‘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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‘The City and the City’

“Nowhere else works like the cities”. This is the first line of BBC1’s new drama based on the 2009 ‘weird fiction’ novel by British author China Miéville, an exotically named man actually born in Norwich. His book has been adapted for TV by screen writer Tony Grisoni.

The cities in the title are Besźel, which looks like the Eastern Bloc of 30 plus years ago mixed with cafes and people from 1970s Istanbul and Ul Qoma which is glimpsed only briefly in the first episode. These streets look brighter, cleaner, and more advanced. The colour pallets are quite different in each city; dingy yellows for Besźel and clean blues for Ul Qoma. Like the inhabitants, the viewer always knows where they’re looking.

The two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but the inhabitants wilfully ‘unsee’ the areas they’re not allowed to view. Early on Commissar Gadlem (Ron Cook) gets out his overhead projector, and lays two acetate maps on top of each other. That’s a good way to get your head around it.

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‘Gunpowder’ – BBC1

This hotly anticipated three-part drama series about the most explosive event in British politics stars Kit Harington, whose star is in the ascendant as he’s that Jon Snow off of Game of Thrones. Even if you’re a stick-in-the-mud hold-out refusing to ride that fantasy dragon I’m sure you could pick his curly locks out of a line-up. Not only is Kit in the starring role as chief gunpowder plotter Robert Catesby but he’s credited as co-executive producer, and he helped get this unlikely vanity project off the ground. Turns out that Kit has family ties on his mother’s side to the rebellious Catesby family of persecuted Catholics who are central to the drama and to this famous nugget of British history.

We meet the Catesby’s and co back in 1603. Queen Elizabeth I is dead and James I is in charge. Things are not improving for England’s oppressed Catholics. The well-to-do Catesby family are seventeenth century preppers because in this instance the government really is out to get them.

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‘Inside Porton Down’ – On the Box

Well that was a deeply disturbing hour of television.

BBC’s amiable Rent-a-Doc Michael Mosley was given unprecedented access to the UK’s most secret and controversial weapons facility. Porton Down in Wiltshire was established in WWI as a response to the gas attacks the Germans launched in the trenches. Scientists based there had to work very quickly to develop gas masks for the troops and began testing ways to launch similar gas attacks against the Germans. Because the best defence is a good offence, and a cataclysmic scaling up of hostilities always ends well.

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‘Brendan O’Caroll: My Family At War’ – On the Box

Easter Monday isn’t just about eating another six-pack of Cream Eggs and wondering if you can make a bread and butter pudding out of stale hot cross buns. In Ireland it’s a much more important day, especially this year, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, when 1,600 rebels took over Dublin. This was the first act of the Irish revolution.

I like to think I’m no ignoramus when it comes to world history, but this programme taught me a thing or two. Maybe I’m not entirely to blame for my lack of knowledge – growing up in England in the 80s and 90s with the backdrop of The Troubles, there may not have been much sympathy for the Irish Republic in the British national curriculum.

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