Saturday SkandiKrime: Wisting – episodes 9 & 10


Normally, I split last week blogs into two parts but after episode 9 I couldn’t think of enough things to say to warrant it. The trouble is, I’m in pretty much the same boat after episode 10.

The problem was that two names became pretty important in the funneling of efforts towards the end. One was Jonas Ravnberg, Line’s murder victim from episode 6, who who turned out to have a red Saab that may have been checked out in connection with the abduction of Cecilia, she of the case where there was the evidence tampering that has seen Wisting cut loose on suspension. The connection was not seen before because Ravnberg’s name was misspelled in the Cecilia case (I’m not even sure I’ve spelt it right here).

It took me a long time to work out what significance Ravnberg had to the story so far. The other name was Daniel Flom, a photographer who seemed to be involved somewhere in the Cecilia case (was he Cecilia’s ex-boyfriend or something like that?) Anyway, he came on the scene because the fit hot 16 year old blonde Linnea (who we discovered to be alive and imprisoned in a near-replica of Sisse’s basement in the recent Darkness: Those Who Kill: is there no originality, even among serial killers?) turned out to have had saucy pictures taken to further a would-be skin-showing modelling career, and he was the photographer.

But I couldn’t really place either in the drama so I was lost a bit through episode 9 and, to be honest, not really caring. Anyway, Wisting went too far in trying to solve the case himself. Having finally persauaded Line to team up with him, they discovered that Ravnberg’s friend, the one who took his dog in, was wearing an axe in his back but that the Police were far keener on arresting Wisting for Obstruction of Justice.

Things got better in part 10. Haglund’s lawyer got Wisting out on bail. Ravnburg’s old girlfriend, Marelen Torunn, came up with a parcel, addressed to Wisting, containing an old video tape showing the genuinely disturbing sight of a clearly petrified Cecilia, blood-smeared and in a tight-fitting dress, nervously dancing for whoever was taking the film. And Marebel provided an address.

Meanwhile, young Benjamin was following Daniel Flom, with Hammer and one of the other members of Wisting’s team, whose name I never got over five weeks, in hot pursuit. Converging pursuers, but not so. They were the red herring: Flom had retreated somewhere isolated to hang himself, but Benjamin saved his life. There was a moment that rose above the general fare as Flom admitted that, yes, he had a thing for scantily clad sixteen year old blondes, but that he only took photos. he had sublimated his kink into photographs, but he never touched them.

Wisting and Line are on their way to the right place, though somehow the pathetic Frank, plus rifle, had gotten there before them, not that there seemed to be an explanation why. More time was given to Line’s renewed relationship with Tommy, the man who ‘ruined her life’, being caught with her with speed and cocaine, and crashing Line out of Police College. Except that they were her drugs and he took the blame and he ruined his life for her sake. If the whole Tommy thing had been of any significance instead of just passing interest, this would have mattered. As it was, Wooden Wisting didn’t react to this revelation at all.

So the Wistings and Frank found poor Linnea, alive, and poor Frank cracked, putting down his rifle where any self-respecting serial killer arriving whilst all the rescuers are bunched in the dungeon could just pick it up. Frank lost it, thought the girl was Ellen, his niece, whose name was scratched into the wall above the one we saw Linnea scratch earlier. Frank thought he’d saved her, and Frank died in that blissful moment, shot with his own rifle by the true killer, the one it had been all along, the supposedly innocent man, Vidor Haglund, the only one left it could plausibly be.

Wisting brought him in, beaten, bloody and soaked. His innocence was proved and he was reinstated. But just who had tampered with the evidence? Someone entered his cottage, looking for the tell-tale evidence against her. Her, it was a her, the arm, the leather glove, a dead giveaway. and by then there was only one plausible culprit, Chief of Police Anne Vetti. Who fixed the evidence to get the killer, and to boost the Police’s morale over the case, for exactly the reasons everyone was convinced Wisting did it. And was stupid enough to admit it without once suspecting Wisting was taping her. Silly woman: if he was expecting you to show up and steal the evidence, why on earth would you not expect him to have a mobile phone taping the conversation from behind the curtain?

Next week, it’s a new series of Inspector Montalbano, which I believe to be very good but which, like Spiral and for the same reasons, I’ve never watched because I didn’t get in at the beginning. So, a few weeks off for me. Wisting was distinctly average, unlike Iceland’s contribution to the Saturday night Scandies. I’d watch another series if they make one, and there are plenty of other books to adapt, even two at a time, but the truth is it’s not good enough to be good and not bad enough to be fun snarking.


Saturday SkandiKrime: Wisting – episodes 7 & 8

I wouldn’t expect too much from me on this pair of episodes because, though the second half of the series is turning out to be more interesting and less conventional than the first with its serial killer, I happen to be watching it with a head full of cold that is not doing anything for my mental acuity. It’s an effort to go beyond Good Procedural, Keep It Up.

For instance, I remember a scene in which a young blonde reported a feeling of being followed to Bejaminm, the youngest member of Wisting’s team. Since she had no evidence whatsoever beyond ‘feeling’, he couldn’t do anything about it. Now the girl, Linnea Kaupang, has gone missing, didn’t come home last night, reported it to the Police, now headed by the efficient-but-distracted-trying-fior-a-baby Torunn. I remember the scene but I can’t remember if that was last week or in a previous one.

Linnea’s case is meant to parallel the Cecilia case over which Wisting has been suspended. Not directly: one involves the faking of evidence to convict a probably innocent man, the other the police not taking a matter sufficiently seriously (with no reason to do so until hindsight intervenes. Benjamin, who conducted the intial interview is getting steadily further involved, especially after Linnea commits suicide.

Or leaves a suicide blog note. The Police have to investigate all options, they can’t just take on trust the word of a mother who wasn’t that close to her daughter but who treats the merest suggestion of conflicts as a direct accusation of being a bad mother.

Meanwhile, Wisting is investigating the Cecilia case from his own records. Someone did plant faked evidence. Nils was all over the case like a cheap suit, and he was relocated from Oslo for taking shortcuts. nd Frank, still obsessed with his niece’s death, convinced Haglund did it and not respecting any niceties about the caswe, is so blatant a suspect that it can’t be him unless the show is pulling an unusually subtle double-bluff.

He end up with Torunn on sick leave, no-one in charge, Linnea’s parents bad-mouthing the Police across all the press, Line getting involved again (as in fucking naked on her Dad’s couch) with ex-boyfriend bad-boy Tommy (why is this relevant?) and a resigned Haglund giving Wisting the clue to identify who fitted him up.

It all made a lot more sense watching this but as i say, my head’s away with the fairies right now. I am going to make myself a coffee and give it the rest of the day off. I’d better be better for the finale, next weekend.

Saturday SkandiKrime: Wisting – episodes 5 & 6

Escape or Rescue?

There’s a large part of me that feels I should be splitting this entry into two blogs, not just two parts. BBC4’s established approach of broadcasting double episodes on Saturday nights has worked beautifully to date, but when a ten episode series is actually two five episode series joined at the hip, there has to be an awkward middle week when we watch the end of a story and the beginning of a story, making an integrated blog about the two nigh on impossible.

So episode 5 brought the adaptation from Jorn Lier Horst’s novel ‘The Caveman’ to an end. Most of the story was technically adept, procedurally straight and well executed, showing Wisting, frantic about his missing daughter Line, burning through false trails very quickly in searching for the serial killer, Richard Godwin. He was so frantic that the Norwegian way of polite, sensible policing went out of the window: Wisting got his gun out of the car without asking permission.

But this wasn’t getting anyone anywhere, until Special Agent Bantham, who hasn’t let on yet that he’s shagged Line two nights gone, an unbelievable dereliction of duty, is clot-headed enough to try leaving her a desperate voicemail, from the command room, when they’re testing her phone for voicemails! This was the bit that blew credibility out of the water: this was Follow the Money levels of scriptwriting incompetence.

But it was the catalyst to spark the final phase. One of Line’s contacts from the Viggo story is brought in to identify the suspect who finally fitted Godwin’s profile, Ole Linge, who has a cottage in Sweden. Meanwhile, following my former friend Linda’s maxim that escape is more interesting than rescue, Line has got herself out of the boot of Godwin’s car when he goes for a shovel to dig its wheels out and stumbled through the snow to a dilapidated barn, whilst the Police fly by helicopter to the scene.

Unfortunately, Godwin has traced her steps. To try to escape, she smashes an oil-lamp to set the barn alight and climbs its rackety walls to the roof, only for Godwin to follow her with a hammer. But the burning barn attracts the Norwegian helicopter. Wisting arrives in time to prevent Godwin tipping Line’s semi-conscious body into a well, but in grappling with the killer, gets his arm broken by the hammer. He’s in danger of going into the well himself, but Maggie Griffin, who’s trailed Godwin for so many years, gets her emotional fulfilment, shooting Godwin, who ends up dumped in the well, fittingly, by Wisting, when he makes a dying attempt with the hammer.

So: it was all good, well-made, active stuff, nothing of any great originality, nor any high tension if I’m being honest. What interested me more was the various aspects of the ending. The Norwegian Police got the credit. Xmas was almost here and Hammer’s wife, free of her cold turkey, wanted to buy him a present. Wisting saw Maggie off at the airport, grateful to the woman who saved his daughter’s and his life, seeing her off with a hug that hinted at a certain wistfulness on his part, afterwards that was.

Even Thomas, Line’s (twin?) brother, was back. But not to stay for Xmas, just to check on his sister. He finds waiting to become a priority with his father too tiring. His Dad loves him, he knows, but he isn’t interested in him. An interesting ending.

Part 2.

The other Lier Horst book to be adapted for this series is ‘The Hunting Dogs’, which, according to Wikipedia, immediately preceded ‘The Caveman’. but which, according to imdb, came out the year after. Certainly it’s been adapted as following more or less directly on from the Godwin case – Wisting and Line have recovered from their injuries, she’s changed her hair-style (bad move) and grown it out a couple of inches – and the opening scene is a TV interview about the Godwin case, but without access to the translated book, I can’t say whether this is simply good screenwriting.

Either way, the hook is that the interview is an ambush for Wisting. There’s a second, unexpected guest, a lawyer named Philip Henden, who accuses the completely blindsided Wisting of having tampered with evidence that saw an innocent man serve 17 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

Personally, and without wishing to turn scriptwriter myself, I would have liked to see Wisting turn to the camera nd say, “The first thing I note is that Mr Henden has said he hs concrete proof without showing that proof or even saying what it consists of. The second is that instead of taking this proof to the Police so it can be investigated, he’s chosen to announce it as a fact on television without giving the slightest notice of his intentions, to go for a cheap publicity stunt and one-sided headlines rather than have it pursued seriously,” but of course it’s asking a lot of the none-too-fluent or quick-thinking Wisting to come up with anything like that. Nevertheless, I’d have liked to see such smartassery get a swift kick in the balls.

We had already met the supposedly innocent murderer earlier in the series, the newly-released, innocence-protesting Vidar Haglund, the man who the obsessive and somewhat pathetic Frank Robeck believes killed his niece.

There was one thing that very definitely assured me that we were not in Britain: Wisting was not constantly doorstepped, followed and beseiged by the jackal press. He was, on the other hand, suspended from duty whilst the Independent Office of Police Control looked into reopening the case. And indeed, Hansen’s deeper investigation of the evidence, resting on Haglund’s DNA on smoked cigarette butts that was the only thing linking Haglund to the crime scene, suggested he was genuinely on to something.

There was, I thought, a missed opportunity here, what with Wisting’s status and character as an ordinary guy. Just for once, just for once, they might have had someone say that they completely understand that they cannot investigate allegations against themselves and they realise they have to be suspended until conclusions are reached. Dammit, you can still go on and investigate yourself despite all the rules and proocedures you break, but is it too much to ask fior somebody to recognise the reality of things?

To be honest, despite the poor reviews given on imdb to the back half of this series, I find this story instinctively more interesting, and I can already see potential shapes for the course of the remaining episodes. Robeck is adamant that Haglund killed not only Cecilia, the girl he was convicted for, but Ellen: we see him cleaning and checking his rifle. Hammer is on course to react stupidly to everything again. Torunn, who we discover is diabetic (at her size? Obviously type 1 then) is asked to take over as acting Chief Investigator, with Hammer passed over.

And then there’s Line. She’s been as bombshelled by her own paper as her father, and she doesn’t like it. To try to force Wisting’s story off page 1, she pursues the murder of an unknown middle-aged man, killed in a park, and guarded by his faithful dog. Line gets the man’s ID and address from the dog’s microchip, finds his house has been broken into and gets a punch and several kicks from the escaping burglar. She still writes the story but, of course, it isn’t allowed any nearer than page 5.

Trying to get her Dad to understand what’s happening, she invokes the Law of Jante. I’ve never heard of this before but I could guess its meaning quickly (it’s a nordic equivalent of the Australian Tall Poppy syndrome): Wisting will be torn down simply because he has achieved a position of prominence and achievement that cannot be accepted.

As a last note, as Wisting leaves, he has an angry exchange with the Police Commissioner, blaming her for Cecilia’s death: after ten days, she had released a vital tape to the Press. It forced the case to an arrest but, according to Wisting, it forced Haglund to kill Cecilia. I shall be very interested to see how that pans out.

So, here we are again, at the beginning. I hope my anticipations for this story will not prove to be hollow.

Saturday SkandiKrime: Wisting – episodes 3 & 4

In the Xmas Tree Forest

If I were passing judgement on Wisting now, I’d say that it was a good Skandi procedural, sensible and well-constructed, but that it’s not great. Some of that is undoubtedly because we are watching a five-part story, with the inevitable simplification, but even allowing for that, it’s just unexceptional. Which still puts it ahead of any UK equivalent, but I expect more from these series. Or less to the extent that I can take a good running snark at it.

Credit is due to the programme for pulling one major strand of wool over our eyes. The pretty young blonde that Hammer’s obsessively watching on his phone is not a soon-to-be victim of the highway killer, Godwin, but rather his wife, Sissel. And before you start think that that’s one marriage definitely on the rocks, she’s actually a heroin addict going cold turkey, and having to be locked in for her own good.

We get that in episode 3, but that’s more or less the only piece of misdirection in this pair of episodes. On the one side, we have Wisting’s team and the FBI pursuing Crabb’s murder and Godwin’s possible career as a serial killer in Norway, extending the range into Sweden. And on the other we have Line Wisting’s ongoing pursuit of the story of died-alone Viggo Hansen that she’s increasingly convinced was murdered.

The farm well Maggie Griffin descended was empty. Not so the one on the farm the Historical Association identifies, that belonged to Godwin’s erstwhile family pre-emigration. The skeleton they find there is of a man, though, presumably the identity Godwin’s taken over. And there’s a covered over well in the Xmas tree forest where Crabb’s body was found. And that one they’re pulling 14-16 skeletons from.

Some other things are swirling round the edges. A guy called Haglund is released from prison after 17 years for a killing he claims he didn’t do. He’s immediately being stalked by Frank Robeck, the ex-copper whose niece Ellen was the first missing girl. Robeck is convinced Haglund is guilty. And guess what? Frank turns up at the Xmas tree farm, demanding to know if it’s Ellen, and collapsing.

As for Line, pissed off at her Dad, she goes off for the night, spends it shagging some near random guy that we recognise as Special Agent Bentham, who has equally no idea who she is. When she finds his badge just before he rushes off to work, she blows the story to the Press, drastically shortening the deadline before Godwin runs.

I am slightly disappointed to see the story heading into cliche territory for the final episode. Line’s car conveniently conks out on the lonely, snowbound Highway: Highway, get it? Equally conveniently, the car that stops to help her is being driven by someone in a big parka hood, who gives Line only the chance to say, “You?!” before he grabs her.

So the bad guy’s kidnapped the good guy’s blonde daughter: bit predictable or what? Tune in at the weekend to see how we get out of this one.


Saturday SkandiKrime: Wisting – episodes 1 & 2

I’m coming late to the party on BBC4’s latest TV trip to Scandinavia, the Norwegian series, Wisting, starring Sven Nordin as Senior Investigator Willian Wisting of the Police in the small town of Larvik. We haven’t had a Norwegian one before so I’m already looking forward to seeing what differences that may make.

The series, apparently the most expensive ever made by Norwegian TV, runs to ten episodes, but this is broken into two stories of five episodes each, based on two books in the series about Wisting written by former Senior Investigating Officer Jord Lier Horst, now running to thirteen novels.

The series begins in the run-up to Xmas, which means snow everywhere, turning the fantastic landscape into a palette of white and steel and pastel colours: absolutely gorgeous. A man on skies, pulling a small child on a sled, enters a forest of Xmas trees, seen from overhead in fantastic geometric patterns. He finds a frozen body under a tree. Wisting’s team, Hammer, Benjamin, Thorun, take pover the investigation.

Wisting’s a widower, living alone, his wife dead almost a year. From the way people speak of her, it wasn’t natural causes. It may be a matter of intrigue, it might be a case of the programme avoiding the ever-irritating ‘As you know’: we’ll have to see. For now, we see the quiet, almost-emotionless Wisting sleeping in one half of the bed and touching the empty pillow on the other side.

He alsio has two children who do not live with him. The younger, Thomas, is a volunteer in Africa, assisting famine relief, but coming home for Xmas. His older sister, Line (Thea Green Lundburg) is a reports with top newspaper/magazine VG in Oslo. Coincidentally, or so we think at first, another body has been found in Larvik, Viggo Hansen, died in his chair four months ago, and only just discovered. Line is assigned to do a feature on Viggo and loneliness in modern Norway, ‘the best country in the world’.

So that’s two investigations, of different weight and seriousness. Daughter trips around asking quesions, police permission to have keys to Viggo’s house, hunting down his childhood classmates. Wisting’s happy to let Line follow this ‘case’ because it’s keeping her distracted. His body is an American, and he might be an elusive serial killer, Richard Godwin, who’s been operating for over twenty years before disappearing. The FBI are sending two agents to observe and advise, Maggie Griffin (Carrie-Anne Moss)  and John Bentham (Ritchie Campbell). The body turns out to be that of Peter Crabb, a former academic and amateur pursuer of Godwin. It is likely Godwin, who is of Norwegian ancestry, has killed him. The Press must not get their hands on any detail.

Meanwhile, we have the increasingly familiar sight, after Darkness: Those Who Kill, of a pretty young blonde, stripped down to her t-shirt and knickers, imprisoned in another unappointed cell, with a security camera observing her.

Stepping out of the story, I’d like to comment on the kind of series we’re watching. So far, this is a straight procedural, much like Trapped, although the characters don’t impress themselves on us as much as in that classic. Wisting is as straight a character as you can get, doing his job with intelligence and calm determination. No maverick he. You sense he’s never been maverick-oriented, and much of his near-absence of character can be laid at the door of a deliberate unemotionalism that’s accompanied his loss. I like him.

There is a maverick however on the team, this being Nils Hammer (Mads Ousdal, our third lead), ex-Narcotics Squad hero and a bit of a law unto himself. Hammer doesn’t like the idea of the FBI, he likes even less that the leader is a woman, and he reacts badly to Maggie describing the elusive Godwin as a ‘caveman’. What she means is tht Godwin constructs identities for himself by taking over the lives of legitimate people but Hammer takes it as an insult to Norway, insinuating its population are cavemen and neanderthals. his uncooperative attitude to Maggie thereafter, his refusal to concentrate on the job, taking diversions, stopping for free coffee, obsessing over his phone would tend to support that interpretation.

The two clash, as a result of which Hammer goes home earrly and refuses to answer his phone or door to Wisting. There’s a moment’s frisson when he’s collected, next day, by Benjamin, whose characteristic is her nervous inexperience (Thorun is the research expert, eager and positive): I had this sudden, horrific thought that he might be Godwin. But he physically can’t have been.

Meanwhile, the case has expanded to include a possible forty-six Norwegian victims, all young, pretty blondes, to add to the thirty-plus American victims. One of them may have been Ellen Robeck, missing many long years, whose uncle was Senior Investigating Officer Frank Robeck, broken by the experience and following this investigation at a safe distance.

And Line’s investigations have led her to the belief that Viggo may have been murdered as well. It’s a circumstantial point but a valid one: It’s a circumstantial but valid point. Viggo was found dead in an armchair in front of a switched-on TV. But evidence showed the other chair was the one he sat in. Wisting’s refusal to take this seriously further alienates the family.

Meanwhile, an old burnt-out farm with a covered well has been identified with Godwin’s M.O. for hiding bodies. Maggie angers Hammer by going down in on Wisting’s authority.  Hammer’s obsessing over his missing phone. Wisting finds it in the car, passes it to him. Hammer stomps back to the car to look at it. He’s viewing security camera surveillance footage of the girl in the basement…

Oh my.

That’s the opening weekend. On this evdence, I’d welcome Wisting as good Skandi, with room to grow ino very good, though I don’t like the five part story idea. But good is good enough for me, when set against the standard of its British equivalents. I’ll be catching-up in midweek on episodes 3 & 4 so as to be on track next weekend, so keep your eyes open if you’re following this, and if you’re not, get cracking.