Any new Scandinavian or Nordic crime drama is greeted with much joy and fervour here in the UK, and Modus certainly has a fine pedigree to provide both – it’s based on the books by Norwegian best-seller Anne Holt, it stars The Bridge’s Melinda Kinnaman and Krister Henriksson, and, well, it’s Swedish. And it’s set at Christmas time. What more do you want? But the first two episodes, despite all its box-ticking, seemed to split viewers. I spoke to a number of people who really enjoyed it, while some readers of this site commented negatively. Me? I’m somewhere in between.
NB: Spoilers inside
If you were looking for Modus to pick up the pace a little, episodes three and four did not heed your request. That’s not to say that these two instalments were a disappointment, but now we’ve reached the half-way point in the series, it has obviously settled into a tempo all of its own and we all have to accept that, whatever your view of the show.
After watching The Missing’s breakneck narratives lurch and twist and career like an angry dragon at a speed garage rave, Modus feels sedate in comparison. I came away from these two episodes thinking that nothing much had happened. But as I write this it’s obvious to me that plenty happened; it just evolved in a very slooooow manner. It takes some sleight of hand and a fair amount of deception to achieve that equilibrium of kidding the viewer into thinking that nothing much has happened but actually subtly packing plenty of information in there. Instead of being a rip-roaring, edge-of-your seater, Modus feels like the equivalent of a simmerer; a big pot of kalops, bubbling away on the stove.
As the thriller element bubbled away in the background, family dynamics were explored. More was revealed about why Erik Lindgren had been hiding photographs and throwing his recently-murdered wife’s laptop into the lake. It seemed he wanted to conceal a big secret, not just from the police but from his own family. Inger Johanne, who had thrown her hat into the investigative ring by now, hit upon it in tonight’s second episode – Elisabeth Lindgren, the controversial bishop, was a gay woman, and the woman in the photograph Erik had hidden from his son was not a secret child… it was his mistress and MOTHER to his children. (Or at east that was the meaning I took from the exchanges between Erik and the mystery woman.)
And then there was Inger Johanne and her daughter Stina, who had witnessed Isabella Levi’s murder but who still had not told what she had seen. I’m not sure how long they can keep this going, but as Inger Johanne joined Ingvar Nymann investigating the case, she became more and more frantic as the episodes went on – she still had no idea what her daughter had seen, despite knowing that she had gone walk-about at the same time as Levi was murdered. Richard Forrester had been stalking Stina in order to put the scare on her and prevent her from talking, and it was working.
Indeed, we got to see more of Forrester’s own motivation for why he lived his rage-filled, ascetic lifestyle in the woods. If Nymann was your typical tormented cop, Forrester was your typical tormented villain. Flashbacks told us that he had a wife and child, and he was a member of the US airforce at some point or other. We don’t know for sure what happened to his wife and child, but they are dead and he wants revenge. On gay people? On everyone? We still don’t know.
But Forrester is a funny character (more unintentionally haha). He’s such a cartoonish pastiche of a villain I’m finding it hard to take him seriously. He did murder another person tonight (a gay artist, who had connections to Magnus), attempted another on a gay teen (he’s getting sloppy), and was part of a genuinely tense scene at a museum where he stalked Stina under the nose of her father (although that scene’s tension was somewhat off-set by the inclusion of a pet tortoise), but I just can’t take him too seriously. Every time he looks into the middle distance (quite often) and plugs in his headphones that chiselled jawline and those shimmering cobalt eyes look more at home in a fragrance ad. (Modus… the new fragrance for men from Scandi Noir.)
But saying all that I did enjoy it. I still don’t love it, but I like the slower pace, the family dramas and the gentle tension that simmers away. I still can’t quite work out whether this is great or whether I like it just for Scandi’s sake.
For our episodes one and two review of Modus, go here