‘Hinterland: Series 3’ – On the Box

I have finally relented and let Mr H submit a review for his favorite show. He spent 20 years living in Wales for his sins so consider him our foreign correspondent.

“It’s beautiful, I’m so glad you bought a big new telly” – Sarah Hamstera (1847 – Present)

It’s not often I hear justification for a purchase but there is power in beauty and Hinterland knows that all too well…

Hinterland (Y Gwyll) is an oddity in British television in that it is created and produced primarily for the Welsh audience but filmed once in Welsh and again in English. This means that there are 2 versions available to the tv audience (3 if you include the much rarer and heavily abridged all English version), the all Welsh version (Y Gwyll) appears on BBC owned S4C followed a short while later by the ‘International’ version which is predominantly in English but with key sequences in Welsh with English subtitles. This is the version put out on Saturday nights on BBC4 fitting nicely into their standard Scandi-Noir slot where we get to see just how well we have come to understand and love the genre. In some ways it feels odd that we aren’t watching the Welsh version with intermittent English scenes but, given the core audience, it’s understandable.

For those that haven’t yet sampled the ethereal delights of Hinterland, it is ostensibly a police procedural drama set in the beautiful scenery of the rural Welsh countryside surrounding Aberystwyth. This, for the most part would be enough but there is much darker fayre to be had below the verdant and bucolic surface.

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The Lava Field – On the Box

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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‘Modus’ – On the Box

Modus is familiar even before it begins. It’s an eight part Swedish crime drama shown on BBC4 in the Saturday 9pm slot usually reserved for foreign langauge drama. The credits are familiar again – a nod to the skyline of The Bridge and the grizzly but striking black and white body parts of Trapped. It’s a new tradition that dramas especially must have stylish opening credits, extra points for slow motion and an air of chilly bleakness.

So this is Christmas, in a snow-covered pine forest. A delightful Christmas card scene but it’s cold, lonely and frightening. Euro horror merchants the Brothers Grimm taught us from an early age that monsters live in the forest and they were right. In this case, in a caravan.

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‘Shetland’ – On the Box

Back in 2013 the Beeb had a go at capturing the Scandi noir spirit with a drama set slightly closer to home than the usual Sweden/ Denmark heartland. When I say slightly, I mean only very slightly because this dark drama is set in Shetland. They might speak the language and you can fly to Glasgow in 90 minutes, but the place has much more in common with Scandinavia than Scotland. Famously the islands didn’t become part of Scotland until the 15th century and that remoteness lingers in the traditions and the outlook of the people.

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‘Trapped’ – On the Box

A cold and bitter welcome to my new Saturday night drama obsession, in the coveted Euro drama slot on BBC4. This is Trapped, a murder mystery, police procedural type-drama: the first Icelandic drama on British tv – dark, cold and wintery. There’s been a gruesome murder, Andri the local cop with serious family problems has to save the day and a terrifying storm is setting in.

From the start the weather looks authentic – not a single flake of fake snow. I genuinely wondered if the producers had waited for a real storm to begin filming. But commenters on the internet who live quite a bit further north than me have pointed out it looks like summer with the characters running around with no hats on. A tell-tale giveaway, if you know what you’re looking for.

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‘Trapped’ – Seeing the Future

On BBC4 tonight in the same slot as The Bridge, The Killing and Borgen. Now that’s a mark of quality. Stark, cold, bloody and suspenseful – I can’t wait!

Mrs. Peabody Investigates

BBC4’s weekend crime slot moves from Montalbano’s sunny Italy to a chilly northern Iceland on Saturday 13 February. Trapped, the channel’s first Icelandic crime drama, begins with two back-to-back episodes at 9.00pm (there are 10 episodes in total). This RVK Studios series will give many British viewers their first taste of the Icelandic language (subtitles also at the ready, of course).

Trapped

Trapped is set in Siglufjörður (the same fishing port featured in Ragnar Jónasson’s ‘Dark Iceland’ crime series). The opening episodes show three events happening almost simultaneously: a ferry with three hundred passengers arriving from Denmark, the discovery of a corpse in the water, and the onset of a violent snowstorm. The storm prevents the ferry from leaving and blocks roads in and out of town, trapping the passengers and townsfolk with the killer. Step forward Police Inspector Andri, who is tasked with investigating this high pressure case…

Here’s a trailer, which looks quite brooding and scary (may need to…

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‘Unforgotten’ – On the Box

Unforgotten is ITV’s new crime drama. From the off it’s very strange. For a start, it seems to be entirely well-lit. In some scenes there are zero spooky shadows and you can see everything. There’s even daylight! The investigating detectives are DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunny Khan. Not only do they seem well-adjusted, friendly and generally decent, but there’s zero sexual tension and no mention of alcohol or substance abuse. They might just be normal coppers doing a good job – an extremely rare sighting in drama or fiction of any kind. I especially like the way that episodes 1 and 2 haven’t shied away from how much methodical admin work goes in to a murder investigation. In fact, that’s the most mysterious thing about the show so far. Why is the Guv so keen to work a cold case full of dead ends? Nicola Walker‘s emotional stuff is a bit heavy-handed, but I’m sure it’ll all make sense when we find out about her brother/ sister/ husband/ mother who went missing when she was a child and left unresolved feelings that poor Jimmy’s case brings up.

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