A deep breath: our first post-Gunvald Beck. The stakes are high, and there are three challenges. First, to establish a new character. Second, to find a way to link the continuing series back to its Sjöwall/Wahlöö roots. Third, to do this while viewers grieve Scandinavia’s favourite hard man.
Steinar Hovland is the anti-Gunvald. Empathetic, strategic and quick-witted (in both senses). He is quickly loyal to Beck and has his back. He has actual detective skills and uses them, rather than relying on a fast car, a well-loaded gun and an impeccable dress sense. It will be interesting to see whether the character develops to mirror that of Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s Kollberg – a man previously unseen in the TV series. Like Gunvald he has a clear sense of who he is – and an ability to take risks. I am not sure, however, whether his exotic anecdotes (he is Norwegian, helvete) will grate after a few episodes. For the moment, we like him, and he’s drawn just right for the task at hand.
As I suggested last week, it looks as though Oskar is going to pick up Gunvald’s act first, ask questions later policy. Poor Oskar is still struggling with Gunvald’s death, taking it out on the wall of his family’s new flat. But he quickly learns to trust the new man, and I suppose we as an audience do too.
Is the plot a nod to the series’ origins? Themes of the underbelly of Swedish society and a community underserved by the state, such that there’s a morally ambiguous stand off between charity and DIY vigilantes, seem to have their origin in the novels, even if the conclusion is rather more blurred. The police work seems more focused than in some recent episodes and the script is pacy.
With all this change, it’s important for some continuity. We hear Inger, though she doesn’t appear. Grannen is on spectacular form. And, speaking of impeccable dress sense, it’s interesting to see Beck scrub up well and wear a decent suit – though it’s noticeable that he reverts to default as the episode continues. Nice touch.
Time will tell whether post-Gunvald Beck hits the show’s previous heights. But the producers have done all they could reasonably have done in one episode to mark out a new direction. Good work.