to do with her and wrenches her heart by calling her Claudia instead of Mummy. Claudia has work to do to get her life back on track. She’s been in chokey, she’s been disbarred, everybody knows she’s a fraud, which means liar, cheat, somewhat unreliable, the works.

And there’s Christensen, calling her in for an interview, deep sympathy, got to look after you, one of the family, everyone took in terribly by Sodergren, why don’t you look up your old college friend, Ulrikke, at this new, radically different, highly successful Absolen Bank that Nova wants to take over?

So Claudia visits Absolen Bank, to pitch an offer to brother and sister owners, Simon and Amanda Absolensen (the lovely Sonia). Christensen wants to buy you out. I don’t want him to succeed. If you hire me as a consultant, I can show you how to fight him off.

Ah, Claudia! It’s Shortcut City, Arizona-time at best, but there’s a considerable amount of curiosity in watching our favourite brunette operating in the manner that got her canned last time out. I mean, is the lovely Claudia on the level, or is she some deep-lying Fifth Columnist, inveigling herself into the Absolensen siblings’ confidence (well, Simon’s at any rate) only to bring them down from within and make them vulnerable to Christensen?

Or is she just so much of a moral vacuum that her underhanded, dirty, cheap methods – lies and entrapments, just to behind with, and just generally fucking over the ethical standards Absolen Bank exemplifies – will end up cracking the Bank wide open?

It’s far from impossible that Claudia is starting off in column B, i.e., noble purpose but moral swamp, and will transfer to column A just once she’s buggered the Bank with her dubious tactics.

And we know these strands to be interconnected, not merely because this is a ten-episode series with limited imagination, but because Nicky has planted a sophisticated listening device in the transparent glass lightshades of the Absolen family home conference room…

One last element to mention, so that we can duplicate as many elements of series 1 as possible: Mess is still married to the sclerosis-suffering Kristina (a welcome reappearance by the shopworn-but-still-lovely Lina Krause) who’s not having an affair with her doctor this time, but who is definitely showing some signs of low esteem because she’s sticking to Mess despite his habit of sitting up all night reading Hans Peter’s file instead of coming to bed with her. The sclerosis isn’t an active issue at present, she’s well enough for him to screw her on his desk, but episode 2 ends with her announcement that she’s pregnant.

That, I think, is enough to set up another month of my sub-Clive Jamesian snarkings. Not all Saturday SkandiKrime can be The Bridge, or The Killing, but it’s still fascinating by virtue of the underlying strengths and elements Danish TV brings to a genre that is near enough played out in the UK, and when it falls short of the very high standards it can reach, I’m always prepared to slap its cliched and unimaginative face for it.

 

Saturday SkandiCrime: Follow the Money parts 5 & 6


Natalie Madueno

I’ve started, so I’ll finish…

By that I don’t mean that I’m considering dropping Follow the Money, merely that for the remainder of its run, I’ll be watching it via the relative luxury of an i-Player Sunday morning, and addressing it in relative leisure.

Having said that, I am wondering what more I can say about the series that would be more than a pointless recapping of plot points. Two further episodes, taking us through the middle, and both ending with cliffhangers that I’d spotted coming from various distances, did not alter in any way the steady, passionless, tension-less progression of the series. Follow the Money remains efficient and competent, free from the kind of witless application of rotten cliche and stupidity that enabled me to endlessly snark Salamander, but without creating a sense of investment. I’m curious as to how it all comes out, but I’m not worried about the possibilities of tragedy in the ending.

This week, episode 5 felt like a particularly long hour, as the story advanced on multiple fronts, with no emphasis on the importance of any. Journalist Mia (Chinese Alf’s face-slapper), getting stonewalled in her attempts to uncover dirt on Energreen, is visited by a Deep Throat-esque insider (maybe we should call him Deep Bicycle-Shed in honour of their initial point of contaact).

This leads towards a particularly ill-timed article casting doubt on Energreen’s stability, ill-timed from their point of view that is, as the Flotation’s about to go wide. Our Amoral Compass, Claudia (whose morality starts to swing a bit in the breeze, as disloyal thoughts seep into her head about how maybe, just maybe, there are mildly fishy aspects to all this) shuts down the newspaper article aspect with a legitimate legal argument backed by a heavy dose of we-can-sue-your-arse-back-to-kindergarten threatening. But she can’t shut Mia herself down from publishing the article on her blog.

So, in a development easily foreseeable from about five minutes in, Sonder has the soft-spoken P mow Mia down with a car for the cliffhanger. Except that it’s right in front of Claudia. And her little boy, Bertram.

We’ll have more of that later, but we should also record, since it’s going to be massively relevant, that our lady lawyer bumps into an old boyfriend, Tobias, who’s now representing a would-be investor in Energreen. And takes him home and shags him, baring a bit more than we usually see from the leading lady in a SkandiDrama (and a very pleasant sight too).

I’m not just being prurient. The SkandiCrimes do tend to throw in a pair or two of bare breasts, in a naturalistic manner, in their series, but it’s usually some minor character: we don’t get to see Sofie Grabol, Sofia Helin or Sidse Babbet Knudsen being so free with their bosoms, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see Natalie Madueno throwing off her… dignity like that.

As for Mess, thanks to the lead supplied by Mia, he and Chinese Alf spent half the episode in Poland, trying to investigate the factory where Energreen are researching superconductivity. But the source Mia identifies is a lie, the hustling, bustling factory is well guarded, and when Mess enterprisingly nicks a security badge in a bar, the said factory is stripped to the bone overnight and moved to India, which is ever so slightly improbable.

But it gives Mess time to think about Kristina’s revelation last week. He’s angry (of course he is, he’s a maverick) and there’s a part of him that cannot resist throwing up the fact that he has loyally looked after his seriously ill wife, taken on that burden faithfully and uncomplainingly, and his reward is for her to go off and shag her doctor. But, in the closest thing to a genuinely touching scene so far (had the series managed to convince me its people were important, this would have been a killer), Mess tells Kristina that despite his hurt and anger, he loves her, and what they have built is too important to damage by such anger, so he will forego it, put it away, and forgive her.

His reward is for Kristina to seek a separation.

I’ve put it off long enough, it can’t be ignored: what of Nicky and the Bozo? Quickly: father-in-law Jan gloms onto a third of the cash in exchange for cooking up a money-laundering scheme via a garage ‘bought’ by Nicky, which will massively increase their profit… over ten years. Meanwhile, the boys get 22,500 kroner a month.

Given their collective ignorance, they’ve no alternative but to take it. But Nicky still has the incriminatory iPad which, with the aid of Eric, the vaping crooked accountant wheeled in by Jan, he plans to blackmail Sander Sodergren for 10,000,000 over its return.

That deals with episode 5. Moving on, we quickly learn that Mia is alive, though in a coma, so don’t expect much more of Charlotte Munck for the rest of the series, regrettably (an unconventional looking woman, but pretty damned gorgeous, I thought). Chinese Alf is catching on to Maverick Mess’s ways: instead of revealing her connection to the fraud investigation, which would mean the everyday cops confiscating her assets, Alf confiscates her phone and house keys so that he and Mess can nick everything and study it for her source.

Who turns out to be a mysterious figure known only as ‘The Voice’.

As for Mess’s personal mess (I am so going to keep using that line), he’s having the kids over to stay at Alf’s, whilst he slips out to obsessively watch the former matrimonial pad for the doctor paying a house call. It actually turns out that Doc and Kristina haven’t actually shagged yet, but Mess is resolutely unimpressed by this revelation (why shouldn’t he be? It makes a nonsense of everything she’s told him about the man she wants to leave him for) and decides he’ll get the paperwork started.

Back at Nicky and the Bozo, the smarter half of the pair (the distinction is rapidly diminishing, week by week) makes the crudest of approaches to Sander with his blackmail bid. Sander immediately sets the soft-spoken P onto it, leading to a meet with Nicky, supported by Eric – who has now gone back to ciggies again, a neat and unobtrusive detail – in which P’s usual efficiency lets him down. He fails to kill either one, though he does wound Eric. This is not a good development for Energreen.

Especially when they spend most of the episode criss-crossing Europe whoring to investors. It’s a five man/person team: the salesman, Sander, Claudia, Ulrik Skov, and Ulrik’s new right hand man, Jens Kristian, who’s rising in the world just like Claudia.

Who’s not at her best. She’s still in shock from seeing Mia mown down and, what’s worse, she can’t stop thinking of the coincidence in timing between trying to shut Mia up over her Energreen-knocking article and a vicious hit and run. Claudia is putting two and two together in her head and, no matter how hard she tries, she can’t get them to add up to anything but four.

Then she goes and drops an almighty bollock in London, by forgetting to bring vital documents to the meeting with the biggest, most secure and prestigious investor of all, causing Energreen’s bid to be thrown out unheard. It’s a career-destroying, sack on the spot, financially disastrous blunder, as a result of which Ulrik starts throwing up all over the place.

You see, it can now be openly admitted (to the audience at least) that Ulrik has indeed been cooking the books, to the point where they are now burnt to a frazzle and, without outside investors, they’re all doomed. Sander slaps his face, tells him to snap out of it. Meanwhile, Claudia confesses her fears to both Jens Kristian (who pooh-poohs it) and Sander (who acts all terribly hurt that she could even think it).

Remember Tobias? He’s flown into Rome to intercept the Energreen tour, or at least Claudia’s sex-hungry bit of it. Oh, and as a would-be investor, tell me, strictly in confidence, should I pull out now or plunge deeper in (deliberately crude double entendre)? Claudia’s morality is flying free now, so she lies through her teeth to Tobias about a superconductivity breakthrough that will replace sliced bread as the world’s standard measure of bestness.

It buoys her up so much (or was it just the sex?) that Claudia sells the show to the French all on her own (no, Sander didn’t fire her for practically dropping his company down the toilet: the man has an agenda) which ups her credibility again before the news comes in that Tobias’s company have trebled their investment. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner! And Claudia has a little gift of 10,000 shares that, tomorrow, will be worth 10,000,000.

She also has a traumatised small boy sleeping on a couch in her office because he’s fretting with fear at his mummy being knocked down by a car. Meanwhile, Sander is berating P for his egregious cock-up. And little Bertram happens to see P in passing, whereupon he identifies the man to his mother as the driver of the car that knocked over that lady…

But this, predictable as it is, is not our cliffhanger. That comes from Mess and Alf tracking down The Voice and setting up a meeting in the ‘usual place’ by posing as Mia on e-mail. They turn up, he doesn’t. He’s not stupid, he knows she’s in a coma, he tells them when he rings in. He’s going to disappear, but Mess offers protection and convinces him to come in and help bring Energreen down. In a shock, entirely unexpected revelation that I’d correctly predicted a couple of minutes earlier, The Voice turned out to be Jens Kristian…

Which simply reinforces my point. I’m a smartarse, I freely admit it. I read widely, watch TV and films. Not a lot takes me in, I can see things coming. Which is why I love the ones where I can’t, where I can’t read where it’s going, either in the web of the story or in the warp of the author’s thinking. That Mia was going to be taken out was obvious from way, way ahead, it was only a matter of time. That it had to be Jens was equally clear from his suddenly having been introduced in a prominent role only in that episode. Follow the Money is ok, but it isn’t surprising anyone. Claudia’s going to settle for being good, instead of rich, and turn Queen’s Evidence on Sander and the rest. P’s going to kidnap Bertram, and the show hasn’t got the creative steel to kill the boy, who will be rescued by Mess, who’ll end up getting back together with Kristina and trying again.

Expect to hear from me again on this subject next Sunday.