We’ve been increasingly drawn to the plays of Anton Chekhov in the last week or so, possibly because they are so naturalistic and unprepossessing (yet so beguiling). More than a century after they were written, they still make their mark as they are such a counterpoint to all the more obvious ‘classical’ drama that came in the centuries before.
Could it be, we wonder, that our simultaneous fascination with Trapped stems from the fact that is the Chekhov of Nordic Noir compared to the Shakespearean tomes that are The Bridge, Borgen and 1864? It has plenty going on (certainly a greater body count than in Chekhov’s plays) but in purely relative Nordic Noir terms, it’s not grand drama with grand set pieces, and there aren’t any obvious characters with all-too observable Shakespearean tragic flaws in the same way that there are in other Nordic Noir dramas. The world of Trapped is rather more shaded and restrained in terms of dramatic denouement.
And yet somehow Trapped has upped the ante for Nordic Noir in terms of an intangible ‘big things from a small country’ artistic equation. Few could quite believe that Denmark, with a population of less than six million, could produce such compelling television drama for the 21st century. Now we have to mentally readjust to ask how Iceland, a country with a population smaller than the London Borough of Croydon, can produce something which takes the very idea of Nordic Noir to new levels – or puts it in a completely new cultural and geographic place.
We already offered five reasons why Trapped hit the bullseye in terms of viewing pleasure. We don’t even know where to start in terms of offering more reasons, but one has to be the wonderful Andri-Hinrika dynamic.
The quiet, subtle emergence of the Andri-Hinrika double act – or, indeed, the subtle emergence of Hinrika as a strong character in her own right, over the course of several episodes, is a key component of the show. As strong as The Bridge and The Killing were, there was a very obvious cop double-act identified and put in place very early on in the proceedings, with the emphasis on the female lead. But look what happens in Trapped. Initially, we become used to the idea that the burly, brooding Andri is ostensibly in charge of the whole shebang of sorting out the multiple whodunnits in the remote Icelandic fjörd town where the action takes place. How can he not be in charge when he’s chief of police?
But then we notice that undemonstrative, stoical, scrutinising-yet-motherly female figure deftly going about another questioning, putting another piece of the jigsaw in place, and boldly confronting one of the numerous villains of the piece at the climax of the series. Perhaps one of the small yet vital components of dramatic genius within Trapped is that Hinrika nearly always wears uniform and Andri doesn’t (again, completely unlike what has come before in Nordic Noir double-acts); it raises questions as to who is actually the more discerning and palpable police figure, especially given Andri’s chequered history in the police force prior to moving from Reykjavìk to this rural backwater.
Hinrika is not an obvious ‘strong female lead’ in the same way that Saga is in The Bridge and Sarah Lund is in The Killing, but then in her own way she is challenging what ‘strong female lead’ means in Nordic Noir to start off with. With our conception blurred as to whether Andri or Hinrika is truly in charge of the case, and with so many people guilty of breaking the law come the end of the show, this is perhaps not as much as a ‘whodunnit’ as a ‘who solved it’. Maybe the comparison between Trapped and Chekhov is only valid up to a point; unlike the angsty eponymous characters in The Three Sisters, the woebegone Masha and Nina in The Seagull, and the put-upon Sonia in Uncle Vania, Hinrika is implacable and gets things done.