It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent Scandi Noir on a Saturday night on BBC Four.
This year series two of Danish series Follow The Money has been the stand-out so far, so hopes were high that Darkness: Those Who Kill, another Danish series, would do the business.
Darkness: Those Who Kill (Den som dræber) is a reboot of a series from 2011, which followed a fictitious unit within Copenhagen Police that specialised in investigating serial murders.
Based on an original idea by Elsebeth Egholm, the first season originally aired as five two-part stories and concluded with the feature film Fortidens Skygge. However, season two is set to be a single, continuous crime story across eight episodes that delves into the darkest of human minds in a case described as a ‘whydunnit’ rather than a ‘whodunnit’.
So then, it was all set up to be a goodie.
Jan Michelsen (Kenneth M. Christensen) is a broad-shouldered, unsmiling, frankly dull and uncharismatic cop (probably not a good combo for a leading man) who is investigating the disappearance of a young, blonde-haired woman – Julie – from Greve, a suburb of Copenhagen, who went missing six months ago.
He’s convinced she’s still alive and he promised her parents that he would find her (not ideal for a policeman), so even when he’s taken off the case to concentrate on something else, he’s still looking into it in his spare time.
And, wouldn’t you know, that’s when he finds a connection between a missing woman case 10 years ago and Julie… just by following a map and looking wistfully into a lake.
Sure enough, there are enough connections between the body in the lake – yes, they found a body in the lake – and missing Julie.
Laughing Boy Jan decides to get a criminal profiler in on the case, and his two superiors bark exposition aplenty at each other for our benefit as they explain who Louise Bergstein is… she’s a shit-hot profiler who was headhunted by English police, no less. (If you’re wondering, being headhunted by the English police is not necessarily a good thing.)
Louise is instantly into things, plucking facts and assumptions seemingly out of thin air. What was more worrying is that Laughing Boy and his team believe every word she says.
But there’s one crucial thing to remember here – Louise has to be persuaded to work on this case. Something bad happened to her in the past.
But of course she can’t resist, and soon Jan and Louise are running around Copenhagen interview people and working through suspects.
So what we have here is a heavily expositionary procedural that certainly looks great, feels right and is very atmospheric. It’s just that it’s so formulaic, so familiar and oh-so textbook that’s it difficult not to just shrug your shoulders at it. The two leads don’t have an awful lot of chemistry, Laughing Boy is about as charismatic as a plank of wood (he does eventually smile, and even kiss someone, around 30 minutes into episode two) and they just don’t hold your interest. This, of course, may change as the series beds in.
As for the case, we actually see the kidnapper and murderer. He’s snatched another young woman and tied her up in his basement. There, with her, is Julie, snatched six weeks before.
Now we have a race-against-the-clock scenario, and the Jan and Louise know how did it Anders Kjeldsen – a janitor at the local school.
Not the most promising start, but it may improve.