What with all the foolish water cooler prattle about wooly jumpers and even the PR-minded PM David Cameron jumping onto the Killing bandwagon, it’s perhaps tempting to try to dismiss Soren Sveistrup’s hit Danish thriller as the latest Emperor’s New Clothes candidate.
Unfortunately for the grumps and cynics, this second round of classy Scandinavian drama is almost as good as the sublime first outing for the fragile yet fearless Detective Inspector Sara Lund.
Fans of Forbrydelsen (as the show is known in its native tongue) will know the deal. The first series saw our maverick cop protagonist Lund (Sofie Grabol) and her partner Jan Meyer (Soren Malling) looking into the complex murder of a teenage girl.
Following the grieving process of the girl’s family alongside an investigation spreading across Copenhagen, encompassing local politics and an unfolding scandal, to solve the case, Lund sacrificed her career, family and arguably a large part of her soul.
Series 2 kicks off with a shell-shocked Lund banished (in true McNulty style) to a low-level coastal border control post miles from Copenhagen. Living alone, away from her family in a dazed state, confidence in her abilities after the climactic events of Series 1 is shattered and she functions quietly and pointlessly.
That is, until the silence is broken by her former boss, Chief Inspector Lennart Brix (Morten Suurballe), as he calls for Lund’s impressive detective skills to help solve a new case involving the murders of a lawyer and former servicemen returned from Afghanistan.
Where the first series sprawled over twenty episodes and dealt with the intricacies of the case and Copenhagen’s political makeup, this time the action is faster-paced (it’s only ten episodes) and blunter, with a much wider focus, covering national politics, international warfare, organized religion, and, of course, corruption.
This run’s equivalent to good guy politician Troels Hartmann comes in the form of idealistic new Minister of Justice Thomas Buch (Nicolas Bro), who slowly uncovers a cover-up that threatens to bring down the government.
Once again, the ingredients come together effortlessly to make for compulsive viewing. Grabol is brilliant at conveying the intriguing (and infuriating) layers beneath Lund’s thin shell.
Likewise, the supporting cast (including Borgen’s Mikael Birkkjær as new partner, Detective Ulrik Strange), though maybe not given as fleshed-out roles as the first series’ cast, are all totally believable, evoking just the right mixture of empathy and suspicion to keep the viewers guessing. Particularly, Bro seems born to play the scruffy, unlikely politician Buch, the sort of righteous tub-thumping hero searching for the truth.
The wider-scale themes and power games might hint at something of a Hollywood-isation of Forbrydelsen. Though thankfully not as glossy as the weak US remake, there is an undeniable attempt to smooth out some of the show’s idiosyncrasies into a slightly more formulaic style, with certain plot developments coming across as ever so slightly contrived. Blasphemy, you may say? Well, luckily, this is a minor quibble when the action is this engaging, the acting this authentic and the writing this concise.
With a third and final series in production and set to air in Denmark in September, here’s hoping the team can keep up these ridiculously high standards.
Released on DVD on Monday 19th December 2011 by Entertainment One.
What did you think of Series 2? Let us know below…