Thursday, 1 December 2011

Killing time again - Forbrydelsen II

In much the way author Howard Norman revisited the same story in three books from 1994 to 2002, the writer of The Killing, Søren Sveistrup, has been tipping his hat to familiar themes in the second series of the Danish crime drama. The original series (Forbrydelsen in Danish) stood out in part because of its focus on the family and friends of various central characters, especially those related to murder victim Nanna Birk Larsen.

Four episodes into the noticeably tighter Forbrydelsen II, the action is less immediately personal, though there are hints we may learn a little more about enigmatic heroine, detective inspector Sarah Lund. Her son has settled permanently with his grandmother, whose impending wedding gives Lund another family occasion to muck up or miss altogether, to put alongside her attempt to move in with Swedish ex-boyfriend Bengt.

Sofie Gråbøl is as outstanding as ever as Lund, whose powers of detection continue to outweigh the character's ability to play things by the book, coupled with an innate talent to be in the right place at the wrong time. As Gråbøl told me of her character in a recent interview for Time Out, 'She makes connections, that's her talent, her gift. Of course she has a strong gut feeling but there's nothing supernatural [about her intuition].'

Lund is one of only two recurring characters in the series - the other being her boss, Lennart Brix (Morten Suurballe). The political background is played out at a national level on this occasion, albeit with the state's civil servants still proving obstructive. Senior figures throughout seem to know more about the deaths of several people attached to a military unit in Afghanistan than they're letting on.

There are echoes of the excellent Danish film Armadillo (2010), which BBC4 would do well to screen during The Killing II's current run; the character Søgaard is notably familiar from Janus Metz Pedersen's Afghan documentary. Lund's case also has political as well as personal repercussions, not least for the women who are forced out of their jobs after having affairs. (There's even a replacement for luscious Rie Skovgaard in Ruth Hedeby.) Nor has the Danish weather improved.

There is, too, the initial frisson with Lund's new colleague, the brilliantly named Ulrik Strange (Mikael Birkkjaer), who has already succeeded where her previous (romantic) partner failed - by taking her to Sweden, as if that's some sort of strange Danish euphemism. Birkkjaer and Gråbøl previously appeared together in a film about a couple dealing with their daughter's death, Aftermath (2004). It's out on DVD on Monday.

Søren Sveistrup has injected warmth and dark humour in their relationship, worthy of the Swedish TV version of Wallander. (Gråbøl told The Guardian that Lund would beat Wallander in a fight - 'no contest'.) The writer is also playing with viewers' knowledge of what happened to Lund's previous police partner, and has just placed Strange in jeopardy. We'll have to tune in on Saturday to find out how that goes.

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