It all began with Kenneth Branagh. More specifically, his role as Kurt Wallander in the BBC1 adaptations of the Henning Mankell novels. Without those I wouldn't have heard about the far superior Swedish-language TV series starring Krister Henriksson and the rather good Rolf Lassgård films. These led me on to The Killing.
Forbrydelsen (literally translated as "The Crime", but sold to English-language markets as "The Killing") is a 20-part Danish-language television series produced by DR. A second season has already aired in Denmark, with a third in production. Oh, yes, there's also a US remake due to start airing on AMC tomorrow, IIRC.
Before I go into the plot, let me say that it is certainly worth 20 hours of your time and 20 hours worth of reading subtitles if you don't speak Danish. It is the best foreign-language detective drama I have ever seen - and among the best detective dramas I have seen, full stop.
The main character is Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Lund. Lund (played wonderfully by Sofie Gråbøl) is a determined female cop who focusses on the job at the expense of her personal relationships. She also often wears a traditional Faroese sweater - at least three of them (one ends up slashed by a knife and another ends up in police evidence). She's on her last day working as a detective in Copenhagen before she moves to Sweden with her boyfriend and her son.
Then a 19-year-old girl, by the name of Nanna Birk Larsen goes missing. The missing persons inquiry soon turns into a murder investigation when her body is found in a submerged car. You just know that Sarah Lund isn't going to Sweden.
The following 19 episodes involve twists, turns, lots and lots of red herrings, plus warehouses. Plenty of warehouses. Over a third of the Danish population tuned in to find out who did it.
By the way, each episode covers a single day in the investigation of Nanna's murder.
The story doesn't just focus on the criminal investigation - oh, no. In a similar manner to one of my favourite shows, 24, there are two other plots running through the show that interlink and feed off each other.
The first involves the bereaved family of Nanna, including her parents Treis and Pernille. I admit I actually managed to confuse the latter with DCI Lund on a number of occasions while watching this - they look similar. It's a deeply moving look at what happens to the families left behind after a murder like this - something that doesn't usually happen in these sorts of works.
The second involves Troels Hartmann, a candidate to become Lord Mayor of Copenhagen in upcoming elections against the rather slimy incumbent Poul Bremer. The political ducking and diving is good, although arguably a little overdone.
It's a slow-paced work; Nordic works tend to be. This doesn't stop there from being some very tense scenes and the rather shocking demise of a key character near the end.
The solution, which I won't spoil, wasn't fully explained and the denouement did seem a bit rushed. There's a strong sense at the end that justice has not fully been done. Personally, I'm not too bothered by that - such, alas is life.
A truly excellent work and one that I would highly recommend.
5/5. I look forward to the next season.