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.

Saturday SkandiCrime: Follow the Money parts 3 & 4


Mads, by name and nature

Another Sunday session for Saturday night crime.

My main excuse this week is that the England game was too interesting to switch off, but I have to allow for the fact that nothing in Follow the Money‘s first two parts gripped me in anything like the way that the best Scandinavian drama series have done in recent years. Nor, sadly, was there much in the next set of instalments to increase my enthusiasm.

At least I am not going to the stupid extent of the Guardian TV reviewer who, last week, also found Follow the Money uninvolving, but who extrapolated from that that the whole Scandinavian TV boom was therefore over, and henceforth no other Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Icelandic programme should ever be broadcast on British TV again. Some people are just plain pathetic.

But I’ll say what I said last week, because it’s by far and away the principal factor: this is a story that fails to involve. It’s an entirely too orthodox police procedural, supplemented by soap opera elements that, by failing to sufficiently individualize the characters, fail to affect.

Take our hero, Mads (which, incidentally is pronounced ‘Mess’, which is hardly surprising). We’ve already seen that he doesn’t do patience, which is unfortunate because he’s (as of episode 4 officially) seconded to the Fraud Squad, whose police work consists entirely of patience. Mess is a bull with the urge to find a china shop: his policing consists of getting suspects into a room, quizzing them without the slightest iota of evidence and pronouncing them guilty based on the fact that they do things that ordinary people do when confronted by a mad copper, they calll for their lawyer.

Alright, we get it, he’s a maverick, that’s what mavericks do, but that’s my point entirely, the great joy of the SkandiCrime series is that they have different angles upon such things, they are not Anglo stereotypes, and Mess is a stereotype.

Which is why, when the viewer learns in episode 3, and Mess the following episode, that his sclerosis-crippled wife Kristina is having an affair (I thought she was too affected by her recent bad bout to surrender to her libido), I found it impossible to share in his evident misery.

Which, by the way, he directs at a very unimaginative revenge, keying his ‘rival”s flash car, instead of immediately reporting him to the Danish equivalent of the BMC (shagging your patients, Doctor David? Tsk, tsk, we’re going to have to give you a no about that).

Let’s back away from Mess for a moment and consider out Anti-Hero, Claudia, who’s rapidly getting deeper and deeper into Energreen’s, and SanderĀ  Sodergren’s, little deceptions. In episode 3, she flies out to Abu Dhabi where Sander is banking all on getting Arab backing for a highly experimental superconductor that Hanne, its Chief Scientist, knows is fraught with difficulties. Hanne’s use of the word No (which, disappointingly, is Danish for No) sees her career end on the spot. The very next day, a more, shall we call it optimistic?, scientists pitches a trouble-free pitch, with the aid of what looked like a square of albino battenburg hovering on a cloud of dry ice and circling a table ad infinitum.

That it’s a flagrant con is established from the casual way inĀ  which the compliant scientist dropped in the fact that Energreen had invented perpetual motion without going, say, HEY, LOOK YOU GUYS, WE’VE INVENTED PERPETUAL FUCKING MOTION!!!!!

Claudia looks perturbed at Hanne’s treatment but barely blinks and simply moves onto the next right royal shafting, in episode 4, when she takes the little son she patently adores and misses so much to Jutland on a day out, so he can watch her down-size a former family company preparatory to selling it off. That goes down like a brick pigeon with the CEO and former owner, but that’s nothing as to when Claudia gets told there’s been a change of plans and, thanks to some financial smartarsery from Energreen’s Chief Financial Officer, Ulrik Skov, the company has to be shut down, five minutes ago, no back answers.

So our dear Claudia has to go round handing out redundancy notices to all 300 employees (after the ex-owner signs a ‘loadsamoney for you personally, shut-yer-gob’ agreement drafted by her own fair hand), but the only one we see is middle-aged secretary Gerthe, who has been keeping little Bertram amused. It’s a cheap attempt to tug at the heart-strings that might have worked in a better series, but is merely nasty here. So when it turns into a cue for Bertram to say he doesn’t like Mummy’s job and wants to go back to Daddy now, it’s meaningless.

These are all business dealings that could be easily enough justified by businessmen as financially necessary, but I suspect that, somewhere round about twenty minutes into episode 9, Claudia will find herself handling a trick too shitty for ever her to process and will start coughing to Mess and Alf. When she does, I shall think back to episodes like this and be profoundly unconveniced.

One more thing about Claudia before we turn to our third pillar, car thief Nicky and the idiot Bimse, but the story did surprise me for the first and so far only time near the end of episode 3. Sander and Claudia are staying in opposite rooms in a big Abu Dhabi hotel, he’s pestering her for dinner, he takes her back to her room, bursting with testosterone, but Claudia is expecting the pass and not showing any signs of encouragement. That is, until he knocks on her door again to bring a toy car present for young Bertram, which leads her to snog his face off – until he stops her abruptly. This is wrong, he has great things planned for her, this will spoil things. Cliche-busting alert! Though the whole thing spoke to me of very dispassionate manipulation.

So, Nicky and the Boxo. Yeah, it’s all starting to go to custard for that pair, thanks to the Bozo being, well, a Bozo. They’ve got the money, nobody on the investigation side knows about them, and Nicky’s father-in-law cools the trail when Nicky is bozo enough to use the stolen iPad for pictures of his chocolate-faced child. But I’ll bet the iPad hasn’t been dumped: after all, it needs to turn up somewhere about episode 8 to incriminate Sander.

I’m sorry, no, I refuse to waste more time than is necessary on this strand of the plot, until it links more firmly with the A story. Which is financial hi-jinks, centring around Sander and the aforementioned Ulrik Skov, the outline of which was put together by Chinese Dane Alf, with the improbable assistance of Mess. It made for interesting but hardly visceral stuff. Let’s see if more can be built upon it next week.

The problem is that there is the makings of a decent, and potentially gripping story about high finance and big business in this series that is being consistently blurred by the antics of the three principals, Mess, Claudia and Nicky, who are acting in a completely different story (or two different stories if you look at Nicky.) The two styles are running counter to one another without setting up any kind of insightful counterpoint, or even a fruitful resonance.

It’s not the end of SkandiCrime As We Know It, but it falls short of the standards we are used to, and reports suggest there’s nothing coming down the line to redeem it. At least it’s not snark-worthy, like you-know-what.