TV Review: Trapped Series 2

Icelandic crime thriller Trapped returns for a heart-breakingly good second series

“Does this concern politics, or is this a family affair?”

It can seem like we’re swimming in acclaimed Nordic crime series but Baltasar Kormákur’s Ófærð (also known by its English title Trapped) was the one worth catching in 2016. Its first series had an ingenious concept which saw its cast literally trapped by the wintry weather in a remote Icelandic town and perhaps wisely, Series 2 opts for a different season and a different setting in which to reunite its crime-fighting team.

So we’re in the northern town of Siglufjörður and though he’s now based in Reykjavík, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s police chief Andri finds himself drawn to an unfolding case which has both professional and personal implications. And topically, writers Sigurjón Kjartansson and Clive Bradley draw in a number of hot button topics – homophobia, Islamophobia folded into a general sense of the rise of the Far Right, plus a dose of environmental exploitation to amp up the relevance points. Continue reading “TV Review: Trapped Series 2”

TV Review: Fortitude Series 3, Episode 1

I can’t work up much enthusiasm for the first episode of this third series of Sky Atlantic show Fortitude 

“I’m not putting that in my notebook”

The first series of Simon Donald’s Fortitude was a revelation as its ricocheting from style to style cohered into something most effective so Sky Atlantic’s to commission a second was not unexpected but nor was it successful. So it was something of a surprise to discover a third season was in the works but at just four episodes long, to wrap the story, it might just do something to right those wrongs.

On the evidence of this first episode though, I’m not too sure. The mythos of the show has become so convoluted and depressingly nasty that it is hard to work up the enthusiasm for the trials of these (fool)hardy residents in the far north of Arctic Norway. The wasps with their prehistoric parasites are still causing all kinds of trouble for everyone as more and more people are changed and made more violent and, well, watch this space… 

TV Review: Fortitude Series 2

“People died.
And now people are dying again and what the fuck are they doing about it”

Series 1 of Fortitude was one of those genuinely unexpected dramas which unveiled its genre-spanning ways with some proper jaw-dropping moments, so Sky Atlantic’s decision to commission a second series wasn’t entirely unexpected (though you do wonder what viewing figures are like over there). Though having revealed itself as a sci-fi/horror/psychological thriller/serial killer murder mystery with political and environmental themes thrown in for a good measure, creator Simon Donald was faced with a decision about which way to go to continue the story.

Or, as it turned out, he didn’t make the decision but rather decided to pursue them all once again. And as is proving a recurring theme with shows I’ve been catching up on (Fearless, The Halcyon), the desire to develop multi-stranded complex dramas falls short once again with the writing ending up serving a jack of all trades and master of none. There’s just so much going on in so many of the episodes that it becomes increasingly hard to keep track of exactly what is what, who knows what, who is doing what to whom, and where we are in any of the stories. Continue reading “TV Review: Fortitude Series 2”

TV Review: Fortitude Season 2 Episode 1

“The reason we can’t find the head in the snow is that someone has taken it away”

Just a quickie for this as I’m way behind (the series premiered at the end of January). I only caught up with Fortitude’s first season over New Year and I have to say I kinda loved the way it went from interestingly good to genuine batshit wtfuckery. It wasn’t necessarily calling out for a second series though and from the evidence of the first episode, it’s not immediately clear that it’s strictly necessary, even if you throw Dennis Quaid and Michelle Fairley in there as a new family. 

A new crime has been committed hence layering in all sorts of new mystery but in a town where they’d previously boasted of never having had any crime, it kinda feels like overkill. And the writing feels caught between referencing previous events and starting completely anew, anthology-style, ie Luke Treadaway’s return for what appears to be a single episode versus the new Quaid/Fairley family unit. Sofie Gråbøl and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson’s chemistry as the first couple of Fortitude remains a thing of joy though (so is probably doomed) and I’m more than happy to give the show the benefit of the doubt, despite a slightly shaky start.

 

TV Review: Fortitude Series 1

“It’s not a new hotel we need, it’s a bigger morgue”

The publicity for Season 2 of Fortitude, just starting now on Sky Atlantic, reminded me that I had the first series still lying around unwatched and that now would be as good a time as any to get stuck in. Created and written by Simon Donald, it manages the not-inconsiderable feat of being an effective cross-genre show, so much so that it flicks from one to another from scene to scene. It begins life as a murder mystery set in the isolated town of Fortitude in Arctic Norway, the quality of its cast meaning that it can afford to knock off Christopher Eccleston’s scientist within the first couple of episodes.

As it is a community of about 700 in extreme conditions, it also plays out as a small town comedy of the blackest kind, as the quote up top demonstrates, bringing in soap opera-ish twists which also darken as well, pretty much into horror show territory. But where Fortitude is most unexpected is in its ventures into sci-fi, as the strange happenings in the township begin to defy any kind of rational explanation. It’s a disconcerting move but once the paradigm is established, I kinda liked the randomness it brought to the show, especially since I had no idea that that was where we were heading. Continue reading “TV Review: Fortitude Series 1”

DVD Review: Trapped

 “Something evil came with that storm
‘I think it was already here…'”

There must come a point when we run out of exceptional European dramas to import but thankfully, it doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon. This time, we’re looking to Iceland with Trapped, a 10 part crime mystery drama that simply reaffirms the extraordinary quality of Nordic Noir, whilst establishing its own niche therein. Created by Baltasar Kormákur (who directed last year’s Everest) and written by Sigurjón Kjartansson and Clive Bradley, it has reportedly received the highest budget by far ever invested into an Icelandic series and well, it shows.

Set in Seyðisfjörður, a remote town on the coast of eastern Iceland, Trapped begins with the discovery of a dismembered torso in the water at the same time that the weekly ferry from Denmark has arrived. Starting the investigation is Chief of Police Andri with colleagues Hinrika and Ásgeir but their job is complicated by the arrival of an almighty blizzard which prevents the Reykavik police from flying in to take over. It also means that no-one can leave, by land or by sea, and so whoever committed the crime can’t have left town… Continue reading “DVD Review: Trapped”

Review: Faust, Young Vic

“He will have to combine the rough with the smooth;
Only then will he find his Faustian groove”

Vesturport are an Icelandic theatre company whose innovative approach to theatre has seen them involve actors variously underwater, climbing up walls and clambering across ceilings and performing without makeup. Their new play, a free interpretation of Goethe’s Faust, is a co-production with Reykjavík City Theatre and has been chosen as one of the first plays in the Young Vic’s 40th anniversary season.

Starting off in an old people’s home at Christmastime and an attempted suicide by Jóhann, a gruff actor who after quite some persuasion begins to read the story of the one major role he has never played, Faust. It then riffs off on the Faust story as we know it, taking us on something of an epic journey, somewhat recognisable but at the same time completely different. This ends up as less an exercise in coherent, emotive storytelling than an exhilarating, acrobatics-filled rollercoaster of a production, set to music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (one of the Bad Seeds) that uses the space of the Young Vic like nothing I’ve seen before. Continue reading “Review: Faust, Young Vic”