fri 14/06/2024

Enemy of the People, Channel 4 review - murder and corruption in the age of digital media | reviews, news & interviews

Enemy of the People, Channel 4 review - murder and corruption in the age of digital media

Enemy of the People, Channel 4 review - murder and corruption in the age of digital media

The death of a famous Finnish footballer triggers a violent chain reaction

Scoop! Kreeta Salminen as investigative reporter Katja Salonen

Presented to you by Channel 4’s industrious Walter, Enemy of the People is a punchy Finnish drama which makes some smart and timely observations about life in the age of digital money and poisonous social media.

It’s the story of an ambitious and dogged investigative journalist, Katja Salonen (Kreeta Salminen). She has written an article suggesting that football hero Samuli Tolonen (Jussi Partanen) has failed to make a financial investment in the local FC Tampere football stadium, after promising to do so.

This earns Katja a tsunami of online messages dripping with bile, sexism and hatred, but that’s barely the beginning. Imagine her surprise when Tolonen himself gets in touch and says he wants to do an interview, telling her that the story is “a lot bigger than a stadium renovation”. However, she never gets to meet him because he suddenly ends up dead in the swimming pool at his enticing villa in Barcelona (he used to play for FC Barcelona).Enemy of the People, Channel 4 We know early on who the killer is, but that gets put on the back burner as the show’s eight episodes circle back and methodically fill in the background to the killing and the mesh of interests, politics and personalities which caused it to happen. The narrative centres around a group of local bigwigs that includes businessmen, the police chief and the mayor (several of them played in a youth football team alongside the ill-fated Tolonen). They've all invested in the VersoCoin cryptocurrency about to be launched by thrusting, and somewhat questionable, entrepreneur Kristian Laine (Antti Luusuaniemi, pictured above).

Everybody wants to get rich quick, and at first, VersoCoin looks as if it’s going to make everyone’s fortune as its value climbs steadily on the trading screens to which they’ve all become glued. But Katja’s determination to dig out the murky chain of events that led to Tolonen’s death – she gets extra inspiration from the way Tolonen’s wife is convinced that her husband’s death wasn’t accidental, as the local cops originally believed – gradually peels away layers of deceit and corruption and leads her ever closer to the dark heart of the story.

Sometimes Enemy of the People gets bogged down in Katja’s laborious legwork, but it’s the show’s unwillingness to fall into the trap of cheap thrills and sensationalism which eventually pays off, meticulously ramping up the intrigue and the sense of threat as the denouement approaches. It benefits greatly from its realistic depiction of the online newspaper Katja works for (maybe the writers, Timo Varpio and Laura Suhonen, were hacks themselves), and the office politics and personal rivalries add flavour and texture to the proceedings.

Enemy of the People, Channel 4 Salminen’s portrayal of Katja skilfully depicts the way the character’s mixture of journalistic flair and selfish individualism makes her terrific at her job but despised by many of her colleagues as she thoughtlessly elbows them out of the way. The abusive onslaught of online trolls is just an occupational hazard. The internal balance between Katja’s impassive but shrewd editor Soili Nylund (Milka Ahlroth, pictured right) and the flakier managing editor Juha Leinonen (Mikko Nousiainen), who’s liable to be knocked off course by flattery from the rich and powerful, is also nicely drawn.

In addition, the show sounds a strident alarm in our present moment of the rise of AI, de-banking and fears about the onset of a cashless society, as unscrupulous power-brokers fill their pockets and build their own empires while leaving the lowly proletariat squabbling over the scraps. Less plausible, sadly, is the notion of the fearless reporter whose crusading zeal can right the gravest of wrongs. But at least it makes for some fine drama.

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