The first series of Aarhus-set crime drama Dicte (starring the excellent Iben Hjejle) was, on the whole, pretty good – yes, it was a Nordic Noir yarn, but there was something different about it. Dicte was indeed flawed and headstrong, but she was also – and this is what set it apart from other, now, standard Nordic Noirs – sociable. She externalised, she got involved in messy relationships and she shared bottles of wine and gossip with her friends. She was no lone wolf like her compatriot Sarah Lund or that other Nordic Noir character over the bridge, Saga Noren. This made her refreshing and human. The first series was extremely watchable, if extremely far-fetched, so I was happy that it was back on our screens for a second run.
Like the first series, UK viewers are getting this second run (originally aired in Denmark three years ago) played out as five, feature-length episodes, while our US readers will be happy to find out that all three series are on currently sitting on Netflix.
Series two started with our leading lady happy and full of seasonal joy, stepping out with her partner, newspaper photographer Bo (who she hooked up with in series one), at function close to New Year’s Eve. She received a telephone call, which turned out to be from her estranged father who she hadn’t spoken to for 10 years. He needed to talk to her, desperately, he said. Bo urged her to talk to him, but when she went outside the venue to meet him he was mowed down by a black Mercedes.
Elsewhere, in the same hotel, a young African woman had been murdered, and our grumpy, lonely detective Wagner and his gay partner Bendtsen (I only mention the fact that she’s gay because Wagner is still questioning her about who she’s sleeping with, and why) were investigating the crime scene. The young woman, African, was called Tiffany, part of a strange set-up of chalets and a suspected brothel, overlooked by an oily porn-style barren called Paulsen.
As ever, the investigation was undertaken on two fronts: Wagner and Bendtsen doing their straight police thing, and Dicte, who was going about things in a more maverick way. She was using her considerable persuasiveness to extract information from the other African women in Paulsen’s coterie and doing her best to find out the truth as her father lay in the hospital. (As ever with Dicte she was in the wrong place at the wrong time (or the right place at the right time when it comes to the crime drama), the car that knocked her father down was the same car that Tiffany’s murderer was speeding away from the crime from.)
And this is where you could have a problem with Dicte – the fact that Wagner, a fastidious, cerebral character, could leave so many things uninvestigated, while Dicte is always miraculously on hand to find out those basic things he’s unable to find. If you can suspend disbelief and allow this discrepency, then Dicte is fun to watch.
As the drama sped along, a baggie full of diamonds was found in Tiffany’s stomach post-mortem, and the person who was driving the black Mercedes that night was discovered to be her friend, Grace. Paulsen’s women were mules, and drug smugglers, trafficked from Africa. It took Grace, eventually persuaded by Dicte, to lure a Dutch drug smuggler into the open and be captured in Aarhus.
As ever, there were extra-curricular, personal stories developing alongside the crime thread: Dicte’s best friend Ida Marie announced on New Year’s Eve that she and Dicte’s ex, Torsten, were expecting a baby (which she eventually lost); Wagner was extra-lonely after bidding farewell to his son, who jetted off to visit his mother in the US; Bendtsen was entering into a relationship with a married woman; Kaiser was anxious to change with the times at the newspaper and embrace the new world of journalism to keep up with the bloggers and slashed budgets; Dicte’s daughter, Rose, had a new boyfriend who her mother doesn’t quite like the look of (we know all about Rose’s past boyfriends, of course); and Dicte’s own past (it turned out that her father was a Jehovah’s Witness and she was ex-communicated (or whatever the term is) from the faith years ago) was examined. In the end, Dicte found out what her father wanted to tell her before he was knocked over – he had received diagnoses of lymphatic cancer, which, because he was Jehovah’s Witness, didn’t want to be treated.
In the last series, there was a perceptible theme of parenthood that ran throughout the five episodes (sometimes obviously and grindingly so), but here, in this first episode, it felt like there was no real theme. What we got was all the things we enjoyed in series one of Dicte, without the heavy-handedness. As ever it was all fairly predictable, but Dicte is such a wonderful, likeable character, it’s hard not to watch.
For all our news and review on Dicte, go here