REVIEW The Hunt For A Killer (S1 E3&4/6)

Last week The Hunt For A Killer (Jakten på en mördare) provided us with a subtle, low-key and surprising Nordic Noir that went against the grain. We’re so used to certain beats – drops of information, cliffhangers, music, even – throughout most crime dramas that when you watch a lot of them you know when they’re coming. The fun is, of course, guessing what these will be, but in The Hunt For A Killer, the structure was different, the characters so normal and the investigation full of the mundane that it really wasn’t what I was expected.

These next two episodes built on the opening episode’s foundations.

To begin with, we went all the way back to 1989 to see Per-Åke Åkesson investigate the Jannica Ekblad case. Jannice, a sex worker, was taken from the streets by a client and never seen alive again. Her murder came hot on the heels of Helén Nilsson, whose case had shocked the Skåne region, and Sweden as a whole.

The Hunt For A Killer really does a great job of presenting its victims of murder as real people. It sounds like a strange thing to say, but we see so many victims as just bodies on a slab in crime dramas that it makes for a refreshing change for them to be portrayed as whole people.

In Jannica’s case, she was labelled as the ‘junky prostitute’ by the press. However, we saw Jannica as a real person who talked, walked and had a life. She was, naturally, brutally exploited by everyone who came into contact with. We also saw her friends from the beat – one who was now part of a religious cult who was trying to case out her ‘demons’ by brute physical force, and another who had descended into extreme drug and alcohol abuse and starring in shabby porn movies.

Throughout episode three, Per-Åke and his team concentrated on one of Jannica’s clients, nicknamed The Pig. And he really was, although when he was finally let free from questioning because there just simply wasn’t much of a case against him, he told the police that Jannica had had the misfortune of meeting a worse “motherfucker” than even he was.

It was a telling line. People know they are bad but can’t help themselves. The Pig exploited, controlled, even coerced, and he knew it. When Monica interviewed a social worker, he agreed – he showed them a waiting room full of men who were addicted to paying for sex of various perversions, and said that they just couldn’t help themselves.

We were into the late 1990s when this new investigation was being undertaken, a decade after Helén and Jannica’s murders. Per-Åke was convinced the two cases were linked, but the higher-ups over in Malmö PD were not. In fact, this wasn’t the only thing that Kristianstad and Malmö disagreed on. As we saw in episodes one and two, the encroaching HR culture – of workshops, of admin and form filling – was now full-blown, and this new style of management seemed to have it in for Per-Åke.

So much so, he was placed under investigation and soon his team was disbanded. It felt like these shifts in culture and Per-Åke’s apparent demise and demotion happened so subtly with minimal fuss and exposition, it was surprising how quickly his status was demolished.

He became depressed and all authority taken away from him, and was sent to a basement office to do menial work.

By the time episode four came around it was 2002, and the internal investigation into Per-Åke found nothing of substance to warrant his sacking. His response? To properly take a look at the Helén Nilsson case.

And what do you know? If you remember back at the start of episode one, Per-Åke was sidelined at the beginning of the case and upon reviewing the documents from the investigation in the present day, he found more holes than a golf course. Leads weren’t followed up and suspects – of which there were many – weren’t even interviewed or processed properly.

This new information quickened the pace a little and suddenly there was linear momentum. Now the focus was on 2002, and they were desperately trying to find the killer of Helén and Jannica.

It was perfectly judged, perfectly structured and fascinating. And, as I mentioned in last week’s review, there were more comparisons to be made with Mindhunter.

Like the American Netflix series, Per-Åke reassembled Monica and Erik to help him, forming a basement-dwelling team that almost worked outside of the main police station.

Great stuff, this. Even the administration segments were oddly fascinating, but you really got the sense by the end of episode four things were beginning to move. Heck, we even got a cliffhanger of sorts.

Ulf Olsson. Remember the name.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

READ MORE: OUR EPISODES ONE AND TWO REVIEW

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