In Arne Dahl series 2 episode 5, the A-Unit is brought in to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Similarities to two previous cases where Swedish girls have gone missing and been found near Brussels have raised suspicions that the missing girl has been abducted by a criminal gang who are trafficking teenage girls as sex slaves. In both previous cases the victims died. As the A-Unit investigates further they become drawn into a race against time, knowing that every day that passes makes it less likely that the missing teenager will be recovered alive.
Each Arne Dahl story allows different members of the elite crime squad to take centre stage. In this investigation the lead officers are Sara Svenhagen and Ida Jankowicz. Svenhagen is the team’s expert on trafficking and paedophile rings. She has the ability – gained through experience – to disconnect emotionally from such emotive and disturbing cases, approaching the investigation with calm intellect. Jankowicz is still the team’s rookie member and sees the more experienced officer’s clinical approach as coldness.
The investigation becomes more dangerous for the police with the violent death of a member of biker gang The Black Hearts. The gang are suspected of some involvement in the two earlier abductions by Interpol. This would be unusual: while the gang are well known for smuggling and drug trafficking, child pornography and people trafficking are outside of their criminal code. As one of the investigators remarks, such vile crimes would be ‘death’ in their (under)world.
While the investigation is ongoing, internal affairs officer and former A-Unit member Paul Hjelm has received a complaint from a prostitute who has alleged that a vice squad officer attacked a fellow sex worker. The officer in question is a colleague of Bengt Åkesson, a senior police officer who is in a relationship with Hjelm’s former lover – the A-Unit’s commander, Kerstin Holm.
The previous two stories in this series of Arne Dahl have struggled to integrate the melodrama of the principal characters’ private lives with their self contained crime narratives. ‘Hidden Numbers’ was a much more successful two-part story in this regard. While the ongoing relationship triangle between Hjelm, Holm and Åkesson was still present, it became more relevant to the plot. Hjelm’s internal affairs investigation also dovetailed into the abduction plotline in a satisfying way, making for a more coherent and evenly-paced mystery.
‘Hidden Numbers’ dealt with some very dark material, presenting controversial themes of sexual abuse and exploitation. A short sequence in the second episode showing excerpts of a videotaped sexual assault, while not prolonged, made for very uncomfortable viewing and it was questionable if this was entirely necessary to get across the horror of the abductee’s situation.
Arne Dahl still relies too often on crime fiction clichés. A revelation from one detective’s own history that give them a personal connection to the case cannot have surprised many viewers. The denouement played out as a tense race against time to save the victim. Whilst this was a familiar story arc, it was more dramatically satisfying than the series has been to date and did just enough at the show’s halfway point to revive flagging interest.
Directed by Caroline Cowan
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 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below – and don’t miss the next double bill on BBC Four on Saturday 7th November!