Review: Beck: Gunvald, Saturday 8th September, BBC4


beck-the-series-headerNB: We’re going to straight into it and there are major spoilers after the jump.

If you have tears prepare to shed them now – great Caesar, er, Gunvald Larsson – has fallen and his end comes with a bang not a whimper in this 2016 episode.

After nearly 20 years on the best-known squad in Swedish TV cop procedurals, Detective Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt) is no more.

And, like Captain Kirk’s death in Star Trek: Generations, it is an ignominious end for such a great character – being shot by a thug in an old lady’s flat is no way for such an icon to pass away. He should have gone down in a cinematic slo-mo hail of bullets.

As Octavius says of Antony in Antony And Cleopatra:

“The breaking of so great a thing should make

A greater crack: the round world

Should have shook lions into civil streets,

And citizens to their dens.”

It’s all the fault of combat-jacketed debt collector Risto Kangas (Peter Franzen), who wants his money – and when he doesn’t get it he roughs up a chef and threatens to put his hand through a mincer – giving him a week to come up with the cash.

Across town, Guardian-style investigative journalist Jakob Wivel is strangled in his flat and tied to a chair by an assailant who is momentarily glimpsed on the stairs by the elderly woman from the apartment below.

Wivel’s agitated colleague Anna Muflof (Lisette Pagler) turns up as the police process the site and tells Beck that as journalists they are threatened all the time. It could have been right-wing extremists or racist groups, she says. Sweden is also suffering from the rising tide of anti-semitism in the rest of Europe.

Risto’s flat has also been turned over in his absence; he dejectedly picks up a smashed photo of his mum at the family home.

Beck and daughter Inger seem to be getting along this week; she’s going away on a medical conference and has to leave Vilhelm – cue teenage partying – so it’s decided that he will stay with grand-dad. We reflect again that Beck seems ill at ease with everyone, even his nearest and dearest – asking Inger whether she thinks the conference “will be exciting” as if he’s grilling a witness.

And young cop Oskar (Måns Nathanaelson) is clearly more distracted than usual; he and wife Petra are house-hunting and fretting over who to leave baby Emma with while they do so. Kind-hearted Larsson says he’ll interview Wivel’s old neighbour alone.

Beck suffers his usual flirting session with married sexy pathologist Gunilla (Anu SInisalo) over Wivel’s body, which always reminds us of Lewis’s early embarrassment as Laura Hobson – green light constantly flashing – came onto him over corpses. Beck’s sense of propriety is, nevertheless, honourable. But it’s always funny to watch his squeamishness at murders – and so reminiscent of Morse.

Risto (straight out of the Sean Bean school of screen baddies) meets his son Adrian out of school and takes him to a café for a chat about his aims after he leaves school. He wants to study abroad, an expensive option, but Dad’s all up for this, surprisingly. Then he tells his son that he’s “going straight” once he has “tied up a few loose ends” and asks his son if he’s ever heard of Easy Money (a successful 2010 Swedish thriller directed by Daniel Espinosa and based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Jens Lapidus). He’s got a better story to tell, he says, which is being ghosted by “a pro”, and will make millions to give Adrian a better life. Risto tells Adrian about the break-in, putting it down to smack-heads. Next time, he says, he’ll shoot them; Adrian, no chip off the old block, counters: “Or inform the police and tell your insurance company if you’re going straight”. They agree to meet for breakfast the next day.

“Going straight” is, of course, akin to saying: “when this damn war is over I’m marrying my best gal” – usually tragedy is just a step away. He’s also got a graveyard cough – there’s a lot of telegraphing going on here. We’ve guessed that Wivel is his ghostwriter.

Risto’s dabs are discovered all over Wivel’s flat, and as he has a rap sheet for blackmail and assault it looks like a slamdunk. Before Beck’s team gets around to interviewing Mrs Andersson, the elderly woman downstairs who has reported the commotion, she is beaten and dragged into her bath to be drowned by Wivel’s hoodied killer. But before the taps go on, Larsson pops his head round the door and is unceremoniously shot, as is Andersson.

Beck’s odious micro-managing boss Klas Freden (Jonas Karlsson), who is always more concerned with PR than finding the bad guys, starts moaning about a news story by Wivel’s journalist colleague Magnus Murlof  (Stefan Godicke) that police routinely ignore reporters’ pleas for protection. We hate Freden, who is always more concerned with outward appearances rather than the more nuanced facts – he should really be in advertising.

Poor Larsson is in a bad way. He has a severe brain haemorrhage, but even incapacitated, he’s a better cop than Freden will ever be – fancy allowing the team to investigate a case in which one of their own is a victim. He obviously just doesn’t want the costs of getting in a fresh team. Chipmunk-like Oskar is devastated by guilt because Larsson was doing him a favour by taking on the Andersson interview alone.

Consequently, when he and sympathetic colleague Jenny Boden (Anna Asp) go to interview Risto’s lap-dancer ex-girlfriend, Oskar goes all Dirty Harry and has to be restrained.

Risto is in his car watching the strip club and when he hears news of Wivel’s death and Larsson’s shooting on the radio he sees his dream of book and film royalties go down the drain. 

At the hospital, Beck is vilified for his management skills by Larsson’s shattered sister, who is keeping vigil.

Next morning, Adrian is exasperated by his dad’s no-show, thinking he’s reneged on his promise, and storms off – only to be tasered and abducted by two heavies in a van under the orders of mob boss Jonas Karpinger.

Leftie journalist Magnus Merlof turns up at the station with wife Anna for her interview and starts on his ‘police as puppets of an authoritarian state’ diatribe with the squad’s Vulcan-like administrator Ayda Cetin (Elmira Arikan), who is laughably obtuse about his baiting.

Anna explains to Beck about the biography of “society’s darker side” Wivel was writing. Beck reveals that Wivel’s computer and mobile had been stolen – so we guess that Risto is in Michael Corleone “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” territory.

Risto returns to his hidey-hole to find Karpinger and his thugs waiting for him with guns. “What’s it going to be called, this book – The Squealer?” asks Karpinger. He wants Wivel’s computer, which details such crimes as a big security van heist, and tells Risto to find it – using Adrian as a bargaining chip.

When Risto confronts Anna, who was having an affair with Wivel, she tells Risto that she knows the police don’t have the computer either.

Beck questions arrogant Magnus about Anna and Wivel, but he denies they were having an affair. They suspect he has the missing computer. They are right – after they leave, out comes Wivel’s MacBook Air.

Meanwhile, Beck’s mad old neighbour Grannen hijacks Vilhelm in the hallway to boast about his boxing prowess, saying he fought Swedish middleweight Skofteby Bengtsson back in the ’50s (his imagination is ace), all of which goes over the head of Vilhelm. In Beck’s absence, Grannen appoints himself as babysitter and Beck arrives home to find Vilhelm deep in a poker game.

At the station, a computer hacker friend of Ayda’s has logged onto Wivel’s computer – enabling Beck to pounce on Magnus to get the truth out of the little weasel.

A desperate Risto returns to the chef to find out Karpinger’s whereabouts.

Oskar, still feeling guilty, gives chase when Risto is spotted at a crowded shopping centre, only to lose him after letting lead fly – the squad is suspended and the case handed to other officers.

It’s Vilhelm who cracks the case with his in-depth knowledge of skateboarding areas in Stockholm – pinpointing Risto’s lair from the photo of the old family homestead.

Risto bluffs to Karpinger that he has retrieved the computer and will swap it for Adrian.

Back at the intensive care unit – stop all the clocks – the crash team tries to revive Larsson, but the unthinkable happens and in solidarity with his memory, the squad’s mourners go rogue in an assault on Risto’s hideout as he gets ready for a showdown with Karpinger. As the cuffs go on the news comes through that DNA proves him innocent – the killer is Karpinger’s heavy Rodney Soderlund, who was also on the security van heist. Risto goes with the cops to rescue Adrian but breaks out of the car – and the rest we can predict as we scream: “wait for back-up!”

Jenny is slightly winged in the shootout, and Risto and his son survive as Karpinger’s gang is ambushed.

But by this time we are all past caring. Beck’s not Beck without Gunvald Larsson – is there any point in going on? Persbrandt, now focusing on an international film career, was to us the sex, the blue-eyed soul, the humour and the heart of the series – Peter Haber’s Beck being something of a cold fish. At the end everyone is left crying at the funeral – and we too wipe away a tear for one of TV’s most charismatic cops.

Deborah Shrewsbury

For all our news and reviews of Beck, go here


10 thoughts on “Review: Beck: Gunvald, Saturday 8th September, BBC4

  1. Charlotte Carling

    Well, it seems likely that the three upcoming episodes will be the last we see of Beck anyway. I’m hoping new guy Steinar will be a good character for the rest of the series.


  2. It seemed strange that there was no formal service for Gunvald who had been working with the police for 20 years +… his former colleagues from 1997 were not even present.

    I’m very sad & disappointed that Gunvald has gone. Beck is not exciting and thrilling anymore. The new homicide detective Steinar can never replace him.


  3. John Freeman

    My wife is beside herself with grief at the passing of Gunvald. She thinks he was the sexiest policeman she had ever seen . Her life’s ambition was to be arrested and closely cross examined by him !! Now she has to put up with me and Martin . Life’s unfair sometimes . “Beck ” is certainly the classiest thing on TV at the moment .


  4. Absolutely gutted.

    He was even better with a beard.

    He was just so cool, just this awesome physical presence that made you feel nothing could ever go wrong because he would just kick some arse and sort it out.

    I think Salt ‘n’ Pepper sang a song about him.


  5. Valerie

    Same as John’s wife however buy Hamilton In the interest of the nation from Amazon video. Mikael Persbrandt even better. Best Friday afternoon ever watching this and you can stop it when you want. I need a jug of cold water!


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