Swedish crime drama series Arne Dahl returned to BBC Four last weekend with a second series. The show’s peculiar title is the pen-name author Jan Arnald uses for crime fiction. Series one adapted five novels of the Arne Dahl Intercrime series. This second run adapts the remaining five books into two-episode stories, with the BBC running each two part story in a single evening.
The first story, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, picked up two years after the end of series one. Elite crime squad ‘A Unit’ is reformed to investigate a series of murders that present a political problem for the Swedish government. The women were nurses in Polish care homes coerced into killing patients by an organised crime group called the Wybrani (The Chosen Ones).
Ahead of a summit meeting the case is a potential embarrassment for Poland that Sweden would like to solve quickly and quietly. The Polish government has been trying to eradicate the criminal element of their health care system. Some nurses who had euthanised patients on Wybrani orders have taken flight, fleeing to Sweden to escape both the Polish authorities and the mafia. Now they are pawns in a deadly game and are being stalked by a deadly Wybrani assassin.
For new viewers, this was an easy point to pick up the story: the reformation of the police unit after a two year break allowed for each character to be given a fresh introduction. There were a few personnel changes, some former members of the unit do not return and Chief Inspector Kerstin Holm (Malin Arvidsson) is promoted to unit leader.
Under Holm’s command are: sharp dressing Arto Söderstedt, the brains of the group and a former defence lawyer from Helsinki; hulking Gunnar Nyberg, the team’s muscle and a cop’s cop with an exhaustive underworld knowledge; Sara Svenhagen, their expert in paedophile and trafficking cases; Jorge Chavez – Svenhagen’s husband – the team’s hacker expert and back office support. The have also gained a new recruit, Ida Jankowicz, fresh out of training but fluent in Polish.
This is a more conventional team-based police drama than the first division of Scandinavian dramas (The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen). Arne Dahl‘s team dynamic relies a little too much on stock character types familiar from procedural series like CSI and its many spin offs. However, it also benefits from the strong female characters that are a staple of Nordic crime drama. There is a touch of Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison to Holm with her complicated private life and sometimes brittle attitude to co-workers, even if Holm works in an environment with a level of gender equality Tennison could only fight for.
The central murder investigation plot proceeded in a well worn genre groove, with some sleuthing and some high-tech snooping leading to a tense race against time to rescue a victim. This was enjoyable, but a secondary plot line involving a recovering drug addict was distracting and rather clumsily integrated. There was a sense that there was not quite enough plot for a two-hour story with the inclusion of a third storyline involving former A Unit member Paul Hjelm, now an internal affairs officer, begrudgingly investigating one of the team following a complaint.
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ made for an enjoyable procedural drama, but one that lacked the necessary dramatic firepower to stand out in a crowded field.
Directed by Trygve Allister Diesen
Cast: Malin Arvidsson, Natalie Minnevik, Shanti Roney, Alexander Sulzberger, Magnus Samuelsson, Vera Vitali, Niklas Åkerfelt
Review by Stuart Barr.
Did you tune in for Arne Dahl series 2 episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below – and don’t miss the next double bill on BBC Four on Saturday 24th October!