When Nicola Walker announced her first post-Unforgotten project, it took people by surprise.
With all due to UKTV channel Alibi, it doesn’t rival the bigger channels in terms of audience. However, perhaps Walker taking on Annika wasn’t so much of a surprise – she’s been starring in the radio version for a number of years. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that a TV channel hasn’t adapted it for the small-screen until now.
Walker indeed reprises her role as DI Annika Strandhed, a likeable, breezy but cuttingly sarcastic detective in Scotland’s Marine Homicide Unit (yes, a Marine Homicide Unit does exist).
She’s moved to Scotland from Norway (there’s the merest hint of Scandi in her accent), but Strandhed takes everything in her stride – from single parenthood, a teenage daughter who’s having trouble fitting in to her new surroundings and a team that is lukewarm towards her to say the least.
Oh, and a murder.
A man called Arthur Hendry – owner of a whale sight-seeing business – is found harpooned to death, and a number of suspects quickly emerge. And when I say quickly I really do mean quickly. Annika does not muck around when it comes to tempo, and Strandhed and members of her team go from place to place and from person to person with breakneck speed. There’s cousin Finlay, family members Isla, Danny and Trish, as well as Mandy, Finlay’s troubled ex…. they’re all introduced and processed in the blink of an eye.
What’s different and what makes Annika an engaging watch are two things. Nicola Walker is, not surprisingly for an actor playing a character for a number of years, on supreme form, and it feels like Annika as a character fits her like a glove. She’s natural, warm, and funny, too. The other dimension this has is the fourth wall, or the smashing of it. Annika regularly talks to us, the audience, and gives insights and even tells jokes.
It’s an interesting device that sometimes works, and in this case it does.
As for the case… well, it’s engaging enough but it’s a bit flimsy. There are plenty of templates and ideas that we’ve seen before (the juggling of work and home life, a disenfranchised teen, conflict within the team itself), and it certainly zips along in a pleasing join-the-dots fashion. So quickly, in fact, you never feel you can really connect, lest the case or the characters really get under your skin.
It’s great to have Walker back on our screens and although Annika feels a bit light – Mare Of Easttown it is most assuredly not – it’s still worth a watch.