The protracted absence of any blogging activity here shouldn’t be seen as a dwindling of our interest in Scandinavian matters. Too much to blog about and too little time – same old fiendish equation. Somehow we seem to have had a window of opportunity presented (or framed?) our way so we are going to jump through it. Five reasons to get immersed in Trapped, the Icelandic detective series currently airing on BBC4 in the UK.
1. It’s not really a detective series. Chinese investors looking to bring a brand new spanking port to a remote Icelandic fjörd town. Brutal wife-beating mayors getting their comeuppance. Old, sage-like figures warning of disaster and then invoking it when they misguidedly attempt to stop an avalanche. Families cleaved apart by a distressing death and then brought together by the realisation that the chief suspect isn’t the perpetrator. It’s all a bit..well, it’s all a bit like a modern Icelandic saga. Especially because the fact everyone is trapped by the snow intensifies the feeling of what you might call communal remoteness (or remote communality?)
2. Protagonist Andri isn’t really a classic Nordic Noir detective. He doesn’t have any of the ‘superwoman with baggage’ characteristics of Saga Norén or Sarah Lund (admittedly because he’s not a woman in the first place, but you know what we mean). He doesn’t have any of the ‘lieutenant superman with baggage too’ characteristics of Henrik in Series Three of The Bridge. He isn’t an alcoholic like Wallander. He’s just very ursine and (a bit) cuddly, terse, weary and unobtrusive. He’s paralysingly normal by any Scandi sleuth standards. And that’s actually quite endearing. He’s the bloke next door in the town where everyone’s got something to hide behind their door (except maybe Andri).
3. The low-key stuff. A lot of the best scenes aren’t obviously about anything in the grander scheme of things yet they matter all the more. Hjörtur, the character suspected of the murder of Andri’s former sister-in-law, stands out as the awkward social hermit in the town, savagely burned by the fire which killed his partner seven years previously, and with no obvious allies to hand (and his former partner’s father clearly an enemy). The scene where Hjörtur goes to a pool party and summons up the confidence to shed some clothes and jump in the pool (and potentially rediscover love) is very understated, but it’s very poignant and rewarding as well.
4. The fact so much of the action takes place in just once place. No buzzing back and forth over the Öresund Bridge. No jet-setting like the Arne Dahl crew to Italy or the Baltics. When so much detail rests less on the big geopolitical picture and more on which snowman might be outside which house (and serve to blow the cover of two hapless trafficked girls looking to escape their ruthless trafficker), you’re forced to concentrate on the detail.
5. It’s all about Total Trappedness. Trapped by the snow. Trapped in a house where you dare not expose your cover (see above). Trapped on a ferry until the police say otherwise. Trapped by the cold until the shady ferry captain turns the heat on. Trapped in unhappy marriages. Trapped by society’s perceived norms until you find a way to break free or accept society for what it is (see Hjörtur above). Trapped by the social conventions where you’re expected to make an effort with your ex-wife’s partner for the sake of the family (as Andri is, or appears to be). Trapped by the prospect of an avalanche. Trapped by the actual avalanche which probably didn’t have anything to do with the prospect of the avalanche. Trapped by remoteness which requires you to let foreign investors do their bidding in order to potentially secure the livelihood of the town. To coin another phrase, we’re all entrappened in this one.