Could this be the last roll of the dice for Beck? With Alex firmly in charge of the team, and Steinar doing most of the footwork, what is left for the old warhorse to contribute? Both in terms of fictional drama and TV reality, this series finale could mark an end to Beck’s run.
Most of the drama in this brief season has been not so much about solving cases, more resolving tensions within the team. Bringing Beck back from retirement demanded strong storylines, which frankly have not been delivered; the titular character has taken a restricted role, while new team boss Alex, and Steinar, who on some level feels he should have got the job, lock horns – both in terms of work roles, and because of underlying sexual tension. It doesn’t help that Steinar’s wife may have been playing away, and other relationships in the group, such as that of Oskar and Anna, have been rocky.
So there are tensions to be resolved in this finale, but most importantly, the character of Beck has to be re-established if there’s to be any point continuing the series; his main contribution so far has been to look grumpy, do paperwork and eat cake. Probably like a lot of real detectives, then.
This week’s action begins with the shooting of a restaurant owner after an argument with a bearded visitor – is it a gangland hit, was there a protection racket going? There are many witnesses, but all are too frightened to talk to the police, and one, an artist, goes missing.
The killer, a Dane named William Jensen, is clearly not the sharpest knife in the block – his boss Mogens tells him he’s no Sherlock Holmes – but he has a plan to recruit a scumbag lawyer, who has defended another gangster, Simon, to help him. Lawyer Paul is daft enough to run up gambling debts of 400,000 SEK (about £34,000) in William’s club, so he doesn’t have much choice but to comply.
Paul, it turns out, is the brother of Alex, with whom he has a fractured relationship, and he plans to sell their dead mother’s house to get the money; but William pressures him for inside information on Alex’s investigation instead.
Steinar is in a bleak mood, as his flirty wife Heidi has moved out of the family home, and he leans on the witnesses without results; he’s also tempted by an offer from slimy Klas to take a job with NOD (the National Operations Department, in other words the Feds).
Oskar, Jenny and Ayda find their loyalties torn between Steinar and Alex, and Oskar’s kak-handed attempts to bond with Stienar don’t help. Surely it’s time for Beck to read the riot act? His mild pep-talk hardly seems to address the problems.
Steinar figures out that one of the witnesses, Ulf, has a criminal record, and brings him back to sweat him; but doesn’t share the info with Alex. ‘There’s a fine line between a charmingly unconventional cop and a bad one’, she responds, and we can see her point.
It’s at this stage that Beck has one of his pointless encounters with annoying neighbour Grannen, who has imprisoned a burglar in his lock-up; Martin has to call the police himself to sort things out.
William kills his jumpy sidekick Simon, and goes in search of the missing witness to the restaurant shooting, with the help of the unwilling Paul; and when Alex’s family connection to Paul is revealed, Beck takes her off the case.
But Paul cracks, and confesses what he knows to Alex, who races to the rescue with Steinar; but too late to save witness Mia from being killed. Paul makes a stand, and gets shot in the leg, while Alex and Steinar together arrest William.
All concludes with a big hug, a rare smile from Beck, and Steinar feeling that he’s been accepted back into the fold, certainly enough that he can tell Klas where to stick his job offer.
While the detective work in this episode at least followed a plausible course, no-one seems too worried about the fact that the team lost two witnesses, almost compromised the case, and had a relative closely involved with a triple murderer. If we were the Swedish equivalent of Internal Affairs, we’d have the whole lot of them, from Beck down to the office cleaner, on suspension sooner than you can say ‘pancakes’.
So where does this leave Martin Beck? Almost superfluous to the entire series, he’s brought nothing to the investigations, and little to the team interactions; even when it was obvious that he needed to weigh in and sort things out, he’s been sidelined, the writers concentrating entirely on the triangular relationship between Steinar, Heidi, and Alex.
It’s all a bit baffling, and makes you wonder whether there’s a reason that actor Peter Haber was backgrounded for this series. Certainly there’s a feeling that if the character of Beck was retired, the series could continue without him; though if Steinar’s going to be in charge, please let’s have him more settled in the job, and less concerned about family matters.
As a final point, why has the BBC translated of the title of this episode, Djävulens Advokat, as The Devil’s Attorney, when the more familiar phrase The Devil’s Advocate would have made more sense? It’s as if someone didn’t know the phrase in the first place. It’s a total röra till, as the Swedes would say.
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