Contains some light spoilers.
It’s a pretty safe bet that police chief Klas Fredén regrets hiring Steinar Hovland. The new detective just doesn’t suck up enough to higher authority. And, unfortunately for Fredén, Beck doesn’t seem inclined to press the matter. Which is no bad thing. We saw in the previous episode that Fredén was prepared to hang Beck out to dry to make himself look good; in this episode he obstructs the team from exploring a particular avenue: whoa that’s dodgy. Beck’s contemptuous dismissal at the end of the programme is on its own worth the price of admission. (Or download, or whatever.)
The last episode was called Steinar, but it’s in this episode that the new arrival really takes the limelight. That’s not just because it is he who really pursues the right line of inquiry. There are little subtle moments of direction, which see Hovland dominate the screen at the expense of his boss. (Kremlinologists may worry whether we are being set up for an end-of-season retirement for Peter Haber.) In an episode that sort-of explores the family lives of the three male leads, it is Hovland’s wayward daughter who takes centre stage even if it’s Oskar’s rickety domestic arrangements that once again have a direct bearing on the safety of a member of the team.
Beck has featured stings, infiltrations and other detective tactics before, but this new character has more to his bow, possibly because a bad history with firearms has forced him down a less macho route. Watching Steinar play drunk and then frame his suspect brings a new dimension to the series which is on one hand very welcome; on the other, part of the appeal of Beck is that he walks the right line between procedure and necessary pragmatism; I’m not sure that this series is really about moving that line.
At the same time, the series returns to a perennial theme: corruption among law-enforcers. Beck has not been afraid in the past to highlight police failings both personal and structural and this is a good attempt to show that the series has not lost its moral moorings. On the other hand, it’s quite a heavy way in which to continue to introduce Steinar Hovland and emphasise that his incorruptibility is up there with Beck’s.
Meanwhile, Beck takes some baby dating steps, though it turns out he isn’t dating at all. Grannen is more bizarre than usual, and there’s no appearance for Inger. As a result, although we see Beck laughing (or did I imagine it?) he seems lonelier than ever. Or is that downbeat conclusion a result of the episode’s, er, downbeat conclusion, that the world is rotten and people like Klas always get ahead? Nordic Noir revels in its refusal to throw cherries into the pit of despair – but I can’t help feeling that Martin Beck is due a break.
[…] I wondered last week whether we were being set up for the retirement of the legendary Martin Beck, and The Last Day opens with Beck telling his manager that he wants to move on. We’ve seen this kind of dramatic device before – comically, for example, by Poirot in Double Sin – and sometimes it’s there to set up the kind of plot in which our hero takes on an important case which reminds them why they’re there. In theory, this could be the direction taken by The Last Day, as a front line policewoman is shot just before her retirement. The symbolism of this shooting, and the conversation immediately before it, when the victim is told by a rookie that no murder detectives could possibly lose their mojo, is particularly heavy. […]
I think Beck is 10 years older than Gunvald, whose Actor stood down partly because of the physical demands of the role, and the character must be approaching retirement age. So as the next episode is the last in the 2016 season, I think we will see change. Will Beck be the new Klas, or head off into the sunset with the newly divorced Gunilla or perhaps the producers have a more dramatic series conclusion in mind.
Next week’s episode is called The Last Day, which sounds rather apocalyptic!
One of the best episodes, I thought, though the Swedish names can sometimes be confusing for following the plot.