Arne Dahl


Arne Dahl

BBC4 27 April at 2100

The first thing I learnt about this series is that Arne Dahl is the name of the writer not a main character like a Frost or Inspector Linley.

The action revolves round ‘A Unit’ who are I guess, having not seen the first story, Sweden’s top level crimes team. They are a bit of an NCIS type set up, in that are made up of specialists of one sort or another. There is the female all-rounder, an intellectual Finlander, a brute, a tough guy, a Mexican (I think, his name is Chavez) and a veteran lady-cop who leads the whole shebang.

In this two-parter, the ‘A Unit’ are warned by the FBI that an American serial killer is on his way over to mix things up a bit and do some murdering Swedish style. Swedish style in this case being the same way he indulged his morbid peccadillo in the States, specialist pliers in the throat to keep the victims from making any noise as he goes to town on their genitalia.

It’s an interesting show, after opening with some serial killing and the team descending on the local airport to try and capture the ‘Kentucky Killer’ on arrival, it then segues into the lives of the characters who make up the ‘A Unit’.

This is done extremely well. Which surprised me as in the opening minutes the dialogue and camaraderie between the group was forced and unnatural; very much “we need to show that this is a team who work together and play together, so let’s have some shit jokes and personal references to bring the audience up to speedâ€?.

But, when it actually got going this side developed very naturally and I was sucked in to the slightly depressing lives of the Swedish crime busters. The drama between fathers and family is very much a theme for the story and ‘A Unit’ has at least two Dads with interesting familial dilemmas but it also spotlights some over some over 40’s sexy time, which as a younger man would have hurt my eyes but now, equidistant between my 20’s and 50’s, actually give me some kind of comfort in light of my rapidly approaching middle age.

I could have watched this quite happily but as must happen, by the time the second feature length instalment starts the focus switches back onto ‘Kentucky Killer’. Though this is still very enjoyable it also seems to be a bit far-fetched when compared to the down beat realism of ‘A Units’ private lives.

This clash is my own real problem with what is a very intelligent and carefully paced thriller, with fully rounded characters filmed in a bleak and grizzly style going up against with what the FBI describes as “like 65 psychopaths wrapped up in one bodyâ€?. It all clashes a bit, especially when it is revealed that there is a second ‘Kentucky Killer’ who wants to kill the first one, the involvement of the CIA and the ubiquitous terrorist story arc.

There is a lot going on and it’s an odd mix but Arne Dahl just about gets away with it.