REVIEW The Hunt For A Killer (S1 E5&6/6)

Swedish crime drama The Hunt For A Killer has, as we’ve said before, has been an engrossing, interesting and, furthermore, a fresh look at the crime drama genre.

At the end of episode four, Monica Olhed had received a tip from woman about a former work colleague Ulf Olsson. The woman had made the initial tip-off in the chaos of the original investigation. It had either not been logged properly or dismissed. Olsson had owned a Volvo. Olsson also had a dog, one that he destroyed immediately after the Helén Nilsson murder. Olsson had also displayed worryingly aggressive behaviour towards women.

Elsewhere, Per-Åke Åkesson had broken the rules to send off some evidence to the forensics lab in Birmingham, England. Naturally, when his superiors found out they were furious and the ice he was skating on got a hell of a lot thinner.

When it comes to final episodes, I’m always interested when the killer is revealed and how he or she is done so. In this final double-bill, the killer – Ulf Olsson – was revealed early on in episode five. We had, of course, seen him in shadows throughout the series, but the reveal saw the camera make a very deliberate movement – from his back all the way around to his front. As befitting The Hunt For A Killer, Olsson was eating his dinner as he watched the news when we finally saw his place.

Devastating mundanity.

As Monica made more enquiries into Olsson, she became convinced he was the man they were looking for.

Per-Åke, meanwhile, had another bureaucratic nightmare to deal with – the labd results from Birmingham had come back with a positive DNA profile, but he had burned so much of the budget on the tests, the new chief (who was on his side) gave the team until Midsummar to process all the suspects.

The beauty of these two episodes was the subtle tightening of the screw and the tension. Suspects were swabbed, information was gathered… and there was a match on Olsson.

The next step was to get a confession out of him, which proved to be difficult. A disturbed alcoholic who had been abused all his life, he maintained he did not commit the murders of Helén Nilsson and sex worker Jannica Ekblad. With a deadline in front of them – and us – the tension rose, until a variety of modern forensic techniques revealed Jannica’s blood in Olsson’s cabin, and prints on a mobile sim card he had used to telephone Per-Åke Åkesson (but the wrong Per-Åke Åkesson by mistake).

It was engrossing, addictive almost, and the interview scenes with Monica and Olsson retained the intimacy the series will be remembered for.

I have to say I loved the series, and this is someone who has problems with adaptations of true crime stories (see every review I’ve ever written on a true crime adaptation). It eliminated the sensational and focused on the mundanities of real police life – the bureaucracy, the changing times and cultures inside the force and the dead ends and elapses of time real police work often encounters.

So The Hunt For A Killer wasn’t flash. It was low-key, sombre, mundane and felt very authentic. And, crucially, it gave the victims of murders a personality and treated them with respect, which is important in true-crime adaptations. I also found the structure interesting and well done – it moved through time, decade after decade, again in a non-sensationalist way. As the technology and the people and faces changed (the period detail in the production design was excellent, by the way), I became aware The Hunt For A Killer didn’t want to hit the same kind of beats other crime dramas hit. It deliberately set out to tell this story in a different way.

Quietly subversive, this one.

Paul Hirons

Episode rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Series rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Alex says:

    Interesting reviews, thank you. I’ve just finished the series and agree with much of your opinion that the slow-moving element to it was utterly normal (insofar as murder, etc., can be normal). I watched episodes 1 and 2 a couple of weeks ago and whilst episode 1 was relatively interesting, I found my attention wandering in episode 2 to the extent that I wondered whether I’d bother with the rest.

    Yesterday I’m glad to report that I picked up on 3 and 4 which I was glad to have seen, and had of course to finish the series today. This series does indeed differ from many Scandic Noir dramas in that the violence is kept to a minimum, as is the degree of blood and gore and just a knee in a bag here or a noose there feeds the imagination perfectly well. I’m certainly relieved that this device was employed following the descriptions of the kittens!

    One puzzlement: Krister Berg. Why wasn’t anything done there?

    Otherwise, a very well-effected drama and on a personal note, much easier to hear the Swedish when trying to correlate the words to the translation, than Danish, much though I love the Danish dramas too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elaine says:

    Just finished the series. Very good. Thought the first two episodes were the high points, episode three was weaker but it picked up again towards the end, especially when Monica got the tip off and became dogged about arresting him. Reminded me of the brilliant The Investigation which showed how painstaking police work could actually be…

    Liked by 1 person

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