‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 7 & 8

This is a full review of episodes 7 and 8 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

Episode seven opens with the fairytale of Gutti the goat boy, his personal tragedy and how he gets trapped in a lost future. If it’s meant to evoke any sympathy or understanding in steely Halla it falls flat. “Gutti was an idiot” she says. There’s more myths and legends butting up against the everyday in these episodes as the villagers start to feel they’re cursed.

The man competing for unluckiest villager is Vikingur, stood awaiting his fate against a very suitable blood-red backdrop locked in a room in the plant to keep him safe from the angry mob. His white shirt is splattered in blood, the backdrop is a once-white sheet covered in red spray paint. Pawel was hit in the head with a nasty-looking pointed hammer and Vikingur looks extremely guilty. Pawel the Pole was running jobs with various foreign workers at the plant. Was he a mini mob boss? If so, I bet he had plenty of enemies.

Stefan, the clean-cut pal of Vikingur, rescues Ebo from yet another mob and puts him up with Hjortor and his girlfriend Soffia. Stefan can’t help but look guilty to seasoned fans of the genre – he’s so clean-cut he must be hiding something. Ebo speaks to the police to provide some context for Vikingur’s rage at Pawel and the homophobes they worked with. Lovely Asgeir’s English is beautifully spoken in this scene; he’s so kind to this terrified man.

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‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 3 & 4

This is a full review of episodes 3 and 4 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

Welcome to this week’s episodes of Trapped aka racist Lord of the Rings, well sort of.  The Hammer of Thor group are in the ascendency, racing around in the north embroiled in various criminal enterprises, large and small. The director must have heard my complaints about the first episodes; they’ve saved the greatest landscape shots for this week as we see Skuli evade the search team and murder a dog. Two dog deaths now in just 3 episodes. My top tip: never be a dog in a Scandi noir.

The Case

Incarcerated Torfi reveals a vague threat about “what happens today” which gives a real sense of pressure on the whole episode. Could the Hammer of Thor group have set a bomb at the location the Mayor will use to sign the controversial deal with American Aluminium? Could it be another attack on the plant? Rabble-rouser Ketill is delighted to be in front of the TV news cameras on his release from custody but desperate for his son to be found safe. On reflection Skuli’s white horse was a poor choice in a muddy green landscape. When Skuli is finally found he’s given up hiding as he is as sick as a dog (although not quite as sick as the one he stabbed previously). Could this be exposure as he’s been on the mountainside for days, or something more sinister. I immediately thought poison, but I’ve been conditioned by detective dramas. Aha! I was right, and we’ve seen him drinking from a stream. Is this the ecological disaster the angry farmers were predicting?

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‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 1 & 2

This is a full review of episodes 1 and 2 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

Trapped Series 1 was an extraordinary bit of television, the first ever Icelandic drama broadcast on British TV. The first series was the highest rated series ever on RUV, watched by 86% of TV households in Iceland. In the UK it passed 1.2 million viewers on BBC Four. Safe to say then that series 2 has quite a bit to live up to. I’m hoping it’s worth getting excited about.

Bearded man-mountain Ólafur Darri Ólafsson reprises his role as chief police inspector Andri now back in Reykjavik when he is entrusted with an extremely high-profile case. In classic nasty Scandi style we have an immediately gripping immolation opener which is fascinating even as you recoil in horror. Gisli an impoverished sheep farmer from the Icelandic Highlands sets himself on fire in front of the government building, trying to kill the Minister of Economic Affairs who just happens to be his twin sister. Andri is back on top again – a rise so meteoric I’m surprised he doesn’t have a nosebleed. From zero to hero thanks to his hard work and persistence in Series 1. In the first five minutes he’s already chatting to Iceland’s Prime Minister who cuts right to the heart of all Scandi noir motivations – was this attack personal or political?

Vikingur (early contender for best name of the series) is Gisli’s son, working at the controversial aluminium plant up north. As in the first series we get a break from subtitles thanks to the international element here in this industry; something that right-wing Icelanders like the Hammer of Thor group are protesting against – who profits from the devastation this plant causes to their landscape and their livestock? Vikingur already has a lot on his plate before his father’s horrible suicide – he’s in a relationship with Ebo, a black colleague who seems like he’s in the country illegally.

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‘Watership Down’ – BBC1 /Netflix

Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, and spending a lot of money on presents that may not be exactly what the recipient really wanted. Do you have friends and relations who give great gifts or have you been in training for weeks to perfect your thank-you face? Shining eyes under a paper cracker crown, broad grin, scrabbling around in the box hoping they’ve included the receipt? “Thanks very much for the 6 pack of pan scourers Nana!” Does that sound familiar at all?

The new Watership Down adaptation showing on BBC1 and Netflix made me think they should have kept the receipt. This was one of the early festive highlights with a rumoured budget of £20 million for state-of-the-art CG animation and seems to have put the flop in Flopsy Bunny with very mixed reviews across the board. And it’s not just the ‘we should never do remakes’ crowd feeling grinchy towards these cottontails.

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Just for Play-Play: the best of catch-up TV

In Search of Science iPlayer (first episode available until 27 August)

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This Brian Cox fronted series was first shown but unfortunately missed back in 2013. Yes it’s all about scientific wonders, but as it deals with the history of British science pioneers there are fewer gorgeous desert sunsets and less opportunity for attractive lens flare than in most of his TV shows. The fascinating stories highlighted here show how science and public perception have often been at odds with each other. It was just Darwin and his monkeys offending public sensibility. The lesson here for all is the importance of proper public engagement – sharing knowledge and showing the benefits of new scientific breakthroughs to assuage any misgivings about strange and startling discoveries. Science needs good PR, and that’s just as true now with the outcry over GM crops as it was with Professor Giovanni Aldini whose research on corpses inspired Frankenstein.

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‘Witnesses’ – Series 2

As you may have noticed I’m still waiting on the next big Euro drama to cross my path. All the Scandi stuff recently has me feeling a bit flat, with fairly promising starts leading to confused middles and ‘meh’ endings. It’s fine to have a beautiful backdrop of lakes and mountains, but you need to populate it with original characters leading interesting lives. The story needs to be multi-layered, but not too complicated; zoning out and playing with your phone is the absolute death knell for a subtitled drama. Both the good guys and the bad guys need to have clear motivations that we can relate to.

So with a Gallic shrug it might well be time to bid au revoir to the northernmost corners of Europe and see what France might have to offer; after all, the daddy of the noir resurgence in the past decade has been the Emmy award-winning and much loved Spiral. The most memorable dramas I’ve watched recently have been French, or part French; the balls-out action heros in Braquo, stylish super spies in The Bureau and the best character in Midnight Sun was the deeply troubled French detective.

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‘Detectorists: Series 3, Episode 6’ – BBC4

This week, with the UK under deep snowdrifts we bid goodbye to the always summery Detectorists. As the watchful magpie reminds us, our heroes should be looking up not down. Their metal detectors are pretty useless in this case, and it’s in the branches of the lovely old tree, beneath which we’ve seen them shelter for so many years, where the trickster magpies have hidden their ancient hoard.

The tiny heartbreaks of this series have done their job and we are rewarded with stronger happier relationships. Lance with his daughter Kate and his girlfriend Toni, who are not at odds with each other for his affection, and who seem like they could be excellent friends. TV writers take note; women can be friends, not just bitchy rivals. It was a shock to see Lance’s horrible ex-wife Maggie return (played with relish and skill by Lucy Benjamin). She had a useful but very short storyline. Her evil plans were scuppered easily. Maybe she was a little underused?

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