Apologies, life has gotten in the way of this latest Nordic Noir, but I’m happy to say I’m catching up. And not a moment too soon.
We’ve followed the journey of Trom right from its inception, not least because it’s the first crime series to be based on the beautiful, epic and windswept Faroe Islands. And now it’s with us here in the UK, and BBC Four, which feels like a fitting home for the show… especially when you consider the likes of The Killing and The Bridge came before it.
As usual for BBC Four, the series is being played out in double-bills every Saturday night, and there’s certainly enough here to sate the Nordic Noir fans who love to tweet along on social media during broadcasts.
And the good news is that Trom has plenty to love about it and is a veritable checklist for favourite Nordic Noir tropes and themes. Moody, atmospheric scenery? Check. Obsessive main character? Check. Big-corporation skullduggery? Check. Murder? Of course there is!
Who is who in Trom on BBC Four?
We’re first introduced to Sonja Á Heyggi (Helena Heðinsdóttir), a young woman and activist on the islands, who is proving to be a thorn in the side of many. She’s against whale hunting and Sonja and her pals like nothing more than to sabotage hunts, which puts her at odds with many on the islands. If you know anything about the Faroes, it’s that these small communities have whale hunting in their blood – it’s an industry as well as a deep cultural thread.
Sonja receives a message from her friend and fellow activist, Påll, a journalist who is working on something pretty big. He’s on his way to meet Sonja when his car goes off the road, injuring him to the extent that he’s placed in a medically-induced coma.
Sonja, convinced the accident is no accident, now fears for her life, especially now she’s the custodian of all of Påll’s background work on this unnamed case, which we’re told in episode two, uncovers corruption in the judicial system, big corporate business and even the police.
When Sonja goes to the police, the chief – Karla Mohr (Maria Rich) – is non-plussed about the activist and the so-called threats she has received.
And that’s when we meet our main character – international investigative journalist and Faroese native, Hannis Martinsson (Ulrich Thomsen). He has a history of bringing down corporations and exposing all manner of shady goings-on. So when he touches down in Denmark, he sees he has received a message via Facebook Messenger from Sonja, who matter-of-factly explains that she is the daughter he didn’t know he had and that she needs his help with a case she’s working on. She also mentions that she thinks she is in danger.
Armed with all of his head-scrambling information – and wanting to find out if she is indeed his daughter – he hops on a plane and goes back to his homeland.
He’s too late.
In a matter of hours, Sonja is found dead, facedown in the shallow tide.
Hannis is on the case in Trom
So we have several things in play here – the trope of a person going back to their homeland, and therefore rubbing up against a past they’d rather forget, a murder mystery, and we get to know Hannis, a driven and, some would argue, selfish, man – perhaps even a touch enigmatic – who is great at investigation but really bad at inter-personal relationships. He’s taciturn, furrowed-of-brow and not an easy person to like, but he’s our protagonist and the eye through which we follow this case.
Driven by guilt and his natural instinct to investigate stories, it’s not long before he’s picking up where his daughter left off.
Another person who’s feeling the strain (and the guilt) is police chief Karla. A case like this needs help from Denmark, but so far she’s refusing to comply. After all, she’s the one who dismissed Sonja as a bit of a crackpot.
After episode two, with the story set up, little twists were beginning to be introduced (not least Karla resorted to scanning Sonja’s DEAD FACE in the morgue in order to gain access to her phone). Hannis, too, is finding crumbs of information as he starts to stick his nose in.
All of this is set on the stunning Faroes. The pace of this drama – certainly in these opening two episodes – is quite slow, but what hooks you in is the verdant, green scenery, the epic mountains and the islands’ customs and characters (I’m pretty sure there’s some product placement in here, too). The bars, the industry, the gorgeous wooden houses, the people and the language (although a lot of people in this seem to be speaking Danish). Let’s face it when you see a character credit for ‘seaweed farmer’ in the closing credits, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
A good, solid and very absorbing start.