Review: Arne Dahl (S2 E1&2/10), Saturday 17th October, BBC4

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Programme Name: Arne Dahl - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Gunnar Nyberg (MAGNUS SAMUELSSON) - (C) Filmlance International AB - Photographer: Johan Paulin

(C) Filmlance International AB – Photographer: Johan Paulin

The first series of the adaptations of the cult Intercrime novels of Jan Arnald (nom de plume Arne Dahl) aired in April 2013 on BBC4. We immediately enjoyed it because it had something of the feel of the early New Tricks series; it had gritty characters who weren’t all impossibly glamorous 20-somethings, but instead fairly hardboiled, old-hand detectives.

The initial outing adapted the first five books in Dahl’s series; series two will adapt the rest. The timeline is two years after the end of the first series – former A-Unit boss Jenny Hultin (Irene Lindh) having retired (shame, we really loved the tough old bird).
The hot seat is now occupied by Kerstin Holm (the younger and considerably more raunchy-looking Malin Arvidsson).
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, most members of the old gang return, although some of Hultin’s previous colleagues have also moved onto different jobs. Viggo Norlander (Claes Ljungmark) is a public relations/press officer for the force. Paul Hjelm (Shanti Roney) is now head of the dreaded Internal Investigations Bureau, so we should probably get ready to boo and hiss when he appears, as that seems to be a trope with crime procedurals (pace CSI Miami’s Horatio Caine and his relationship with Rick Stetler). Hjelm is now divorced and in a clandestine affair with Holm.
A-Unit members Gunnar Nyberg, Arto Söderstedt, and married couple Sara Svenhagen and Jorge Chavez are still on the strength (though Chavez is played by a new actor, Alexander Salzberger). The new blood comes with language expert Ida Jankowicz (Natalie Minnevik) – fresh out of the police academy.
Three Polish women including cleaner Elzbieta are murdered, and two more are on the run; all were potential witnesses in a case against the Polish mafia. Kerstin Holm is asked to reassemble the decommissioned A-Unit to protect the two surviving witnesses, and to nursemaid a Polish police delegation.
The women were nurses paid to administer euthenasia to patients to boost the profits of mob-owned funeral homes; now only two, Ana and Jadwiga, survive, and they’re being stalked by killer Ballin.
There are plenty of leads to help track down the women; mobiles, social media, employment records, witnesses, CCTV – but Holm’s federal police contact Bengt also has an interest in the case. Is he a Bengt copper?
Chavez and Hjelm go for a boozy night, and Chavez is caught on video smoking dope; Hjelm tries to wriggle out of having to investigate him, though his sniffy new secretary makes life difficult.
Nyberg and Jankowicz go in search of Ballin’s old smuggling buddies and find his car, but Jancowicz gets shot by Ballin, who says “She’s seen too much” –  what, that old one?
Meanwhile drug addict Jeanette and her brother Danne are planning an evening watching season two of The Bridge, but Jeanette decides to OD instead – perhaps she’d guessed the ending. Her last call is to her dealer boyfriend, Anders, but what’s become of him?
The episode one cliffhanger is resolved when Nyberg storms in and saves Ida, but she’s hospitalised. Ballin’s buddy Lind later reveals that Ballin’s heading for a port.
A chastened Ida is out of hospital in hours, her head-wound miraculously unbandaged and her hair unshaved.
Chavez and Söderstedt figure out from Facebook that the missing Ana is pregnant, and probably by Ballin, and that she’s meeting up with Jadwiga and Ballin. Ballin kills Jadwiga, but Gunnar and Ida save Ana and capture Ballin.
With the case seemingly closed, Ballin denies killing Elzbieta; so who did, and why are her fingerprints on a bin bag found on the body of drug dealer Anders? In a tense finale, Holm corners Danne, who admits to killing Anders in his office, then having to kill cleaner Elzbieta who witnessed the crime.
Holm and Hjelm argue about their relationship and split up – what’s wrong with him, hasn’t he seen her working out? He does get Chavez off the hook though, using the old wee-wee switcheroo.
It’s an odd yarn, in which there’s relatively little detective work to do, in that we know from the word ‘go’ who did the crimes and why (okay, not the murder of Elzbieta), and all that remains is to track him down. The rest is mainly bed-hopping. Hjelm’s not cut out to be a Internal Affairs copper, he’s far too soft, and Ida’s probably not cut out to be a cop at all, she’s too flirty and hot-headed.
And we never figured out why the story is called A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Nonetheless there’s an odd enjoyment to be had from the quirky relationships of the A-Unit. We just think that by now they’d have been moved to a better office. And what happened to the character of the mysterious janitor, who may have been God, or Arne Dahl?
Chris Jenkins and Deborah Shrewsbury
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6 thoughts on “Review: Arne Dahl (S2 E1&2/10), Saturday 17th October, BBC4

  1. Frank

    The janitor was the only thing that lifted the series above the utterly mediocre.
    I watched about 3 minutes of this one, then switched it off.
    Like others, it suffers from TranssexualNeonaziSerialKillerSyndrome – high-pitched boredom created by eliminating subtlety.

    Switched to ‘Vera’. What a difference.

    Like

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