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 SkandiKrime: Follow the Money parts 9 & 10


Bedrag(gled) cast
Bedrag(gled) cast

So much to cover in so little time.

No, scratch that. In the end, though Follow the Money devoted its last two episodes to completely undoing Energreen’s comprehensive untouchability after episode 8, there was curiously little to the conclusion. Episode 9 started badly, with the most crass scene of the entire series, showing Maverick Mess in the worst of all possible lights as a set-up to his completely cocking everything under the sun up, leading to the eventual collapse of the entire case, amid petulant self-justifications.

Fortunately, by that point, Energreen had been exposed as a morass of fraud, had collapsed into bankruptcy and all the bad guys bar the really untouchable ones were on their way to their respective fates, so it didn’t really matter. Which was kind of the problem with the series from the very beginning.

It was all down to Maverick Mess. It’s poor Mia’s funeral, and the service has started, and poor Alf is sat there, grave and sorrowful, in suit and tie and in walks Mess in leather jacket and jeans, plonking himself down in the pew behind and starting to go over this hot new lead he’s got, oblivious to Alf’s desire to mourn his friend. As I said, crass and unnecessary, and any sympathies I had left for our hero evaporated on the spot, as did my respect for Alf for not getting back to the office and kicking the living shit out of Mess.

Anyway, our local bull is still showing the entire Fraud Squad how to do their highly-specialised, serious and complex job that he’s only been doing for weeks. It’s all down to Energreen’s seriously optimistic and completely dodgy prospectus, the one put together by Ulrik, which has Amoral Claudia wetting her knickers over how it doesn’t fit in with Sander’s promise to clean up the act and let her go, scot-free, with a few millions tucked into her knicker elastic.

Basically, she was starting to realise that Sander could hide behind a corkscrew and couldn’t play things straight if you stretched him on a rack at exactly the same time as she was letting him pull down her sexy black sleeping knickers and fuck her on the kitchen units. So much for subtle symbolism.

Because Mess demonstrates to Alf and Henriette that Energreen actually has no money, that it’s coffers are literally empty, that it’s stoney broke and the moment a creditor starts asking for some serious debt to be repaid, it’s all up the swanee. Why don’t we get West Zealand Bank to do so, says Mess, as if this is a bright idea. You can’t do that, points out Alf, it’s illegal, it’ll destroy the case, it’ll taint ALL the evidence as much as dipping it in sewage and deep-frying it for three hours in a pigshit batter would do.

So Mess photocopies the evidence at night and gets the Bank to do it.

This time, Amoral Claudia’s legal bluffery  and threats can’t head it off. The only recourse for Sander is to borrow 200 million krone from Head of the Board, Mr Christensen, a white-bearded, gently jovial, nice old grandfather type, who’s the real power behind everything. Only Mr Christensen cuts him off then denounces Energreen on TV as a Fraud Shop.

It’s on! Mess is quite gloatingly smug as the Fraud Squad moves in to take down Energreen, Sander, Claudia and poor poor pitiful Ulrik. The shit has hit the proverbial Scandinavian natural pine fan, and all we have to do is watch the mopping up.

Whilst waiting for Mess’s mess to blow up in everybody’s face.

But before we get to the final episode, let us not forget Nicky and the Bozo. Unfortunately for them, Peter’s mother is sick. You remember Peter? Arrogant bastard inside trader, paid 4,000,000 euros to flee the country before Nicky nicked his car and the incriminating iPad? His Mum’s sick so he’s back in Denmark, except that P is aware of it and is hustling him out again. Peter gets snitty about how P nicked 2,000,000 back again, which clues our favourite Swedish bad guy in to just how involved Nicky has been.

So he wants the money back, all 15,000,000 of it (it’s been converted to krone by now, remember, by Eric the luckless dodgy accountant). Ok, 3,000,000’s been spent, so Nicky can pay him 12,000,000 now and the rest in instalments. But when father-in-law Jan refuses to part with his 4,000,000, P gets a little wrathy. Until Boxo Bimse crushes his skull with seven or eight smashes with a tyre iron.

Oh, no, wait, all that vigorous beating hasn’t smashed P’s skull in like any ordinary 60 year old human’s would have been, it’s merely given him a headache and a small trickle of blood. As it does. Jan drives him off to dump him somewhere, but P recovers well enough to stab Jan in the shoulder with a ball-point pan and escape.

Ah, but now it’s payback time for Mighty Mess’s Power Rangers. Dawn raids on Claudia – defiant – Sander – calm – and Ulrik – runs off scared shitless into the woods – ensue. Claudia, who has had plenty of opportunities to do the right thing but who has unerringly plumped for the shitty, criminal option every time, initially shields Sander until he tells her its all over, and everyone for themselves. So she dictates a deal to the cops: she shops Sander, they drop lots of charges and give her eighteen months electronic tagging.

Ulrik, having broken, commits suicide in the office. Sander publicly admits fraud but claims personal ignorance and shock. Christensen promptly has the contents of the iPad printed out and delivers these by hand to the Police, blowing any need for Claudia’s deal out of the water. She’s going dooooown!

So now they’re really in the deep shit, Sander and Claudia decide to run away together, find a place in the sun far from all this madness, this corruption, these Danish extradition warrants. Should they have bothered? Maverick Mess has now got it into his head that Old Man Christensen is just as much a fraudster, and wants to go after him now. Unfortunately, Maverick Mess is such a fucking idiot that he talks about West Zealand Bank to the guy behind a nationwide fraud. It’s facepalm time.

Back to Nicky. Lina, understandably pissed off at him, drives away from their ramshackle little hidey-hole and gets captured by P. Nicky, without telling Bozo, takes the whole 12,000,000 (including Jan’s share) to exchange it. P honours the exchange. Nicky, who doesn’t know when he’s onto a good thing, then tries to negotiate for 2,000,000 back. For their trouble, you know. Instead of simply killing him on the spot, it seems there is something Nicky can do to earn it…

So, the stage is set. Claudia and Sander sneak off to the airport, unaware the Alf has them under close observation and is ready to arrest them at any moment. Unfortunately, when Alf moves in, our devious duo have pulled a switch. Two young look-a-likes, hired to drive the car to the airport, have been substituted. It is Nicky and his girl Lina, in a dark wig.

Let’s just round up their tale. Nicky buys Jan out of their garage with 1,000,000 leaving 1,000,000 for him and the Bozo. Bimse, whose been kept in the dark over  this whilst his half-share in 8,000,000 has been incorporated into the ransom for Nicky’s wife and baby, flies into a fury and walks out.

And then walks back in to say that he would have given up his half for them if Nicky had only asked, so it’s all smiles, deep friendship and no consequences for our least important part of the plot.

As for Claudia, she gets to the point of half way down the runway in Dander’s private jet before the thought of separation from little Bertram overwhelms her. Stop the plane, I want to get off! And Sander lets her. She phones Mess to let him know where to arrest her, providing she gets 10 minutes with Bertram first. Claudia will do her porridge.

But Mess, all eager to go after Christensen, finds it’s all blown up in his face. The case is dead, over, finished, kaput. Christensen has got hold of the confidential documents that tipped West Zealand Bank into action (well, I never, didn’t see that one coming). And they’ve been traced to the office copier…

Mess is furious. He’s the only guy that counts here. Without him, they’d have nothing. He’s the only one who cares about nailing fraud! It’s arrant bullshit, but we’re doomed to the programme taking this specious crap seriously because, hell’s bells, mavericks are the only just men on this earth, no matter how many fucking laws they break in the process. Fraud Squad Head Nanna demands his badge. Then Alf confesses to doing it.

So Mess stays. And Alf isn’t fired for ‘doing’ the very thing Mess was going to be fired for doing. This case-cracking pair are still about to smash another corporate Fraud next season, since the Fraud Squad clearly doesn’t know how to find its own arse without Mess.

And whilst we’re with our hero, we’d better mention how his tangled personal life works out. This is the one part of the whole story in which I felt any personal investment, but it’s eventual resolution into a happy, status quo restoring ending was phoney and false.

First, it’s clear that the lovely Kristina is en route to another sclerosis attack. She’s realised things are not going to work with David the Doctor, and breaks up with him, half off-screen. Mess finds her at home, collapsed and unconscious, due to a bad attack that leaves her unable to feel her legs. David is still her Doctor (do they have NO professional ethics whatsoever in Denmark?) and wants her to remain under observation. Kristina wants to go home and she wants to go home with Mess, but first we have this scene where he wants to talk about her break-up with David and she doesn’t and she’s getting horribly guilty about how she’s hurt him so deeply, totally fucked-up his life, and she doesn’t deserve him (at which point I mentally inserted the line, ‘who says that deserve ever had anything to do with it?’) and she wants him to go away and never come back, ever again, the guilt’s too much.

So, his professional career hanging by a thread that we all know will not be cut between now and season 2, what does Mess do? He heads back to the hospital, bundlres all of Kristina’s things into a hold-all, and wheels her out in her wheelchair and dressing gown, over the Doctor’s objections. Kristina’s happy. Big old masterful Mess has taken charge of her, which gives her a tingle (I mean, she did mention wanting sex, back in episode 1) and in defiance of everything that’s happened and in contrast to every aspect of actual human behaviour, it’s going to be a happy ending.

Which leaves us only one fate left, and I confess I saw it coming. Sander’s in the sun somewhere, Greece it looks like. Sun, scenery, rich quarters, P on hand. Iced drinks and no socks. Somewhere the government’s about to start auctioning off wind farm options, along a 7,500 mile coastline. A new beginning indeed.

P’s phone rings. I knew it was going to be Mr Christensen and I knew what was coming. A few, quiet, overly non-committal responses. Yes, I’ll do that. I’ll call you back. Sander’s full of the future, until he turns round to fins himself looking down the barrel of P’s favourite silencer. One phut: dead from a bullet through the left eye. Two more phuts, to the chest, a waste of two bullets but hey, it looks good to those in the audience who’ve never seen a cliched series before.

So ends Follow the Money. I haven’t checked to see if there are plans for a second series, and apparently it hasn’t gone down all that well in Denmark, but such things usually run in threes, so Mess and Alf may be back to blunder through bigger and stupider frauds, who knows? I doubt I’ll be with them if they do.

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 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 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.