Andri and Hinrika are back!
As long-time readers we know I hold Trapped in the highest regard. Series one was one of the best crime dramas of the past decade (it won our Crime Drama Of The Year in 2016), introducing us to one of the best police partnerships of recent times and to the magical, other-worldly realm of Iceland. It really is a special place, and for us to see it and experience it onscreen is something we should forever be in Trapped’s debt for.
Indeed, because of Trapped I visited the island several times and experienced the incredible city of Reykjavik and its people, its TV people and its crime novelists first hand. I’ve met friends for life over there and it really is as great as it looks onscreen.
Another reason that Trapped caught on in the UK was because of where and when it was broadcast. Lest we forget, we’d recently had The Killing and The Bridge in the Saturday-night, foreign-drama slot on BBC Four. That slot really became a must-watch, and something tangible to look forward to every week. Online communities even grew around this collective experience, members of which discussed characters and plot points. It really was people’s Saturday-night thing.
Fast forward almost a decade and BBC Four is, sadly, on the wane, and other outlets have outpaced it. Because of all this, Trapped seems and feels synonymous with BBC Four to me, so when it was announced that series three was to be renamed Entrapped and would appear on Netflix, there was a sigh of disappointment.
You can’t blame Icelandic broadcaster RÚV or the team behind the show – they have to take the money where they can, and plainly Netflix was a willing and able partner going forward.
However, Netflix has taken its time releasing this and on the grapevine I’d heard that this series – essentially series three of Trapped – wasn’t all that great. This was concerning because of the reverence I hold it in.
And another element to be wary of… Netflix has taken the original eight episodes and cut them down into six. Again, red flags.
But there I was in episode one, just luxuriating in the fact that the likes of Andri, Hinrika and co back were on our screens again. The gang was back together (and by gang I also mean British writer Clive Bradley and creator/showrunners Baltasar Kormákur and Sigurjón Kjartansson), so surely it couldn’t be all that bad.
It starts with that incredible, iconic music from Hildur Guðnadóttir, and then a trip back up north, and a religious/pagan sect/commune worshiping in a lush, green field overlooking the ocean. It’s a gorgeous scene, in line with Iceland’s innate links to the land, spirituality and mythology. My only concern as we entered this world was that we’d seen it all before in Nordic Noirs – religion and religious ‘families’ seem to be a real thing in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, and certainly within crime drama, some of which have explored the dynamics within these environments.
We meet family leader Oddur (who, for a religious leader, isn’t actually all that charismatic) and headstrong member Ívar (Jóhann Kristóffer Stefánsson) who clashes with the leader of a visiting motorcycle gang called Gunnar (Haraldur Ari Stefánsson). Later that night, Ívar has his face smashed in with a hammer.
And then we go to Reykjavík, where Andri (hello again old friend) picks up his ex-father-in-law Eiríkur from prison (remember series two?). We find out that Agnes and his kids are now in Sweden and they’re divorced, so essentially Andri is on his own and lumbering through his life in the financial crime division in the nation’s capital. However, when Trausti gets in touch and tells him that the victim of the murder up north is someone from his past, Andri is absolutely insistent he must go back and join up with Hinrika to sort this out.
Why? We’re shown flashbacks from seven years before, where Andri (and Trausti) is interrogating a young Ívar about the disappearance of his girlfriend, Lena. He gets so angry he beats him up, and we learn that these heavy-arm tactics destroyed Ívar’s life. He escaped to the religious family for a new life and never forgave Andri. Nor did Ívar’s parents, either.
Furthermore, Lena had never been found.
So far, so good, although we were going through some of this backstory at a rate of knots and some of it was a) hard to believe (Andri beating up a suspect just like that?), and b) for such an important part of the story it was going so quickly it wasn’t really sticking.
Back in the present day, Andri took Eiríkur back up north to a retirement home (not sure why) and soon enough he joined up with old pal Hinrika (hello again old friend), which gladdned the heart and put a huge smile on my face, especially as he walked into the old police station and embraced. As I mentioned before, they’re such a great team – hulking Andri with his quiet ways but always an anger simmering beneath the surface; and Hinrika, magnificently-browed, calm and hyper-pragmatic (we learned that she had got back together Bárður and taken on his sister’s son… quite the family unit).
We also got some nice tributes to dear, much-missed Ásgeir.
Back to the plot. As soon as Andri went back up north you really felt like it was game on – an intriguing murder mystery was in play, a cold case, two juxtaposing, warring factions, lots of family beefs (Oddur’s son was Gunnar, the apparent leader of the biker gang).
But that’s went things went awry when it really should have escalated.
Throughout this series, the key focus of Trapped – that of the investigative partnership of Andri and Hinrika – seemed to be pushed into the background a little. Along for the ride came Trausti, who didn’t really serve much of a purpose accept to huff and puff petulantly (as is his wont) and dilute Andri and Hinrika’s relationship onscreen time.
Another reason was the plot.
Onto the island from Denmark came a bigger biker gang, led by Danish Hopper (Thomas Bo Larsson), Gunnar’s uncle. From that moment on Entrapped spent too much time – most of the rest of the series, in fact – on building him up as the Big Bad and the characters around him. In fact, let’s talk about biker gangs and Scandinavian/Nordic culture. They’re a real thing over there, but not so much in the UK. They do not instil the same kind of fear or fascination in the UK and in this day and age feel a bit naff and cliched. If this was the 1980s, sure, but the 2020s?
All that being said, we got some subplots involving an undercover drugs deal, the women of the gang being shocked and abhorred by Hopper’s methods of iron-fist violence (you just knew that one of them would give him up in the end) and the introduction of police chief Sonja (Svandís Dóra Einarsdóttir), who Andri strikes up a bit of a relationship with. (I actually liked Sonja as a character – especially her disdain for Trausti – and she fitted in well.)
There was some good stuff in here, and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson and Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir are just so brilliant in their roles it was impossible to completely dislike it. How could I when I love this series so much? However, it did test the patience for long periods, especially as we got deeper into the biker gang story.
That story strand was resolved in the penultimate episode, so we only got 40-odd minutes to resolve Ívar’s murder and Lena’s disappearance, which were the most interesting elements of the plot. In fact, I’d argue that you could have gotten rid of the whole biker gang/drugs plot completely – it was just full of people, ultimately, you didn’t really care about – and focused on the intriguing, dark cold case.
So Entrapped was, in the end, disappointing. A great shame because we know how good this show can be. You could tell and feel that eight episodes had been slashed up and hammered into six (a shoehorned meeting between Andri and his mother served absolutely no purpose, for instance… it was full of scenes that left you scratching your head a bit in terms of depth and continuity), and the ending felt rushed and not quite right, so I’m not quite sure what Netflix was playing at there.
And yet, with all that being said… I really want more stories featuring Andri and Hinrika down the line, and Iceland for that matter, because they’re two of the very best and we all know that when it’s on its game, it’s a fantastic series.
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Entrapped can be streamed on Netflix in the UK