Another slice of Danish pastry from Walter Presents project on Channel 4. Strong female lead – check. Horrific crimes – check. Beautiful Scandinavian interiors that’ll make your house look dingy in comparison – check. You may think you’ve already got the measure of Dicte – Crime Reporter but this one is a bit left-field for Nordic Noir fans and subverts our expectations.
The Guardian suggest this series will be yet more “grey dramas about the exhausted life of a crime-solving woman” but this isn’t the case. Yes, the subject matter is very dark (people trafficking, illegal immigration, selling babies, dead babies, religious fanaticism, illegal organ trafficking – you name it, it’s all awful) but deftly handled with the themes of the crimes echoing through the lives of the lovable main characters. Sure, this show shares some of its make-up with The Killing, but also, surprisingly Sex and the City. And the theme tune is just so peppy and cheerful!
Rather more unsurprisingly, it’s about divorced Danish woman, who has moved back from Copenhagen to her small home town of Aarhus with her teenage daughter after a messy breakup. Crime reporter Dicte Svendsen constantly gets too close to her subjects and to the story she’s chasing. She’s emotionally scarred as when she was a teenager she gave birth to a son her strict religious parents didn’t allow her to keep, so themes of family and loss are central.
Dicte seems to have picked up where she left off with old friends Anne and Ida-Marie, who have busy lives themselves but get together to drink wine at least three times per episode. They talk about everything, they argue, they cry, they laugh. They can even deal with infidelity with each other’s ex-husbands. Nothing is off the table. It’s very stylised and beautiful, especially the gorgeous interiors of their homes, but also very relatable. It’s female friendship writ large.
One Guardian commenter HeatherMary has nailed the coppers precisely. I knew I’d seen them somewhere before – it’s “Robert Peston-alike Wagner and his Sporty Spice sidekick”. They are the most useless crime fighting duo. This police procedural is sorely lacking in the procedural. They seem to run on 20% luck, 20% pastries and coffee and 60% following Dicte around while she unthinkingly puts herself in harm’s way and breaks the case wide open. Wagner has a love/hate relationship with Dicte – she messes up and he has to step in and save her with his badge and his gun, but I’d hate to see his review meeting with his boss without Dicte’s help. He would have a zero clearance rating and be out in the job centre quicker than you can say Sarah Lund’s jumper.
The chick-fest cast is rounded out with the male supporting characters. There’s the creepy ex-husband, who is apparently a psychiatrist. I find this super unlikely as he sets my teeth on edge every time he turns up, mainly pestering Dicte to get back together with him, or at least have a shag. Physician – heal thyself! There’s the very handsome philandering newspaper photographer friend. Will they, won’t they? Of course they will. And some other chaps in the thriving newspaper office (this part is pure fantasy). They’re the equivalent of the “boys in the lab” in the police station – the people who actually do all the important work so Dicte and co have time to drink their coffees and cocktails.
The crimes are grizzly, the character’s back stories are miserable and the police are inconsistent to say the least. No it’s not gripping stuff in the way that The Killing and The Bridge turned everyone on to Scandi Noir. But the writing is snappy, the show is absorbing and really easy to watch. It’s a very unlikely comfort blanket to choose at the end of a busy day, but I’d happily open a bottle of wine and go rounds to Dicte’s house to see what she gets up to next. Happily two series have been aired in Denmark and The Euro TV Place confirms series 3 is in production.
Catch up with the whole first series on All4 now.