REVIEW Beck (S8 E1/4)

Beck is back! That was by no means a foregone conclusion, as the last time we saw the gloomy Swedish police chief, Martin Beck (Peter Haber) he was being wheeled into an operating theatre, with a slim chance of surviving an operation on a brain tumour. But Haber’s contract negotiations must have gone well, because here is Beck again, his usual doleful self, though he tells his team that he’s grateful for this second chance at life.

As before though, Beck tends to take a back seat in investigations (Peter Haber is now 70), with the legwork and action scenes going to the rather more youthful Alex Beijer (Jennie Silfverhjelm) and new boy Josef Eriksson (Martin Wallström), who is referred to as the team’s “John McClane” in a nice little Die Hard reference.

But another welcome return comes in the form of ginger giant Kristofer Hivju as Steinar Hovland, who had returned to Norway after being shot at the end of the last series. Again, contract negotiations must have gone well, as Hovland is called in to help with the case of a Danish criminal found dead in a river, and decides to stay on as his family has conveniently decamped to Mozambique.

Also returning are Anna Asp as the efficient Jenny Bodén, and Måns Nathanaelson as comedy cop Oskar Bergman. Oskar’s main contribution to this episode is a little sub-plot about a disastrous online date.

Finally, Ingvar Hirdwall (now 87) returns as Grannen, Beck’s eccentric neighbour, serving again as comic relief with an anecdote about a psychedelic experience up the Amazon, which leaves Beck as baffled as usual.

As for the case itself, it’s a particularly action-packed one, with car chases, shoot-outs and daring rescues. A gangster is shot dead, but was it just for the suitcase of money he was carrying? His body is found in a river near a suspicious warehouse – but we know the young punks who operate it didn’t do the killing, as we’ve seen that take place in a forest near a health spa. A ruthless assassin from a Danish crime ring is sent to get revenge for the killing and to recover the money – all he has to do is follow the police as they close in on the killer.

Josef and Alex have a little moment as he reminds her of their dalliance in the last season – will this flare up again?

Steinar has a testosterone-fuelled confrontation with an imprisoned crimelord who we sense we might meet again, and Alex questions a suspicious farmer on whose land the killing took place.

There’s a tense stand-off when the assassin closes in on the farm, and it turns out that the killer was his ex-wife, an informant now living under a new identity. Steinar and Josef ride to the rescue in a helicopter (a bit implausibly, as they seem to have done the flight in the time it took the assassin to walk from his car to the farmhouse’s front door).

The case concluded, Beck’s daughter Inger presents him with an allotment; the ‘shed’ is almost palatial, so allotments in Stockholm must be a bit fancier than they are in this country. Is digging up potatoes actually how Beck actually wants to spend his twilight years? We think he’d actually appreciate more juicy murder cases like this one.

The English title of this episode, Haunted by the Past, misses the double meaning of the Swedish title Ett Nytt Liv, or A New Life – both for Beck, and for the informant-turned-killer.  

On the evidence of this episode though, this short series of four may mark a return to form for Beck. There’s a suggestion that he might have a successor too, as his grandson Vilhelm is now a police cadet. There’s a little joke about him having changed – in fact, this is a new actor in the part, Valter Skarsgård, and yes, he is from the acting dynasty which includes Stellan and Alexander. Helmon Solomon plays his girlfriend Rebecka Kullgren, also a police cadet and a fangirl of Martin Beck’s – will she feature in later series?

So, a new life for Beck – we’re glad to see him back, and as miserable as ever.

Chris Jenkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Beck is shown on BBC Four in the UK

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