Review: Beck (E3/5), Saturday 26th September, BBC4

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So far in this first (to UK viewers) series of Beck has been like Hamlet without the prince – titular figure Martin (Peter Haber) has seemed semi-detached from the drama. He has basically formed the hub around whom the action swirls. That trend persisted this week. But as our lonely hero is diverted by his family’s troubles, the far more dynamic personality of Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt) took centre stage. 

He is the supposed ‘bad cop’ of the Beck/Larsson double act, but that unfairly maligns him. Inured he may be to the evils that stalk the mean streets of Stockholm (which is reminiscent of Blade Runner’s LA in the terrifically moody title sequence), but for all Larsson’s sardoniccanteen-culture posing, there are chinks in his armour. Last week we saw his protectiveness towards his wayward niece.  This week he starts to fall for a dead gangster’s moll – and the fallout causes him pain.

Said moll is Charlotta (Marie Robertson) the pretty but petulant girl-child wife of Zlatko Lozanovic, a notorious crime boss who is killed by a hoodie-wearing gunman in front of his family – Charlotta, father-in-law Bertil, and cute kids Jonathan and Alice – shot through a window in his ritzy modernist glass home.

Lozanovic is a major underworld player of Tony Soprano-style clout; he has links to Californian drugs dealers and he launders money through his three restaurants. The squad discovers that there have been a couple of previous near misses. So his murderer is either a rival or a disaffected associate who observes the mythic mob mantra of “never kill women or children” – or there is something more to the attack than the detectives first assume. 

The family appears grief-stricken; long-suffering Bertil tells Beck and Larsson that he saw it coming and had offered his son-in-law a legit job at his hardware business, but Lozanovic had sneered “I’m not selling door handles”.

Icy Charlotta doesn’t help her case by being totally uncommunicative at first. But Göran, Bertil’s friend and family dentist, assures Beck and Larsson that he will look after the family; he feels he owes them because they stuck by him when he was ostracised after being jailed for coke use.

Beck’s unfeasibly smug boss Klas Freden (Jonas Karlsson) calls innarcotics detective Rimfors to follow up the cocaine trail in the case. Larsson is not a fan of Rimfors, aka ‘The Squire’, and warns everyone in a briefing, “he’s basically lazy, but a fiend at getting others to do his work”. He even makes a wager with his junior detective Oskar Bergman (Mans Nathanaelson) that “we’ll end up finding the drugs as well”.

Freden has this in common with Rimfors, then. He’s all for going for a high clean-up rate rather than real detection and is more interested in improving his personal best running time than doing his job. His professional-standard cycling gear is ludicrous – shades of WIA here as he pins Beck to the lift wall while lugging in his top-of-the-range bike. It’s a shame that young Oskar feels he has to emulate his boss to the point where he suffers a stress fracture.

And boy, does Larsson stick the knife into Rimfors at every opportunity about his lackadaisical attitude. Larsson is usually so astute at summing people up – he’s bang on the money about Rimfors, so it is all the more surprising that he’s blindsided by key witnesses in the dead man’s circle.

Following observation of the funeral party – where one of Lozanovic’s heavies promises to avenge his death – two leads that emerge are the possible gunman Josef el-Bahri, a member of the smuggling network who may have been skimming cash, and a mysterious ‘HP’, who is marked for a meeting in his diary.

Josef is nabbed and put in a line-up. Charlotta clearly recognises him but refuses to accuse him, which infuriates and worries Larsson in equal measure, as he is softening towards her and the children.

HP is identified by chance when squad member Ayda Cetin (Elmira Arikan) recognises a hit-and-run fatality as Jennifer Rundquist, a woman in her Narcotics Anonymous group who was the on-off girlfriend of abusive petty crook Hannu Peltonen. Peltonen was a former washer-upper at one of Lozanovic’s eateries. It transpires that broke single mum Jennifer had tried to blackmail Lozanovic usingPeltonen’s phone, but had been run down by an assailant who swiped the mobile.

 The rush is on to find both Josef and Peltonen lest more retribution should follow.

When Josef is hospitalised by Lozanovic’s heavy, the cops find out that although he was in debt to the dead man, he hadn’t stolen from him – but he had been set up to carry out an earlier attempt onLozanovic’s life.

Charlotta is now playing Larsson, and erotic possibilities begin to emerge when she makes what could be a midnight booty call. He meets her at the police station where she opens her heart about how her marriage made her a pariah among her old friends and that she is desperately lonely. Then she asks where the toilet is – where is this going? But the moment passes without anyone being morally compromised. This encounter is followed by a meal at her father’s family home – cue lingering looks and handholding across the dinner table.

Her motivation is by turns innocent, then suspect. Is this a woman in turmoil, or is she capable of manipulating her husband’s cronies to rid her of this increasingly burdensome union?

A SWAT team takes in Peltonen, who is genuinely shocked by Jennifer’s death. The case is solved when Larsson follows up reports of a partial car number plate and signs of damage to the front of dentist Göran’s car. Bertil and Göran had been in cahoots to killLozanovic.

Poor Larsson looks bereft as Charlotta freezes him out by for banging up her dad. He’d opened up on his embittered attitude to life more to her than to anyone. When asked at dinner why he’d become a policeman, he admitted “Too many bankers in the family. Someone has to serve the good side”. That is Larsson to a T – he’s a goodie, albeit a hard goodie. 

Beck, distracted throughout, finds things particularly problematical because of the children involved – Charlotta’s two, and Jennifer’s daughter – for a moment he reminded us of CSI Miami’s Horatio Caine, who always got mawkish over kiddies.

It stems from the worry that Vilhelm, his teenaged grandson, is being bullied by a lad on the school football team. While spectating, Beck has to caution the boy’s overzealous touchline father when he wades in during a match to support his son in a vicious tackle on Vilhelm. He follows this up with a cease-and-desist plea at the boy’s home after daughter Inger complains about nasty texts to Vilhelm.

He’s appalled and paralysed with guilt later when he sees the bully’s father under arrest for beating up his son. Will Beck ever find happiness? He’s even bewildered by the flirtatious pathologist Gunilla, who does her level best to get his attention over the cadavers (have the scriptwriters modelled this relationship on Oxford’s Robbie Lewis and Laura Hobson?). Do yourself a favour and take the plunge, Beck – she’s a hot older woman and she has to be better company of a night than the mad old guy who lives next door to you.

Deborah Shrewsbury

For our episode one review go here

For our episode two review go here 

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