A few thoughts on the first couple of episodes that aired on BBC4 last night (and, yes, some minor spoilers)...
Much of what makes the series so compelling is the speed with which the story develops and the sheer volume of information you have to take in. There's no compromise for the slow-witted. Nip out for a cup of tea and you've missed a couple of vital scenes. You're on the edge of your seat not so much from the tension - there's some of that, and no doubt it'll be cranked up later in the series, but we're spared too much nerve-shredding as yet - but from the effort and level of concentration required. Suddenly an hour's gone past - and then another. Whew.
The lack of compromise applies to what we see, too. Parts of a body found in a scrap yard? Normally we'd be looking at the reactions of the cops as they lift the covers - a narrowing of the eyes perhaps, with the inevitable rookie heading off to re-view his lunch - but here we get to see the nasty bits ourselves. In close-up. Oh yes, it's an adult programme.
This series seems to be combining the elements of all the other recent Danish (or Danish-Swedish) thrillers from the same producers. Sarah Lund with her jerseys and her dysfunctional personal life from The Killings 1 and 2; the political intrigues and power-plays from Borgen; and the killer ("the perpetrator" as they insist on calling him) as a cunning and ruthless manipulator with a grudge and a taste for grand guignol deaths, as per The Bridge (the hanging of the deputy public prosecutor from the courthouse here, and the body in two halves either side of the border that started The Bridge).
Lund's dysfunctional personal life - perhaps too heavy-handed? It's something that all the critics comment on as a major feature of the show, but for me it's best left as a minor distraction rather than a main plot device. The over-bearing mother was surely a little too neatly tactless in her one cameo appearance, and the scene at the station where Lund suddenly spotted her son with pregnant girlfriend... Yes, contrived of course, though I suppose these things happen - but stopping like that for what seemed like ages, mouth open, while she was approaching the climax of a dramatic kidnap rescue clutching a million kroner or whatever it was, to be delivered in exchange for the life of the young girl, in one of the country's most high-profile cases....well, no, that was altogether too pat, too heavy-handed.
Of course we knew that the exchange - money for girl - wasn't going to work. This was the end of episode two, after all - much too early for anything to go right. Clearly we couldn't have the whole thing resolved so early on, with the remaining episodes devoted to our heroes staring gloomily out of the police station window at a rain-lashed Copenhagen. Still, Lund's Special Branch colleague fairly obviously tagging along for the train ride when the kidnapper specified she could come alone seemed a little, well....dim.
Anyway, all will be revealed. Provided we don't nip out for a cup of tea and miss it.