This new 13-part series, written by American writer Robert Moresco and starring Michael Nyqvist and Dominic Monaghan is a classic culture-clash drama, with two mismatched cops paired together to solve a serial killer case in Stockholm. It’s a huge co-production between HBO Nordic, Kanal 5 and two Sky channels in different territories, and this internationalist approach is evident throughout – even though it’s set in a place we know well thanks to some recent, superior Scandinavian dramas, there’s a sense that 100 Code doesn’t have an anchor.
You can see how Moresco came up with this idea. He has obviously seen the success of The Bridge (especially The Bridge) and other Scandi dramas and thought, ‘I’ll have a piece of that’ and got to work shoe-horning a slick American procedural into a moody Nordic noir tale.
Before we go any further, let’s get the story nailed down. Dominic Monaghan plays Tommy Conley, a wise-talking NYD murder cop who is obsessed with a serial killer case he’s been unable to crack. This killer’s MO is to drug beautiful young teenage women (who we see naked, quite gratuitously), bury them alive with a breathing tube protruding from the earth and letting then, eventually, stuffing the airway with flowers. Oh, and this is always done in a field of asphodels. He did this six times between January and March in New York, but the trail went dead.
Conley accidentally shot his partner dead in pursuit of the killer and a year later he’s in Stockholm following up some leads – he’s convinced that his man was on a trip to New York and, after scanning databases of similar killings, he’s now convinced the killer’s hometown is Stockholm and that he’s carrying on his gruesome work in Sweden.
He’s partnered with widowed cop Mikael Eklund, who’s on the verge of quitting the force and taking up a job at a security firm run by an old chum (oh hi, Magnus ‘The Bridge’ Krepper), but for his last case he’s partnered with Conley. They immediately hate each other. Conley is dismissive and earnest and hasn’t revealed everything about his mission, while Eklund simply doesn’t want to be on the case.
Together they uncover two fresh bodies that match the killer’s MO, which confirms to Conley that this is the same man he’s been searching for. After lots of cliched toing and froing, and plenty of culture clash bickering (no, you drive on THAT side of the road etc etc) the two finally reach an understanding, and Conley starts to divulge all his investigation and stash of evidence to Eklund, his boss and his team of co-investigators. (Yes, there’s a rag-tag bunch of surly Swedish members of an investigative team.)
Conley’s investigations have reveal that this killer takes two girls in every month of winter. The asphodels, Conley explained, led him to look into Greek mythology (as you do) and then to links with Hades, the god of the underworld, who kidnaps Zeus’s daughter Persephone, rapes her and then drags her into hell for four months. So one of his victims is replicating a Hades scenario, while the second victim is for his own sick pleasure.
It’s a convoluted, slightly daft scenario straight out of an episode of CSI or something very high concept and American. And that’s the problem with 100 Code – aside from the shocking dialogue (especially from Conley), Monaghan’s faltering accent and some jumps in narrative, it feels like an American show (full of gratuitous shots of naked, murdered women, and the killer burying his prey) forced into a Scandi drama. The balance is wrong, and Monaghan and Nyqvist don’t mesh well together. Heck, the sun is shining in Stockholm.
So it feels forced and just not as nuanced or stoic as the Scandinavian dramas it obviously tries to ape. It just feels earnest and a bit silly. But there are things to like, namely we love a good serial killer case and Nyqvist is reassuringly grumpy and Swedish.
So it’s a show that’s hard to love, but it’s also a show that’s hard to hate. And with 12 more episodes, I might just stick this out.