Saturday SkandiKrime: Darkness: Those who Kill episodes 7 & 8


The last two episodes of Those that Kill were the best, mainly because by this point there was very little time left for bullshit if we were to have an all-out tense ending. Not completely no time, unfortunately, the series choosing to end on a waffly note that either had no bearing on anything or else related to some plot detail I couldn’t remember because I couldn’t be sufficiently arsed.

And the play-out benefited from giving Signe Edholm Olsen full rein to play the out and out psycopath Stine always was, from the I-am-a-victim denials with which she met Jan’s interrogation through to the avenging fury out to visit betrayal back on her family.

It all came down to that rape by big brother Mikkel, that he lied about to his parents and to Stine’s face, even when he knew she knew the truth. Louise got onto it, and believed Stine, which was more than anyone else ever had. She’d been a troubled child, a troubled teenager. She used to make horrible accusations against anyone she was angry with, which did lead you to think her parents may not have been wholly unjustified in automatically taking Mikkel’s story over hers.

But she’d told the truth (and he’d been trying to catch her half-naked since she was twelve) and they’d betrayed her. They’d chosen him, and even after he’d ranted at her in front of them that she’d ‘been asking for it’ (they always say that, don’t they?) you could see that belief hadn’t shifted.

Louise thought that believing would get Stine to tell them where Emma Holst was. And she gave them what they wanted, but it was a lie. And she stole a policeman’s gun and a police car, and when she found Anders prepared to release Emma, she killed him and started turning Emma into her confidante: Stockholm Syndrome in Copenhagen.

Stine went after her parents. She shot big brother Mikkel in the stomach, and father Ole in the back. Mikkel didn’t make it and I couldn’t summon up much sympathy, but Ole did, and he deserved it no better. He had never had any doubts about Stine being black to the core, denied her a psychologist when it might have mattered but the truly unforgivable thing was that when Stine offered him the chance to get out, and leave his wife behind, he got up and started to shuffle out.

In the end, Jan saves the day: despite a bullet in the shoulder from Stine, he jumps her and belts her several times across the face until she’s unconscious.

So it was all over bar the fuzzy little bits at the end. Louise is half-expecting an invite to dinner from Jan but he doesn’t offer and she walks away without a backward glance, that cliche stuck firmly back in the drawer. The rescued Emma refuses to see her parents. It’s a hint at that aforementioned Stockholm Syndrome, but it’s a red herring: Emma was brought up religious and was a virgin, and she is ashamed of what’s been done to her. But Louise persuades her that they do not blame her, and their reunion is a brief moment of tear-jerking love.

But there’s that waffly bit. The last episode started with the sixteen year old Stine being dropped off at boarding school where she’s to room with the perky, peppy, bubbly, innocent and far too nice Maja. You fair dreads it on the spot. Was Maja in the story somewhere? The last scene is Stine in prison, visiting her psychologist, who naturally enough is Louise, there being only one criminal psychologist in the whole of Copenhagen. Stine is flat and dull. But as the scene goes to black, her voice takes on an added relish as she voice overs: “Maja had a big brother. Would you like me to talk about him?”

Anyone with a clue as to what that’s supposed to mean when it’s home with its pinny on, please leave a comment.

There’s no Skandi next week, so I can take a breather. Hoping for a good one, next time.

 

Saturday SkandiKrime: Darkness: Those who Kill episodes 5 & 6


Third week for the revived Darkness: Those who Kill which, incidentally, is billed only as Dem som Draeber in the Danish credits so this ‘Darkness’ crap is just a bloody affectation.

For some of the classic series, the reduction of the standard ten-episode format to eight is a disappointment, but for the average-at-best stuff like this, it’s a blessing to know I’ll have it all over and done with next weekend. Even at a taut eight episodes, this still feels like some things have been put in to pad it out.

To be honest, I can’t summon up much enthusiasm for finishing this, not even for the $64,000 question of whether Emma, the last hostage, will be found alive (I’m guessing yes but the programme is sufficiently infatuated with its own supposed ‘darkness’ that it might kill her just to prove it).

Both the short, black and white flashbacks this week helped us to understand the fair but homicidal Stine. In the one, she’s getting raped by her overly tall and nasty brother Mikkel, the one whose birthday party her mother is so insistent on her attending (she’s  16, he’s 19). Oh well, that explains it all. In the other, the slimeball has already ‘confessed’ to Ma and Pa to pushing her over and making her bump her head but denied her other accusation, and of course Mummy and Daddy don’t believe her and think she’s just wickedly passing off what some other of her endless shags has done to her. Oh well, that explains any leftover bits of it all that we didn’t take from the first one.

I know we’re not supposed to feel sympathy for psychopathic serial killers, especially ones that get their victims to write a beautiful, heartfelt, farewell letter to their parents then burn it in front of the girl, but I did thoroughly enjoy Stine attending Mikkel’s birthday party, tinkling a glass and standing up to tell the assembled guests her story about her brother. Yes, that one. She wasn’t a sixteen year old slut, he was her first.

The rest of it was the investigation progressing in fits and starts. Louise clears announcing Anders’ name publicly in the belief he and his accomplice will go dormant. Unfortunately, he reacts by trying to snatch someone off the street. The Police do get tip-offs that lead them to where Anders is sleeping when he’s not at Stine’s and, significantly, they retrieve the dress of Natasha, his first one.

This does not go down well with Anders, who is stupidly determined to get the dress back, which he attempts by kidnapping Louise (didn’t see that coming), smacking her about and demanding she tell the cops to bring the dress to her or he’ll kill her. He really is stupid. Fortunately, he’s interrupted by a security guard before this development gets to a point where he and it get out of control and he has to kill the second lead in episode 5.

The personality sink that is lead investigator Jan is not there for Louise because, in contradiction of my prediction he’s not getting his rocks off with our dark-haired psychologist, but rather with karate instructor and volunteer unofficial civilian decoy Sisse (Malene Beltoft Olsen, looking very nice). Don’t worry, he does get to sleep with Louise in episode 6, though I can’t claim that because it’s on her couch and he’s fast asleep when she curls up beside him.

Anyway, episode 6 is all about Louise recovering from her ordeal whilst the fuzz start to make real progress. Louise’s women’s group prompts her to ask if Anders’ accomplice is a woman, not a man, and Jan finds the missing link between the slurry tank victims that gives them the name of Stine Velin.

Who has told Anders they have to stop and get out, and he’d better get rid of his little blonde girl himself. And she’s just finished packing when the doorbell goes. No, not the Police, just an extremely pissed and pissed-off Mikkel, who’s still the victim in all this, who’s come round to tell Stine that he never wants to see her again (oh the ironic comic cliche of it!) and she’d better not contact their parents again (why on Earth would she want to). Then he blows it rather by snogging her, though if I were looming drunkenly over Signe Egholm Olsen, I would probably have done the same thing. Not that she would have enjoyed it any more than her oh-so-charming brother.

With doubled irony, the intrusion of Mikkel holds Stine up just long enough for the  Police to arrive, bristling with riot gear and assault rifles. Mikkel gets arrested. Stine, quick-thinking, plays the victim card, Anders threatened to kill her. Everyone storms the basement, looking for Emma. But she’s gone. And so’s Anders…

If this were a British series, I wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole. I’m only watching it because it’s Skandi, but not all Skandis are Skandi, if you know what I mean. End of the series next week. I can only hope that if there’s another Skandi lined up for two weeks hence, it’s one of the great ones. I’m not holding my breath.

Saturday SkandiKrime: Darkness: Those Who Kill episodes 3 & 4


The awkward couple

It didn’t even take half the first episode this week to have it confirmed that this story is going to be stretched out way beyond its meagre ability to entertain, and it only took the self-same episode to establish that Those Who Kill is not going to offer us anything original in terms of developing its sordid little tale.

This latter moment was brought to us by Emma, the newly-taken of Anders Kjelvard’s two little-blonde-girl prisoners in the fortified basement of Avis lady Stine’s house. Julie, who has been prisoner six months, is broken, unable to fight or resist or hope, convinced that Emma’s arrival means her time is up. In this, she is correct.

But Emma still has spirit. She frees a length of piping from the supply to the washing machine and, when Anders comes to take Julie, she cracks him over the head with it and, when he goes down, does so a second time. He’s helpless, dazed, semi-conscious at best. My God, when will someone, anyone, take this as a cue to beat his fucking brains out? Smash his skull to pulp, make sure he doesn’t get up ever again. You know, incapacitate him.

Oh no, two whacks, just daze him and then run up the stairs to the locked door by which you are trapped and here he is. Emma gets her head punched, Julie gets her finger cut off and her body wrapped in plastic, though only the red smear on the plastic alerts you to the finger thing.

That’s arrived in the story courtesy of Louise, our lovely psychologist, suggesting the files be combed (in Sweden too) for connectable cases. So it’s off to the country of Saga Noren, Landskrim, Malmo (who is dearly needed to give this dull tosh some life) to a dead body with a missing finger and a wierd mix of matching and non-matching M.O. characteristics.

Throw in a rift between our lead investigator and our psychologist, because the latter thoughtlessly psychologises the former over his foul-mouthed and ignorant ill temper at learning his ex-, Annemarie, is not gravitating back to him but has, for the last four months, been gravitating towards the loins of Danny (who’s he, and does it matter?).

Throw it out, conveniently on the way to a lead that uncovers three bodies, all nine-fingered, dumped in a slurry tank by dear sweet Anders. Have Anders turn up with Julie’s body, realise his plans are up the slurry, add in a short car chase in which Jan the Man is too easily thrown off after reading only seven characters off Anders’ number-plate, and I’m left with nothing. It’s too feeble even to snark. Where are the Salamanders of this world?

But that still left episode 4. Might that have more meat on its bones, and might that meat be tasty, or at least stringy enough to go after heartily?

We began the second part with a micro-flashback to a girl walking along a deserted road, rejecting the offer of a lift on a bike then accepting it second time. He’s Anders, she’s Stine. Later on, the now isolated Emma gets Stine to talk to her, to admit she’s a victim of Anders too, taken into the woods a virgin, raped, afraid for her life, under his thumb. But Emma’s talk of God persuades Stine to release her, taken far away, blindfolded, in the trunk of her car. Hold that thought.

Jan, aka tall, dark, gloomy and a miserable shit on top of that, is driving around aimlessly, looking for the car he lost last night and being pretty bloody. When Louise suggests there are better ways of using their time, he throws her out at a bus stop (nothing due for hours) and tells her to fuck off. Then his colleagues report finding the car in a gravel pit. The dead Julie is in the trunk. The pathologist places time of death between five and seven. When Jan chased the car at three a.m., Julie was still alive.

That’s a pretty devastating blow, though with one-note Jan it’s hard to tell, except by his resigning from the Police, driving to the former marital home and starting work on the bathroom. Of course Annemarie will welcome him back and it’ll all go back to normal, like it was before. Clue: no it won’t.

It’s a dumb move, mere padding for the story as this whole subplot clearly is, and padding with a hole in it that an entire water tank could slide through, since the only person he tells he’s resigned to is Louise, you know, the useless psychologist he treats with utter contempt.

It needs to be Louise for the scene where she spots that Julie is wearing Emma’s other earring, thus drawing him back, but it’s still a spot of crappy scriptwriter’s convenience.

There’s another hole in the plot too, and that’s about Julie. We saw her being wrapped in plastic at the end of episode 3, ring finger removed, and Anders was taking her to be dumped in the slurry pit, where he’s already dropped three bodies. Bodies, not live people. Julie died after this.

And our intrepid police band wind up episode 4 by determining that Anders is not working alone. He’s a sexual predator, turned on by absolute power. His accomplice is the killer, and ring finger souvenir-taker. And guess what? It’s Stine. Only the timelines don’t work for the twin modus operandi.

Halfway through, the show’s trying to be dead clever and only revealing itself to be dead stupid. At least, the way things are going, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Jan and Louise are going to shag next week. If we ask nicely, we may get away without it happening at all…

Saturday SkandiKrime: Darkness:Those that Kill episodes 1 & 2


Late night, a lake, a body…

I’ve never watched Those that Kill (or Dem dat Droeber in Denmark) before. The original series in 2011 was commissioned as ten two-part episodes, a la Arne Dahl, that most countries amalgamated as five feature length films. The show was a flop, and was cancelled, after a one-off 2012 film to wrap things up. Over here, it was picked up by ITV3 inthat first wave of enthusiasm for Scandinavian series that followed the success of The Killing, Borgen and the first series of The Bridge. I may possibly have watched one episode: I recall watching one episode of something around that time but I can’t remember what.

But it’s been revived in 2019, with a new cast, reversing the original set-up, for an eight-part series that BBC4 will be showing us over the next four Saturday nights, and in the tradition of this blog, I shall watch it and comment upon it. And my first impression, based on the first two episodes is… it’s not very good.

Let me make it plain that we are not talking Bad, and we are certainly not talking Follow the Money or Black Lake risibly bad, grist to the snarky pen. The new series, re-named Darkness: Those that Kill, though why is a mystery, given that the title credits only use Dem dat Droeber, is plain, straightforward proedural Police stuff, with a desire to be as black as The Bridge that the series’ overall flaws will always frustrate.

The central set-up is that of a Police detective teaming with a Criminal Psychologist to solve horrifically brutal crimes. Originally, Louise Bach played the detective and Jakob Cedergren the psychologist, but this time the roles are reversed: Kenneth M Christensen plays Detective Jan Mikkelsen, and the part of psychologist Louise Bergstein is taken by Natalie Madueno, who we all remember as Amoral Claudia from the first two series of Follow the Money.

Jan is handling a six month old investigation into the disappearance of lovely young blonde 17 year old schoolgirl, Julie Vinding, but is formally taken off the investigation for a more high priority case. Typically, Jan continues to investigate in his spare time (recently separated from his wife/partner? Annemarie, who hestill loves, and living with a couple of potheads), discovers a link to the 2008 disappearance of lovely young blonde 17 year old schoolgirl, Natasha Lindholm and almost instantly dopes out where her body is. Result: restoration to heading the team investigating a probable serial killer.

Jan’s boss, ‘MT’, (Peter Mygindd, who I recognised from Borgen) calls in an expert criminal psychologist and friend, Louise. There’s a mystery about Louise: she’s returned from two years practicing in England but has given up criminal profiling to work in a women’s shelter, counselling victims of brutality and rape. All that’s been teased so far is that Louise has abruptly given up a very succesful career and isn’t saying why, and the inference we’re meant to draw is that she has been a victim or brutality and/or rape, which isn’t cliched at all, oh no, but we’ll see.

So Louise is roped in for a quick, two-hour profile, but pulled back to the case when episode 1 ends with a brutal attack upon, and the abduction of Emma Holst, a lovely young blonde 20 year old hotel worker. The twist is that we have seen the abductor’s face and by episode 2 we know his name and he’s already a suspect. He is Anders Kjeldsen (Mads Riisom), a brutalised child who’s grown up a sociopath, a dangerous individual (that’s the description his prison psychiatrist gives, which begs the question of how this man, with sentences for robbery, rape – of a lovely young blonde sales assistant – was let out).

So this is not going to be a whodunnit, and given that Louise’s profle is of someone obsessed by Natalie who’s now triggered by girls of similar age, hair colour and looks, it’s also not much of a whydunnit. It’s looking like a howtheycatchhim at this point, though there is one potentially serious psychological issue to keep us interested. This revolves around the fourth member of our principal cast, Stine Velin, played by Signe Egholm Olsen, another Borgen alumnus.

Stine, an attractive, well-dressed, fortyish car-hire manager, arrives at her small, neat, suburban home to find Anders there, having let himself in. What their relationship is and how they know each other remains opaque, though an episode2 naked shower scene establishes them as lovers. But Anders is aggressive and controlling with her, going so far as to nearly choke her to death. Stine sems to be distant with her family, for equally opaqu reasons. And there’s a twist.

By episode 2, Jan and Louise (I’m guessing they shag, or get near to shagging until Louise’s trauma erupts, in either episode 5 or 6) have dismissed a red herring and fully identified Anders. The audience knows that Emma is still alive and imprisoned in a bleak, dirty basement, along with a thoroughly traumatied girl of similar age and appearance, who is Julie. We’ve seen little Anders locked into the identical basement by his alcoholic mother, so thirsty he’s reduced to drinking the liquid from a Leaning Tower of Pisa Snowglobe. We’ve seen Jan and Louise finding the neglected and dirty isolated home of Anders’ mother. We’ve seen Anders make Emma put on Natalie’s bright yellow dress before he (offscreen) rapes her. We’ve seen Anders’ mother’s dessicated corpse.

Anders relocks the basement in which the two girls are locked. We’re expecting him to confront Jan and Louise, and this to be a two-parter with an abrupt, badly-paced ending. Until Anders locks the basement with a keycod machine identical to the one by which Stine enters her house from her garage. And he walks upstairs to Stine, who’s just been waching the rape on CCTV. Next up, episode 3.

Like I said at the start, Those that Kill is not Bad, but it’s far from Good. It’s trying to be Serious, and Complex, and Dark, but it’s missing it by a mile because it’s too plain that it’s trying. It’s hindered by very slow pacing that isn’t increasing the tension but rather slowing progress until theaudience is in danger oof losing interest. And in the shape of Kenneth M Christensen, Jan Mikelsen is tall, handsome and brooding but nothing else, and that doesn’t add up to a character. Christensen’s monotone does nothing but emphasise how lacking he is in any sign of a personality outside brooding and obsessed, and it gives Madueno nothing to play off, reducing her character to a cypher.

Things may improve over the next three weeks, though I’m not expecting anything. But, as usual, I’ve started so I’ll finish. Keep joining me, people.

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


A very nice actress, underused

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s not at all satisfying.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


So far, she’s coming out the best

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you wonder why I find this series confusing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday 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.