Episodes five and six of Follow the Money are directed by Gustav Möller (recently much praised for minimalistic, intense and award-winning thriller The Guilty). We have progressed past establishing the foundation and the plot is fully up and running. Nicky’s successful business is growing rapidly, and Anna is onboard to launder the money. Alf has dismissed a false lead and is now fully focused on Nicky. In these middle-of-series episodes there is a good deal of confrontation and violence. Hence the bulletproof vests in the opening credits of episode five.
Alf is in tailspin and the ground is fast approaching. He manages to get into conflict with just about everyone in his efforts to advance his investigation. There are arguments with his boss Storm, the judge deciding on warrants for surveillance and Isa, of course.
The crash comes when Alf is caught by Nicky’s camera rather than the other way around, undoing the careful efforts of the team. In his frustration, Alf mixes beer and pills against Stine’s concerned warning. In a scene which is decidedly uncomfortable to watch, he loses control entirely and screams abuse at Stine while pinning her down to the floor.
The next day, Alf is deeply ashamed and of himself. It’s a big jolt to his system, and a far cry from the person we saw in series one and two when he was the calm and considered counterweight to the rasher and more impatient Mads. Remarkably, Stine sees fit to continue working in the group, and Alf, trying to regain his footing, decides on a new tactic to rile up the dealers and hopefully get them to make mistakes: intercepting one of their money couriers.
For Anna too, things unexpectedly get violent. Søren finds Anna’s new purchases and goes off on her. She’s not ready to back down, though. She wants to enjoy life and feel good about herself, and a robot vacuum cleaner for her birthday is hardly doing the trick, even her son knows that. So, it’s up to herself to make it happen. She comes clean and tells her husband where the money is from. But it’s not Anna’s illegal activities that angers him the most, it’s when she censures his ability to run a business that he snaps and slaps her.
Surprisingly, after a night on the sofa, she seems to accept his apology and agrees to stop laundering money for drug dealers. Of course, she’s already decided to ask Nicky to “talk to her husband”, a request he is bemused by but readily agrees to. Considering how Anna reacted when witnessing violence before, this is something of a turnaround for her. For Nicky, whose past isn’t lacking violent acts including killings, it’s absolutely nothing to send out a couple thugs to deliver a light message.
There are, of course, plenty of series in the genre that contain a lot of violence. To avoid it being gratuitous, there should be some valid cause for it in the plot and preferably some credible dealing with the effects of it as well.
In Anna’s case, the violence changes her relationship to her husband. Having levelled the score, there is a clear shift in dynamics between her and Søren. Anna’s goal is not to escalate matters or control him, she just wants the support and appreciation of her husband. This is finally achieved when she is faced with a surprise internal audit at the bank. Anna manages to avert the crisis through quick thinking, turning a colleague into a diversion and involving Søren by sending a huge amount of money to his account and then getting him to send fake invoice. Suddenly they are on the same team. With each new obstacle overcome, she is getting more and more confident. Anna’s no longer relying on others to tell her she’s good, she knows it, and as she explains to her husband: she no longer feels like part of the furniture, but like she owns the whole fucking room.
The most violent scene, where the 14-year-old boy is stopped for a search, is well made and jarring in its sudden and fatal escalation. Jæwer is saved by his vest and Møller shoots the boy. It’s over in seconds. The shock of everyone at the scene is apparent in the aftermath. While we briefly get to see the incredulous pain of his family in a later scene, there is more focus on the immediate and continued reactions of the group, particularly Jæwer, who is struggling with the senselessness of the situation and getting flashes from previous trauma in his life. (These scenes are very well acted by Hadi Ka-Koush.) In the midst of his own mental health problems, Alf now shows understanding and concern for his colleague and tries to help mitigate the effects by making sure he comes into the station to be around people. It’s a good thing that there is an attempt to show the complexities of these violent situations. Coppers aren’t immune to their impact.
The seriousness of the circumstances leads to some coming together for the team. It also propels the action of the police and multiple raids are carried out. This gives us a quiet confrontation between Alf and Nicky at the juice bar. It’s a great scene with a lot of intensity as the two of them calmly size each other up trading personal remarks in a mocked pleasant way before each going after the other’s weak point.
After the escalation and the raids, Nicky realises that he needs to stop if he is to have a future with Milas in his life. Lala gives him a reality check: You are too valuable, they’ll kill you. And as Nicky knows from experience, going after someone’s child to make a point is not unheard of. He needs to take some time and navigate his exit carefully.
Amongst the finds from the raids, is a message that says Marco is coming for a visit. However, after extensive preparations to catch him as he meets up with Nicky, the operation fails. Though this time no blame is assigned and Møller points out to Alf that he would have handled things the same way.
The way Follow the Money deals with violence, even as it has swapped swanky boardrooms for the streets of Nørrebro, puts it head and shoulders above its more action-influenced domestic contemporary crime series such as Warrior (from last autumn) and Below the Surface 2 (ongoing). The criminal environments that we see in these series are all violent. Choosing how to depict that as one element of a story in relation to its other elements, is the challenge. Follow the Money pulls it off.
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