Arne Dahl: The Blinded Man - Part One, BBC Four | TV reviews, news & interviews
Arne Dahl: The Blinded Man - Part One, BBC Four
Swedish cop drama lacks the depth of previous Nordic exports
Swedish cop drama Arne Dahl snugly fits BBC Four’s Saturday-evening slot for continental European TV imports, but it also suggests that the well might be running dry. Based on the opening episode there’s not much intrinsically wrong with it, but it’s not distinctive and – beyond Irene Lindh’s forceful portrayal of lead detective Jenny Hultin – lacks any characteristically Scandinavian markers. Things may change as the series finds its feet but, for now, Arne Dahl could have sprung from anywhere in Europe. The stock types making up Hultin’s team further that impression.
Sweden’s top businessman are being bumped off – twisting the meaning of making a financial killing. The perpetrator is soon dubbed “the financial killer”. Tough nut Hultin (Irene Lindh, pictured below right) is called on to assemble a team to investigate. The A Unit (or A Team) she gathers has six members, drawn from police forces around Sweden.
Introduced first, in a lengthy opening segment dedicated to getting the measure of his character, is Paul Hjelm (Shanti Roney). He doesn’t follow orders, takes action without consulting his colleagues and is up before the internal beak for his transgressions. Relations with his nurse wife are strained. He’s distracted, with the reasons for his wayward behaviour unclear. A standard maverick cop, Hjelm is all-too familiar. Hultin barges into the room where he’s being questioned and whisks him off for her new squad.
The others brought together are more off-the-peg sorts. Viggo Norlander (Claes Ljungmark, pictured above lurking in the background) is a rumpled, out-of-condition, seen-it-all old cop (awfully like Dennis Waterman in New Tricks). Aarto Söderstedt (Niklas Akerfelt) is an intense nerd whose head is crammed with obscure facts. He refers to his children by numbers rather than names. Gunnar Nyberg (Magnus Samelsson) is a moustached giant haunted by his past. Previously pumped with steroids, he was prone to rages but now takes time out singing in a choir. Jorge Chavez (Matias Varela), seemingly there to ensure that not all the characters are of Scandinavian extraction, is also troubled and abruptly starts wildly biffing a character being tapped for info. Kerstin Holm (Malin Arvidsson) is a woman, because there has to be a woman on the team. Apparently, she’s a top interrogator. There’s banter and verbal skirmishes between them.
After a couple of red herring leads, it becomes clear the murders are somehow linked to Russian mafia based in Estonia’s capital Tallinn. Norlander heads off there on his own to meet a fate that ends this opening episode unforgettably. Leading up to that, he’s moving around the same distressed cityscape employed by Tarkovsky for Stalker.
Efficient and satisfying, Arne Dahl sports characters that are easy to get to know, but it is not exceptional. It lacks the depth BBC Four’s other Nordic imports: it has none of the sensitive contextualisation of the Danish dramas, nor a lead as forceful as fellow Swede Wallander. It also lacks a character called Arne Dahl. The title is taken from the nom-de-plume assumed by Swedish writer Jan Arnald. The look of Hjelm and the real-life Arnald are interchangeable. The branding sold is the author of the books – the Intercrime series – rather than the substance of the programme itself. This opening episode, the first part of a two-hander, draws from the initial book in the series, Misterioso – retitled The Blinded Man for the dramatisation.
Arne Dahl is perfectly respectable, but it’s unlikely to leave much of an aftertaste.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Hectic northern crime drama starring Lesley Sharp and Indira Varma lacks characters
A look back at recent events helps to get clarity, but not closure
Inspiring student pranks and political satire, Dada is the lifeblood of 20th century culture
Beloved entertainer helps the police with their inquiries
Forty years on: the accidental furore around Carl Andre's work remembered
A dark voyage through the heart of American law and order
Conservationists to the rescue of one of the world's most elusive animals
BBC Four documentary with too little time to examine a big subject
Richard Macer enters the elusive realm of frocks
Promising pilot of comedy about middle-class parenting
Mike Bullen's drama tackles midlife as if it's never been away
Return of Cornish yarn low on pecs appeal as the drama heads for court