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.