No Martin. Not good. Anyway, we start in Malmo with a murder victim who has been placed in the sort of artfully-displayed tableau which never happens IRL. It’s Helle Anker, campaigner on gender issues and high-profile gay rights activist, who lives with her wife and kids. Our old friend Saga is assigned to the case by her boss Hans (who is now married to Lillian, his oppo in Copenhagen).
But because Helle was a Danish citizen, Saga needs a new Martin, and Copenhagen provides Hanne Thomsen, an older woman who doesn’t think much of Swedish attitudes in general – she’s particularly unconvinced about one of the victim’s projects, a gender-neutral preschool – and takes agin Saga almost immediately. It’s partly because Saga is, well, Saga; and partly because of what happened to Martin. At one point Saga is making one of her endearingly awkward attempts at small-talk, which gets nowhere: “If you wanted a colleague to be personal and friendly with”, snaps Helle, “then maybe you shouldn’t have put Martin in jail”. Ooh, burn.
Anyway, that apart the first episode follows the usual Scandi-templåte, in which we’re thrown several apparently unconnected storylines, which we know in due course will be very much connected. Previous experience, for me at least, suggests that there’s little point in trying to work out what’s happening; it’s best just to sit back and see where it all leads, particularly as at least three of the male randoms have facial hair which looks like it’s supposed to mean something.
There’s Henrik, a pill-swallowing dude (neatly trimmed goatee, almost Frank Zappa-esque) who hooks up with a woman at a social event at a museum (?) then dashes home to tell his wife about it. There’s Aleks, a released prisoner (hipster beard) who doesn’t go to his halfway house, but instead tries to find the money which was presumably the subject matter of the case which landed him in the jail, and when he can’t find it goes to ask his former partner-in-crime – now living very well, thanks – if he knows anything about it. And there’s Morten, a former soldier with PTSD (unkempt facial hair, you wouldn’t want him sitting next to you on the train), who is Helle’s son from her first marriage.
On the non-beard side of the house we have Lise, a nasty piece of work in many ways – she’s an anti-gay vlogger – but who is also (quite rightly, if you ask me) furious about the fact that her daughter is being bullied, but the school’s approach is all, why can’t we just get along? She’s married to the CEO of the company which owns the premises where Helle was murdered. And there’s Lise’s cleaner Rikard, who has some creepy pets and what looks like an unhealthy fascination with his employer.
It’s a lot to take in, and I found my attention wandering once or twice. On top of that I very quickly found myself becoming irritated with Hanne and her sour antipathy towards Saga. The point about Saga is that she’s dissociated from everyone (and, frankly, I think the show sometimes tries a little too hard to make that point); it isn’t just that she rubs some people up the wrong way. In a happy development, though, Hanne gets her leg blown off when she and Saga go to visit Morten’s boobytrapped shack, so with any luck we’ve seen the last of her.
With which we’re into a much better second episode. There’s another murder – this time a liberal priest who conducts gay marriages and who, like Helle, has been called out on Lise’s vlog – and another new Martin. At which point the pill-popping aficionado of the Copenhagen singles nights, Henrik, rears into view, because he’s totally a cop, and he actually makes a point of volunteering to work with Saga, an offer which Lillian accepts immediately. Interestingly, he’s actually a good cop – it may be that Saga’s off her game because her mother is in town, dredging up their shared past, but Henrik picks up on a couple of potentially crucial details in the investigation, which pass Saga by. He’s also somewhat more tolerant of Saga’s quirks, although he almost immediately invites her out to dinner, presumably so that he can tap that and tell his wife about it…? Hmm. But of course Saga declines.
And if that weren’t enough, Hans is kidnapped by Aleks, who’s been holding a grudge ever since (he says) Hans turned him into a grass. Hans is then freed, but it’s by someone who – I think – kidnaps him again? Which is pretty bad luck, you’d have to say. All of which means that by the end of episode 2 we’re rolling along nicely. I still miss Martin, though.