Review: Beck (E4/5), Saturday 3rd October, BBC4


Because of the rather piecemeal way this series is being shown, when the first episode aired I was moaning about how Beck looked dated; now the Beeb is showing the final few episodes The Invasion looked all too de nos jours for comfort as the plight of migrants in Sweden’s black economy is thrown into heartbreaking relief.

Two babies are about to be born in Stockholm, but under such divergent circumstances that they might as well as well be on different planets. 

Junior detective Oskar (Mans Nathanaelson) is panicked by first-world problems surrounding the imminent arrival of his baby; will he be able to cope in the delivery ward, what to call him/her – fearing that Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt) may be serious about his demand that the baby should be named after him. Wife Petra is fed up of his incessant fussing one minute and false alarms the next.

If only pregnancy were as simple for cleaner Dusanka, a Chechen immigrant who suffers antenatal bleeding while working for Thomas Engberg (Simon Norrthon), a brutal contract cleaning gangmaster. No room at the inn for her.

When a body is discovered in a shallow grave by kids playing in woodland outside Stockholm (which, if Scandi TV drama is anything to go by, must be home to more dead bodies than the deserts outside Las Vegas) it is at first surmised that he is a victim of a conflict within an IS terror cell.

This is bad news on several levels – especially to our friend Larsson, who bets his colleagues 100 Kroner that their unctuous boss Klas Fredén (Jonas Karlsson) will pass the case on to the Security Service. He’s right; in sweeps the officious Tobias Helm to look for skulduggery at the local mosque. But their coppers’ noses tell Beck and Larsson that this death probably has no terror connections – despite a red herring about stolen cleaning fluid for possible bomb-making.

Then Ibrahim Khayed, owner of a party favours company, is found bludgeoned to death in similar fashion at his warehouse on an industrial estate. Neighbouring mechanic Hannes is not much help, decrying “bloody foreigners” and accusing them of plotting a “Muslim coup”. Despite the fact he’s on crutches, this racist rant earns him a hefty shove to the floor. This summary violence is borne of basic humanity, so we forgive an indignant Larsson.

Colleague Ayda, sharper than a tack, spots that the party company could be money laundering. She tracks a fingerprint in the warehouse to an illegal Chechen immigrant Jamil (Alexej Manvelov), who is on a terrorist watchlist.

When a third immigrant building worker commits suicide – believing he is responsible for the death of another labourer – the discovery of some blueprints leads the squad to link unscrupulous construction company boss Peter Norman (Niklas Jarneheim) with gangmaster Engberg. The two have conspired to procure illegal labour – and cover up a death. The man in the woods had met with an accident on site. Engberg had killed witness Khayed in the warehouse, but failed to catch Jamil, who was collecting money from Khayed.

But in a fateful coincidence while interviewing Engberg at this cleaning firm, Beck helps him identify Jamil as employee Dusanka’s husband, putting them both in grave danger.

When construction boss Norman (feeling a pang of guilt) drops the couple at a hospital, staff tell them to stay at a hostel until she is ready to give birth. They can’t get in, so go back to sleep in Norman’s garage.

On babywatch at home, Oskar studies CCTV footage implicating Engberg as the killer. And the race is on to track him down before he kills the couple – and partner-in-crime Norman.

This astonishingly prescient episode painfully evokes existence on the margins of Western society; Jamil and Dusanka are awaiting their baby’s birth squatting in a shipping container with no amenities and little in the way of a social safety net. Indeed, Beck’s daughter Inger, who volunteers at a charity clinic, explains how little support undocumented migrants receive.

Sweden expects that around 80,000 refugees will apply for asylum there in 2015. And with a rise in the fortunes of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, the country’s third-largest party, could it be long before we see the kind of backlash seen recently in other countries in northern Europe – shades of Sweden’s dark past?

On a lighter note, Beck is still feeling discomfited by Dr Gunilla’s flirting in the path lab – she knows his birthday is coming up and is clearly angling for a date with the bashful divorcé, who looks so panicked that anyone would think she’d offered to perform a sex act on him. “I’m not only interested in the dead,” she purrs.

Later, he is called into an inappropriately timed career appraisal interview by Fredén – a natural-born petty middle-manager who preens like he’s model David Gandy – will do anything to get out of doing actual police work. The performance review is so asinine it puts us in mind of David Brent quizzing a monosyllabic Keith in The Office (”always the same options“). He even gives him ‘homework’ – deciding which three people he likes most outside of work. Beck is just too polite; Larsson would tell Fredén where to stick his appraisal form. One has to wonder whether this appraisal on the eve of what could turn out to be a terrorist outrage is merely a clumsy ruse to broom the veteran cop out of his job.

Oskar, by the end of the episode, is the proud dad of baby Emma. A nice end to a day that he and Larsson were almost shot in a warehouse raid by SWAT – courtesy of the secret service – which had sent in the big guns expecting to find bomb-making chemicals – instead they round up a van full of terrified illegal Mrs Mops.

Deborah Shrewsbury

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here

For our episode three review, go here


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Gunvald Larsson really deserved his own series. Bad boy actor Mikael Persbrandt has the timing most comedians can only dream of, and true gravitas when it’s needed.


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