Review: Modus (S1 E8/8) Saturday 17th December, BBC4

Programme Name: Modus - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 8) - Picture Shows: Inger Johanne Vik (MELINDA KINNAMAN) - (C) © Miso Film 2015 - Photographer: Johan Paulin
© Miso Film 2015 – Photographer: Johan Paulin

Modus has been a bit of a head-scratcher: some good characters, some tense moments, some socio-political stuff… in fact, everything you could possibly want from a Scandi Noir. But somehow it hasn’t hit the spot and had begun to feel like a photocopy of a decent Scandinavian crime drama – all the elements have seemed to be correct, but something hasn’t felt quite right. No matter, I was in it until the end (it’s Swedish for God’s sake) and that end was about to come. Could Forrester be stopped? And, could I care?

NB: Spoilers ahoy!

So we started off this final double bill with some questions still to be answered: chiefly, who was going to be the sixth death in the whole 1 of 5 concept Forrester and his accomplice were carrying out. Everything up to this point had led us to believe that it was to be Marcus Ståhl, one half of a same-sex relationship with sensitive Rolf and their adopted child; a veritable standard-bearer for same-sex parenting and a tolerant, inclusive society.

Except it wasn’t going to be Marcus.

He had been slowly going off the rails ever since artist Niclas Rosén had become Forrester’s third victim, Rolf initially suspecting that his husband had feelings for the deceased. In tonight’s seventh episode Marcus was seen necking pills and chasing them with booze. He had become unstable and dishevelled. Heck, he had even ditched his fruity waistcoat and chequered suit combos. Things were that bad.

Why? He told Rolf that Niclas Rosén was his (half) brother, and he had ordered a hit on him because his late, hated father had left Niclas all the money. Marcus’s father had hated him because he was gay… little did Mr Ståhl know that the apple of his eye, Marcus’s half-brother Niclas, was also gay.

Marcus, thinking that the hiring of a hitman had somehow opened the floodgates and it was he who had caused the five deaths, went into the study and blew his brains out.

So that was that… or was it? Had Forrester and Ståhl’s PA Marianne Larsson put the pressure on, tormenting him and convincing him that he was to blame for the deaths. Nope. Forrester, he made sure of telling us, was hanging around and intent on carrying out a mission for the far right group in Texas (because Scandinavia is the origination of a permissive, tolerant, liberal society, don’t you know) and he still had one more kill to perform.

And from then on it was a case of who that final kill would be, even though at this stage it was starting to get very messy beyond daft. Linnéa and Stina had gone walk about (of course they had) and we were led to believe that Forrester had picked them up (Modus does this thing… I’m sure there’s a technical term for it… in this case we saw Forrester driving, Linnéa and Stina walking along a road, a car stopping and the girls climbing into the back seat, implying that it was Forrester’s car. It was revealed later that it wasn’t Forrester’s car and he was off somewhere else).

So if it wasn’t Stina, could it be Patricia Green, the girlfriend of government LGBT campaigner Sophie Dahlberg? For a moment we thought it might be.

These possibilities came out of nowhere, thick and fast and were gone as quickly as they came. None of them felt convincing. All we knew was that Forrester was an ex-Marine, whose wife and child had died in a car accident with Forrester at the wheel. In his grief-ridden reverie, he was radicalised by the far right group and then… well, we know where he is now. This information came in an exposition-heavy scene involving Inger Johanne and Ingvar.

In the end, Forrester, who had adopted a slick-haired look with glasses to match his new passport photograph (he had strangled Marianne Larsson to say thank you for sorting it out) was indeed on his way to his final kill and that final kill was… Inger Johanne. In a brutal final scene, which included punching, eye gouging and, finally, some repeated stabbing, Inger Johanne somehow overcame her assailant.

But this final scene didn’t have too much impact because I was still trying to figure out why Forrester would want to kill Inger Johanne. He had a chance to leave the country, but no. He wantedInger Johanne. Perhaps I missed something earlier, but as far as I could tell the reason why he had saved Inger Johanne as his last kill wasn’t explained. Yes, in the scene where Inger Johanne and Ingvar were going over Forrester’s back story, they decided that he was likely, when a plan goes awry, to become unpredictable. But this? Surely it didn’t fit into his MO – Inger Johanne was heterosexual, after all (Ingvar could attest to that). (Feel free to set me right on this.)

So, for me, an unsatisfactory ending to and incredibly uneven series. There were some things to like – I liked Inger Johanne and Ingvar very much (Melinda Kinnaman and Henrik Norlén were both very good), and the Lindgren family storyline was touching and intriguing. It was just a shame that felt a bit bolted on. In the end Modus was poorly constructed; the cat-and-mouse game between Inger Johanne and Ingvar and Forrester just didn’t have any tension, while Forrester and his villainous chums in the US felt horridly cartoonish and, occasionally, laughable.

It could have been a good series because there were enough interesting things going on (I think I’d probably quite like Anne Holt’s original novel this was based on), but what was it Eric Morecambe said to André Previn: I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. In the end Modus was a Swedish series where the gorgeous interiors and the Stockholm exteriors outshone the story.

Paul Hirons

For our episodes one and two review, go here

For our episodes three and four review, go here

For our episodes five and six review, go here

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Annie says:

    Sorry, I saw the end very differently. He *had* intended to kill the actress. He practiced driving at another car, took out her headlight on her driveway so he would recognise her car coming, and sat waiting for her. But, while he waited, Inger Johanne phoned him, making him think too much about it and he bottled at the last second. So, I reason he went after Inger Johanne in the end either to complete his mission or, more likely, because she’d made him think about his actions.


    1. Paul Hirons says:

      Thanks Annie… I definitely missed that bit with the headlight – I think I went to let the cat in!


  2. Charlotte Carling says:

    The basis of the plot was too self-congratulatory. “Look at us Swedes, we’re so great over here, we must be the absolute pinnacle of tolerance, equality etc. and an obvious enemy to these American Christian right wing extremists.”

    I agree with you, Paul, that it was unsatisfactory and uneven. Ingvar and Inger Johanne were ok characters most of the time but her dismissal of Isak’s parenting skills really rubbed me up the wrong way (regardless of the fact that the girls managed to sneak off) it’s not like she was that much better.

    This series wasn’t exactly one of the better ones in the genre. Onwards and upwards.


  3. benjitek says:

    Oddly enough, it was picked up for a 2nd season — nowhere for the quality to go but up… ;-)


  4. Jon Gemmell says:

    Too much just didn’t add up. The best was when it went from deep snow one day to not a trace the next. How did Forrester keep popping up in places ahead of everyone (time travel?) Why didn’t the ex-cop Larsson put up a fight? We have spoiled by BBC4. Not this alas. I’ll stick to the books, which are very good.


    1. Jon Gemmell says:

      We have been spoiled by BBC4. Not this time alas. Sorry!


  5. MikeB says:

    I screamed at the box when Inger Johanne rang Forrester’s mobile, knowing the police were going to try to locate him via his phone. He’s going to dispose of the phone, dummy! The series was a mess and the last two episodes seemed to crawl along. As for the fight in the house – are you joking me?!


  6. Mike Sargent says:

    I thought it was only OK and that we had seen it all before but done better elsewhere. The use of misdirection was both clever and annoying. The American accepts were laughable. 6 out of 10.


    1. Mike Sargent says:

      * accents. Stupid iPad spelling correcting thing.


  7. Chamira says:

    It has been like watching a nordic crime drama directed by Tom Ford (he of Gucci and then director of the Single Man, which managed to suck the soul out of a wonderful contrary and feisty novel from one of the best writers in the English language, Christopher Isherwood) – or may be directed by *Wallpaper magazine.

    The interiors were lovely, all browns and gold and stylish, with expensive lamps.

    It has been a terrible waste of time. I hope it never comes back.


  8. lovingboth says:

    Finally watched this. What a mess.

    Never mind the quick thaw, what makes me wonder why this wasn’t laughed off the screen in Sweden is the fact that in Christmas week it’s shown as full daylight half an hour (last episode when Igner finally bothers to start to charge her phone and ring her daughter back, the morning after the night when she promised to do so) or ninety minutes (when Forrester was driving through the forest and, like everyone else in this series, using his mobile) before sunrise in Stockholm/Uppsala.

    Oh, and the stunning quality of the mobile data in the middle of a forest: full screen video with no lag, stutter or compression artefacts up to the point of the FBI raid.

    In terms of the plot, either Ståhl had involved Larsson in the plan to murder Rosén or by totally implausible coincidence she happened to go ‘Oh, let’s kill six people close to him (or five plus him)’ around the same time.

    The former makes more sense: as she proved, she’s going know more killers than he does, it gives him deniability as to the details, and he only needs to trust her.

    Instead, we’re expected to believe the latter. Nah.

    I have seen enough of s2 comments to not bother with it.

    (This and the previous episode review aren’t tagged as the others are, btw)


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