Five reasons why Beck is the Swedish equivalent of Morse

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beck-larssonWe’ve really been enjoying Swedish drama Beck over on BBC4 this past month. It’s a very solid, watchable and entertaining adaptation of the Martin Beck novels by legendary husband-and-wife team Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. There’s an interesting dynamic at the heart of the series, between the eponymous Martin Beck and that of his partner Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt). The two couldn’t be more different, and when watching them at work we were reminded of something. Or someone- our very own Inspector Morse and his partner, Lewis. Here are our reasons why.

1. Their love lives…
Beck, like Morse, isn’t very successful with the opposite sex as far as we have seen in this BBC4 outing – the latest series to be filmed. He was unhappily married and is now a lonely divorcé. He has daughter Inger (with whom he seems close, although most of their relationship is played out in restaurants). But his only contact outside work is his next-door neighbour, mad elderly hippie Grannen (Ingmar Hirdwall). We haven’t seen him get off with the nice pathologist Gunilla yet – she flirts with him over dead bodies, and he just squirms like a small boy. Pity, she seems a lot of fun, with a joie de vivre shared by Robbie Lewis’s squeeze Dr Laura Hobson.

Poor old Morse has never even been married. In Inspector Morse’s first outing, The Dead Of Jericho, the woman he tries to court, Anne Stavely, is murdered. Later he tries to rekindle things with his ex-fiancée Susan Fallon, who turns out to have killed her husband. Then, in series three he is attracted to young pathologist Dr Grayling Russell, but is beaten to the punch when her old flame turns up in Oxford. Finally, when it seems that he’s going to settle with lovely Adele Cecil (Judy Loe) she ups and emigrates.

2. Their sidekicks…
Sidekicks Gunvald Larsson and Robbie Lewis are a far more worldly people than Beck and Morse, and relate much more easily to other people (although Larsson is a more abrasive character than softie Lewis). Both are far better at ‘reading’ suspects than their superior officers and often are first to spot the baddie.

Both sets of partners do rub each other up the wrong way at times, but they share an unshakable loyalty in the face of hostile colleagues. Larsson and Beck are united in their distrust of flashy boss Klas Fréden (Jonas Karlsson), just as Morse and Lewis deflect all efforts by their superiors to split them up.

3. Their drink…
Both are partial to a drink or three. Beck’s balcony moments with odd neighbour Grannen (Ingmar Hirdwall), who seems to be drunk most of the time, always culminate in Grannen asking if Martin wants another drink – he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of black-market hooch.

Lonely Morse is always trying to drag Lewis away from family and hearth to keep him company in the pub. ‘Morse’s Law’ is there’s always time for one more pint. And indeed it is probably the heavy drinking that hastens his premature death.

4. Their bosses…
Beck, like Morse, is put upon by a boss who is far less clever than he is (although we did loved old Chief Supt Strange (James Grout). Someone really ought to punch Freden (come on, Larsson, you know you want to…). Fréden is an incompetent and ineffectual boss who probably comes over well to his superiors – he looks good and is very plausible. He probably bamboozles them with flip charts and spreadsheets about crime clear-up rates – the sort of person who races up the ranks past diligent and gifted detectives like Beck and Morse.

Morse encountered several colleagues like this over the series – those who had far less substance than he.

5. Their working relationships…
It always feels like the boss is trying to boot Beck out – just as colleagues were always telling Morse he should retire. But, like Morse, he has little but work in his life. Although both Beck and Morse seem to share an artistic side – Morse loved the arts, especially music, and Beck seems drawn by literature – even following up a literary quote as a clue left by the killer in Buried Alive.

Deborah Shrewsbury
@shrewdkitty

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