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 7 & 8


Poor Alf

It’s the penultimate week of Follow the Money and I’m only just starting to figure out this show’s credits. Water, water, rising everywhere, until everyone, not just the four stars are drowning in it, symbolising the vast ocean of fraud that only ever grows deeper and deeper until everyone’s heads are under water and there is no return to air again. Apologies if I’ve been a bit slow over that one.

That still leaves a couple of things that we’re probably going to have to wait until the conclusion to interpret. The sequence stats with our amoral compass, Claudia, on whom the first droplet appears. Many people see this as her crying, but in fact it’s a droplet from above, a single raindrop, that strikes first her forehead then falls onto her cheek, just below her eye. Is this merely a symbol of the whole Empire of Fraud and Scams landing upon her from above, without her intrinsic involvement? She is the only person on whom the water comes from above instead of welling up from below.

And what of Maverick Mess? At the other end of the sequence, whilst everyone  else just goes about their business undisturbed, he alone finds his paperwork floating away from him, whilst he flailingly tries to swim upstream to catch it.

That could definitely symbolise the end of episode 8 where, in a manner reminiscent of the last scene of Blake’s 7, all those many years ago, the bad guys win in a completely decisive manner. Energreen, and Sander, have beaten off every threat to their comprehensive fraud.

Jens Kristian, the whistle-blower whose whistle wasn’t loud enough at first, has led himself into deep waters in trying to shore up the case against Sander personally. He’s produced evidence, gained from his temporary role as substitute for Chief Financial Officer Ulrik Skov – who is cracking up good and proper – that will pull down Ulrik and the beauteous Claudia, whom he worships, but in trying to protect her, he enlists her support.

Oh dear, Jens Kristian. Is Claudia worth saving? She knows Sander is behind the hit on poor Mia, and she knows exactly how much bullshit has gone into the Financial Prospectus that makes Energreen the only company in Copenhagen once it goes public. Which she, as Head of Legal, has signed for, a one-way ticket to the pokey. But what of poor, traumatised Bertram? She can’t let him grow up with a mother on a long term jail sentence.

There is, early in episode 7, a telling if somewhat blatant scene where Claudia pays a visit to her lecturer at Law College, Ebbe. He’s a brilliant, principled man, she looks up to him, she was his star pupil. She explains the shit she’s in, and asks his advice about lying, cheating, destroying evidence and generally committing every illegality under the sun to avoid the consequences of being a criminal, and is disappointed when he tells her to come clean, uphold the Law. When she accuses him of being useless in the ‘real world’, a term which only ever gets used when someone wants to justify being a right shit in some way or other, she’s done for.

And I apologise for last week’s  frustrated outburst about how we knew she’d turn goody-goody in the end.

Because Claudia, once she’s brought into the loop about the Fraud Squad, does not waver for a moment. She acquiesces in Jens Kristian’s plan to incriminate Sander, knowing that it will backfire on him and the cops in every level, whilst Sander uses P (who, intriguingly, talks of ‘our plans’, suggesting that he isn’t just a hired assassin at Sander’s beck: I’m guessing it’s some form of Mafia, who serve Sander whilst ultimately having some form of control over him) to plant a fake file in Jens Kristian’s flat that dobs him in as a fraudster himself, tainting everything.

No wonder Sander broke with his practice of insulating himself from responsibility, and actually signed for the new scam.

Poor, sweet, honest, dumb Jens Kristian. Suspended from his job by the lovely Claudia herself, framed, and fucked (though not in the way he’d hoped of her).

To plant the fake file, P enlisted the unwilling aid of Nicky and the Bozo, whose career got more and more stupid as the night wore on. First, Nicky brings the shot and bleeding dodgy accountant Erik back to the garage, calling in his hot young blonde wife Lina – a nurse’s aid – to fix him.  Then, when it becomes clear that a Doctor would be absolutely necessary, instead of taking Erik to a hospital, which would mean the shot being reported to the Police, Nicky brings in a dodgy Doctor, via the Bozo’s old schoolmate, addict Andreas.

The Doc, however, won’t even look at Erik without 25,000 up front, so Nicky compounds his stupidity yet again by nicking it out of father-in-law Jan’s safe. Which only gives addict Andreas the idea that his old schoolfriend Bimse’s mate is a money-tree, and he comes back the next night with a swanoff shotgun, demanding more. Except that Jan has obviously noticed he’s 25,000 light (not that he mentions this to Nicky as possible justification for nicking the boys’ first customer) and changed the combination. The safe won’t open, no matter how much the hyper addict waves his gun. Something’s going to go off any moment, but when it does it’s addict Andreas’s head – shot from behind by P. Who happens to have on him the necessary materials for cleaning everything up and disposing of the body without anyone knowing there’s even been cross words spoken, let alone murder.

This is how P is able to easily ‘request’ Nicky and the Bozo to housebreak Jens  Kristian’s flat and plant the fake file.

Incidentally, before things get to this point, we have two telling scenes. First, Bozo mourns his mate’s death (we played together as kids and I brought him to Copenhagen being clearly more powerful than last night this drug addict desperate for a fix stuck a sawn-off shotgun in my face and was one second from pulling the trigger), so much so that he breaks into Addict Andreas’s scabby and vile flat and ends up rescuing his (also scabby) dog.

Nicky tells him to kill it. P tells them to kill it. But at the end of the day, Nicky just cannot bring himself to put a bullet between the dog’s beautiful, liquid, pleading brown eyes: laudable but no doubt fatal.

Secondly, in a confusingly edited couple of sequences, the lovely Lina throws the lying Nicky out (without our realising she has) then, after an invisibly long period of separation, decides to take him back, providing he first fucks her up against the Mercedes taxi he’s fixing for his only customer. Young love, eh?

But on the way, P has also scored the incriminating iPad, closing down that threat.

So that leaves us Mess. Alf and lawyer Hanna might despair once Energreen floats and hits 5,000 investors, seemingly making itself untouchable (why?) but Maverick Mess’s total ignorance of how a Fraud Squad actually works doesn’t stop him from all sorts of morale-boosting moves, including roughing Jens Kristian up in the elevator, to get harder info (and look where that got everybody).

But we can get Energreen through Claudia, the important thing is, what’s the score with Mess’s personal life? I mean, that’s got to be more important than any crime, hasn’t it?

To summarise: Mess and Kristina are going to separate, even though Kristina has quarreled with her celibate Doctor/boyfriend. In order to raise a mortgage for a flat of his own (which he’s going to need if totally hot blonde out-of-nowhere Cecelie is going to turn up for ‘professional assistance’ and start snogging him), Mess has to sell the family home. This he refuses to do: his wife and children need it.

Then, without a word of explanation, he and Kristina are showing an Estate Agent around and going for a quick sale. Except that the house is worth 700,000 less than their mortgage. Ah, the joys of negative equity: I sympathise, Mess, I really do. So he and Kristina go for Plan C:  the kids will live in the house and he and Kristina will share in, in alternate weeks.

As plans go, it’s dumb from the ground up to the gutter, over the roof and back down the other wall, so dumb that even in the we-have-no-other-options stakes it’s a non-runner, and whilst young Allbert’s main concern is about keeping his bedroom, teenage Esther has no qualms about calling it out as a plan that suits her parents and not the kids.

She also lays a hefty dose of blame on her mother, which can’t be gainsaid.

In between times, when it’s not their turn, Kristina will live with her celibate boyfriend, and Mess will live with Alf, who seems to be prepared to put up with him. And might have to bear with Cecilie too.

Which is going to be difficult. They’ve taken Mia of the artificial coma-inducing drugs, but she’s not woken up yet. Mess is, for once, useful, given his experience with, and continual fears for Kristina (who he still loves, quite clearly), telling Alf to hope and believe.

But it is all in vain. Alf visits Mia late at night, tries talking to her but stops because he feels stupid, because he can’t convince himself she can hear. Only she goes into cardiac arrest, and dies. The final angle on Energreen goes with her.

Evil has won, comprehensively, Sander has got everything he wants (except Claudia’s lilywhite body). He’s even secure enough to reinstate poor, broken Ulrik, whose leave of absence from the company has been long enough to set him on the road to recovery whilst, like Lina and Nicky’s separation, being impossible to incorporate in the timeline for the series.

Is Sander safe? Will Justice be thwarted? Have they really brought in Lotte Anderson to play virtually the same role she played in both The Killing and The Bridge? (yes they have and it’s a glorious in-joke). Will the dog survive? Will Claudia decide that being thoroughly evil and ruthless is just a temporary necessity to get herself out and ‘clean’, or will she decide to overthrow Sander and get it all for herself?  Is Mess going to shag Cecilie or go back to Kristina because she has another sclerosis attack? Did Avon somehow escape being surrounded by Federation troopers with ninety-six million, eight hundred and fourteen thousand guns all pointed at his head from six inches away? Oops, sorry, wrong show.

Let’s wait and see, eh?

 

 

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 Sander  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 in  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.