Review: Beck (The Silent Scream), Saturday 30th July, BBC4

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p041fn6wPoor Martin Beck (Peter Haber) is not having a good day; the milk for his breakfast has boiled over and he has a raging toothache. To compound this, he hears on his kitchen radio that there’s blood on the tracks in his patch at Stockholm’s Flemingsberg Station.

Two girls have been hit by a train and die on the way to hospital – much to the distress of the poor driver (who looks disconcertingly like Ellen DeGeneres). As they were lying across the line, was it murder or a double suicide?

Beck is even more preoccupied than usual when he arrives at work (he’s emotionally semi-detached and unclubbable to a degree that is unusual even in the socially dysfunctional TV cop stereotype), so it’s lucky that the first responders are on the ball enough to spot larger footprints leading to the rails, revealing that someone was with the girls. Were they killed by an itinerant whose makeshift shack is nearby?

Moa Marklund’s Waynetta Slob-like mother seems incredibly vague and unperturbed by her 15-year-old daughter’s whereabouts, although she gives Beck a rundown of her comings and goings with her friend Jiyan. Faced with Marklund in her dressing gown and dragging on her ciggie, Beck is discomfited.

His colleague Lena Klingström (Stina Rautelin), a copper with a much more empathetic touch, gets further with Jiyan’s over-protective parents, and gains the trust of their older daughter, Eva, who collars Lena to tell her that Jiyan had been depressed and the girls had run away because of her parents’ overbearing strictness.

Both girls, it transpires, were living fairly torrid lives. Middle-class Jiyan was being pressured by her dodgy gymnastics coach to carry on training with him against her inclination. But she had quit, much against her father’s wish to bask in the glory of her apparent talent.

And sink-estate Moa was the victim of revenge porn shaming by her yobbish ex-boyfriend Fabian for chucking him, as Larsson (Mikhael Persbrandt) learns by menacingly brandishing a pool cue at the boy.

Although Moa’s diary outlines many of the girls’ woes – including that she had begun cutting herself, nothing seems to indicate a suicide pact. It then emerges at the autopsy that both had been slipped Rohypnol – the ‘date rape’ drug. Fabian’s threat to expose her, and his cache of the drug are unearthed when the detectives discover a stack of mobiles stolen from fellow pupils.

In fact, this 2007 episode, ‘The Silent Scream’, should have been subtitled ‘The perils of social media’ because we later see Eva being groomed for ‘modelling’ by Anders Larsson  (Jonatan Blode), a creepy amateur photographer posing as teenager ‘Nadja’. In an internet chatroom, he entices her to show her boobs over the webcam (like Moa before her) and then to meet a ‘top glamour photographer’ IRL at a grotty underpass outside the city. He boasts he’s snapped top Swedish models and – boom – Eva’s hooked, only to be left wandering off afterwards, stupefied by a mix of drugs and alcohol.

In a video recording retrieved from Jiyan’s phone, picked up by the homeless guy from the shack who had pleaded with the girls to stay away from the railway, Beck and his team discover that the pressure and intimidation faced by these young women had driven them into a suicide pact.

This storyline must have seemed shocking to audiences then (Facebook had launched across UK university campuses in 2005 and to the general public in 2006), but of course it looks entirely obvious from the outset now as the nascent dangers posed by the internet are shoehorned into it. Teens still regularly take their own lives for much the same reasons, but in the era of Snapchat and Tinder, sadly, this all looks decidedly old hat.

In another old TV trope, Beck is afraid of the dentist, so naturally nutty neighbour Grannen, always on the scrounge, is an expert on dentistry (no one can measure the depths of his understanding) and horrifies Beck with talk of large pliers, extractions and collapsing skulls. In passing, he also expounds on his theory that the church was complicit in the unsolved 1986 assassination of president Olof Palme.

To the ire of female colleagues Lena and Bodil Lettermark (Ing-Marie Carlsson) Larsson is still undermining underling Oskar (Mans Nathanaelson), this time by advising him to bribe hostile homeless witnesses to get information. He’s joking, but Oskar takes him at his word and pays £80 for a stack of Sweden’s equivalent of The Big Issue to get a lead. And we bet he won’t claim it back on expenses.

Larsson is also still seeing Beck’s daughter Inger, but Larsson refuses to answer her calls to his mobile while her dad is about, which is obviously excruciating to Beck, although he’s much too timid to interrogate his bagman intimately about the relationship. When she follows him on duty to spring the idea of a family weekend away with their respective kids, he cold-shoulders her. That should quietly please Dad, anyway.

Not surprising really, as playboy Gunvald Larsson is the last word in dishevelled mischievousness and, not the for the first time we wish this series was called ‘Larsson’ because Persbrandt is just so charismatic.

As has not escaped the notice of some critics, Persbrandt is a shoo-in for a Bond foe – were it not for the fact that he looks like Daniel Craig’s far better-looking brother (oh, there’s a sub-plot for the next 007 outing if you like) and is possessed of a devastating bad-boy persona – as opposed to the merely tetchy-looking Craig.

Deborah Shrewsbury
@shrewdkitty

For our review of Beck: The Japanese Painting, go here

For our review of Beck: The Weak Link, go here

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