‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 9 & 10

This is a full review of episodes 9 and 10 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

This series of Trapped has been more about fire than ice, but despite how it all began with Gisli’s self-immolation in such a public space I was not prepared for the horrific car fire at the start of episode 9. I was in denial. There’s no way hat Asgeir could be dead, stabbed by the killer intent on stealing back the mobile phone and covering his tracks. He’s not stopped that easily; he can survive a few stab wounds. But then a car is found on fire as the killer slinks away in the darkness.

I was banking on a TV miracle, right up until his autopsy (“That’s not Asgeir – he had a distinctive rabbit tattoo on his lower thigh! This is some other convenient dead body with terrible stab wounds!”). Only then, like Andri, Hinrika and poor Gudrun I had to admit he really was gone. The grief of his colleagues was so raw and real, especially Andri who immediately blamed himself. Watching the big guy crumble was too much to bear especially because he had to hide away in his bathroom to cry privately. And the new feeling of empty space in the police station where Asgeir should have been was a neat way to show something has changed forever without the need for words. There’s no relief until Asgeir’s killer is caught. And despite what Andri tells his boss, we know he’s not alright to continue leading this investigation but we admire his resolve and we want him to see it through.

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‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 5&6

This is a full review of episodes 5 and 6 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

Welcome to a couple of subdued but pivotal episodes as we reach the halfway mark in Trapped, despite Andri admitting he’s really back at square one in the investigation. Episode five in particular is quite slow and introspective as it centers around Gisli’s funeral. It marks a break in the action and a pause in the investigation. Gisli’s gravediggers remark on his ancestor who had “bad blood which contaminates the soil” and we get our first hint of what exactly is tearing the family apart – Gisli, Halla and Elin are the three siblings whose father went missing when they were children and his body was never found.

The Case

Young Aron’s flash car was bought by his father with cash. And as Asgeir says Finnur had a fleet of cars, with not exactly a massive wage from the plant. So this is where he spent his dirty money, and the rest is stashed in the house for Aron and Thorhildur to find after his death.

Stylish Halla is burnt but unbowed and goes to her brother’s funeral. Sister Elin accuses her of doing it for the media attention and if she hadn’t managed that already just by attending she gives a speech to the congregation and is treated like a hero. This has to be very good for her long-term political career. All the villagers scrub up well for the service in the tiny church, apart from Bardur keeping his trademark wooly hat on until Hinrika jabs him in the ribs.

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‘Making a Murderer: Part 2’ – Netflix

Fifteen years ago if you had an extensive collection of serial killer literature on your bookshelf your date might leave with certain preconceptions about you and they might not be in a hurry to see you again. These days they’ll probably ask you what podcasts you’re listening to, whether you’ve seen The Staircase or who you think really killed Sister Cathy in The Keepers. True crime has come out of the closet and the first major show on Netflix that did that was Making a Murderer. Even if you were living under a rock three years ago you’d still have heard about it. It was easily Netflix’s most talked-about series ever, and arguably the most important true crime TV show in decades. Now it returns for a long-awaited second series.

The original investigative filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos are back and hard at work, embedded in the ongoing troubles of the Avery family and their apparent relentless persecution by the American justice system. If you need a quick refresher Steven Avery was originally convicted of a sexual assault on Penny Beerntsen despite having a solid alibi. For that he served an 18 year sentence. That conviction was finally overturned in 2003 and he was freed. He then filed a $36 million civil lawsuit against Manitowoc County and the law enforcement officers who framed him. Just two years later Avery and his 16 year old nephew Brendan Dassey were tried and convicted by those same institutions for Teresa Halbach’s murder. She’d disappeared after photographing a car at Avery’s salvage yard.  The hugely flawed conviction was clear to anyone with even a passing interest in how the police should work as vulnerable Brendan was coerced into his confession during a hugely irresponsible questioning where he had no responsible adult or legal council present. The video footage of his confession remains grueling to watch.

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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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‘Requiem’ – BBC1

Warning! Spoilers for Episode 1 lie beneath!

Even before the first shadow crosses the screen Requiem is creeping me out. It’s so obviously a Sunday night drama and should have been on over Christmas for full wintery effect. But for some unknown reason it’s on BBC1 on Friday nights in February. Never mind all that though, that’s an old-fashioned way of thinking about scheduling. Who cares what day it broadcasts when it’s all up on iPlayer to watch straight away.

I’d clocked the adverts but decided it wasn’t for me. Ghosts just don’t frighten me at all. I’d much rather Scooby don’t than Scooby Doo. The genre is so well-trodden and cliche-riddled that the only gasp you’ll get from me is a sigh as I find the remote and click the button. That whole haunted house brand has termites and it’s falling to pieces. But such a high quality cast turned my head and I watched it with a ‘may as well’ shrug as a chaser after yet another disappointing Euro drama (oh Modus, what’s happened to you?).

Requiem looks gorgeous and sounds fantastic. The opening credits are a Royal Blood album cover and the music is part classical emotions, part jarring shuddering electronics, as if the Terminator was in a string quartet. This isn’t just an interesting score; this is fundamental to the story. Matilda (Lydia Wilson) is a successful cellist, riding high with her pianist Hal (Joel Fry, wonderful in everything, recognisable from Game of Thrones where he’s got a similar complicated relationship with a powerful blonde) in hipster London, her haircut, flat and career fitting in nicely to that group of people who hate fitting in. Her lovely Mum Janice (the exceptional Joanna Scanlon, last seen as fearless matriarch Viv Deering in No Offence) is sad they’re spending more time apart, but delighted for her success. Matilda seems restless, her one-night stands interrupted by nightmares of an imprisoned girl.

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‘Back’

Even before it started Channel 4’s new comedy Back has a whole list of things going for it. It’s exciting to see David Mitchell and Robert Webb back together again working with writer Simon Blackwell who penned Veep, The Thick Of It and, most importantly, a few episodes of the iconic Peep Show. Back is a six part sitcom that gets the Peep Show boys together again and is directed by Ben Palmer, the man behind The Inbetweeners. So far so brilliant; what an excellent comedy pedigree!

And yet, a pause. Let’s not get carried away people, because real comedy fans know sitcoms need time and patience to develop and grow. This is even more important in this hyper-connected, hyper-critical era where everyone has an opinion and expresses it loudly on social media. Not all great comedy is instantly great straight out of the blocks. Those of us of a certain age whisper “Remember Blackadder!” Series 1 of Blackadder is no one’s favourite and the one no one talks about. Given time, fresh focus and another chance it became a comedy classic. It’s so sad that those days are over, and it’s sink or swim based solely on the first episode.

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‘The Lava Field’

This is a super-short Icelandic drama series a friend pointed out to me, and wondered why I hadn’t watched it yet. Fortunately it’s on UK Netflix, and so short you could watch the lot in an afternoon.

Welcome to The Lava Field (the original Icelandic title is Hraunið. In suitable Scandi-noir fashion it grabs the attention straight away with swift shotgun action. This version of the mysterious island is filled with extremely neat well-lit houses, beautiful boxes, like candles against the black bubbly lava field backdrop. The vast majority of the shots are bright and wide; you need to watch it wearing sunglasses. The brightness is throughout – both interiors and exteriors. I suppose Iceland has a complicated relationship with daylight and the sun, in a country where it doesn’t set for four weeks in the summer.

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