Review: Beck (E5), Saturday 10th October, BBC4


Beck 30, Sjukhusmorden/The Hospital Murders Måns Nathanaelson as Oskar Bergman, Peter Haber as Martin Beck and Mikael Persbrandt as Gunvald Larsson

An elderly woman dies in a hospital in Stockholm from what seems to be a common side effect of motor neurone disease, but her son refuses to accept it. Who killed Birgitta Lindvall? Is an angel of death stalking the hospital where this incapacitated woman is found slumped in front of late-night TV, possibly killed by a morphine overdose, an empty hypodermic needle on a table just out of her reach?

The multistory infirmary building is a grim place by day, but at night it’s even creepier – all flickering strip lighting and empty corridors. On screen, hospitals at night always remind one of that scene in The Godfather in which Michael Corleone races around dark, silent deserted corridors in the belief that his father is going to be hit by mobsters any moment? In reality, even in these days of austerity, hospitals are hellishly noisy at night.

Next morning, a hungover Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt), hitting the soluble aspirin, isn’t impressed. “I might be talking out of my arse, but don’t we have more vital things to do than hunt down some dopey nurse who maybe gave the wrong injection to a dying patient?” He always whinges before he starts investigating a case – then hangs onto it like a terrier with a twig. But it’s nice to know that he takes the side of the knackered medical staff. Hell, the old girl wasn’t going anywhere, was she? And, no, he tells young colleague Ayda (Elmira Arikan), he doesn’t have a hangover – he has a headache because he was reading a book about the cold war all night – explaining to the cheeky whippersnapper that it was when the Russians were the ‘baddies’ and not the Arabs.

Boss Freden (Jonas Karlsson) points out (without even looking up from his mobile – we bet he’s Tweeting about cycling or running or his latest sports gear) that the hospital is still reeling from recent allegations over a paediatrician there. He doesn’t really want to ruffle any feathers and doesn’t want the media getting hold of the story. Some hope.

Straight arrow Martin Back (Peter Haber), of course, wants to do his best for her grieving son, Petter, a bearded Phil Mitchell type who has just put the fear of God into the tiny female hospital administrator.

Beck’s tête-à-tête with sexy pathologist Gunilla (Anu Sinisalo) reveals that the woman had died of suffocation – easy to do in Birgitta’s state, says Gunilla.

Lindvall says that his mother was intimidated by her doctor, Johan Fors, and that he didn’t trust him because he interprets Fors’s written prognosis as threatening an assisted death.

Fors tells Beck he has no idea why a morphine shot was in the room. (Indeed, it later transpires that a newly qualified nurse from another ward had inadvertently left the empty syringe when she had popped in to help the old lady.)

Dry, analytical Ayda comes up with no obvious motive for someone to kill Birgitta; perhaps replies Larsson snarkily, it was out of compassion, “it’s an unfamiliar word, I know…”.

But Lindvall follows Fors around, even leaving a note saying ‘murderer’ on his windscreen. So when Fors falls from the hospital roof (a popular break spot for staff), Lindvall is the squad’s first port of call (he has form for nutty behaviour, having once been sent down for pestering a woman with whom he was infatuated). However, Fors’s wife Eva (Gunilla Backman) was on his case for working too hard and not being at home to monitor fragile daughter Sofie, a psychiatric patient. Fors’s colleague Vibeke (Camilla Bendix) is also implicated because they were having an affair.

While Lindvall struts dementedly around his eight-by-10 police holding cell, we are checking out its rather tasteful matching oak desk and chair, book shelves(!) and bed. It looks like a university halls of residence bedroom. One has to hand it to the Swedes – they do everything with more style.

This final episode runs out of steam plotwise with this fairly lifeless tale. The dead woman’s son is convinced that a clear case of death by natural causes was murder, and the doctors and nurses just blame each other. Beck’s methodical approach channels bank manager more than copper, and it takes longer than it should to pin down the mentally ill daughter for the accidental killing of her dad because he was playing away.

Once again Freden wanders about the office like he’s Bradley Wiggins’ better-looking brother on the final leg of the Tour de France, inexplicably waggling his bike wheels in Beck’s face. He does, though, get to the bottom of Larsson’s four-day long headache by lending him his stylish tortoiseshell-framed designer glasses to read, then spoils this act of kindness by showing off to everyone about how expensive they were.

Beck’s daughter Inger again berates him about his lack of a life out of work – we glean that she is a lesbian and pretty much just as lonely. Comic neighbour Grannen (Ingvar Hirdwall) tries to interest Beck in a singles cruise so they can both get laid – you have to hand it to the old guy, he’s a trier.

Beck and Gunilla do get finally get lunch together – in the police station canteen, although that’s only after he’s bumped into her husband Rolf in her path lab and ignored her midnight booty call. They bond over being empty-nesters – Gunilla’s daughter Lovisa has just moved out. Beck says he only has Inger (his son having died). But it is just not to be; obviously reflecting on the case, which revolved around the fallout from marital infidelity, he ducks out of a weekend tryst and ends up sitting on a bench in silent contemplation of life’s vicissitudes with his true soulmate, Larsson.

Deborah Shrewsbury

For our episode one review go here

For our episode two review go here

For our episode three review go here

For our episode four review go here

Five reasons why Beck is the Swedish Morse go here


One thought on “Review: Beck (E5), Saturday 10th October, BBC4

  1. Dee

    Nice synopsis of an episode that I rather enjoyed. Still reflecting on that touching final scene. After five episodes I’ve become a true fan of this show & it’s excellent, understated acting. Off to the web to see if there are more subtitled episodes to enjoy.


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