Iced Blondes

Wisting (Directed by Trygve Allister Diesen and Katarina Launing, 2019)

I stumbled across Wisting a couple of months ago in the nether regions of iPlayer and downloaded the first episode a couple of months ago. I confess I’ve never seen The Bridge (soon to be a Radio 4 programme), nor Wallander, nor the original version of The Killing (but most of the American version). I did see Modus (possibly in reverse order) and Svartsjön (ultimately silly, but verging on the Todorovian fantastic, if I recall correctly), so my scandinoir experiences are thin (I think I gave up after the second film in The Girl with the Increasingly Passive Character trilogy).

This one is based on two novels by Jørn Lier Horst, Hulemanne and Jakthundene, although possibly they’ve reversed the order. William Wisting is chief of investigations with twin children (Line and Thomas) at the south eastern Norwegian town of Larvik. Wisting differs from Harry Hole in Jo Nesbø’s series in that he is not an alcoholic depression with relationship problems – I’m not sure we ever see him drink alcohol. I like the Hole series – I’m one behind having read them in Norwegian publication order – but he does sometimes feel like a Rebus cast across the North Sea (Nordsjøen?).

The producers of The Snowman have made some problems for themselves when it comes to follow-ups – leaving aside the quality of the film – as they’ve started at book seven. I’m wondering whether filming books 8 and 9 (or 9 or 8) will give the producers of Wisting some headaches – an important character is written out, the recently died wife might have appeared in the earlier books. I suspect these are probably easily circumvented.

But watching these two adaptations, which are presumably more dovetailed than the sources, you do rather wonder if all murder victims in Norway are blonde women aged between 18 and 25. Despite this, there is male gaze eye candy in peril, although Wisting’s blonde daughter does get to have ill-judged sexual partners twice. And I did wonder whether Wisting might have been more concerned for his daughter rather earlier than he was, given his serial killer’s preferred type.

The first five episodes feature Wisting investigating said serial killer, who turns out to have been an immigrant from the United States who is pretending to be Norwegian. The FBI, in the shape of Carrie-Anne Moss and Richie Campbell, are on his trail – cue culture clash, especially over guns, spying and coffee. (A lot of coffee is drunk in the series.) Meanwhile, Line, a journalist, is investigating her Larvik neighbour, who died alone. Apparently, it takes a journalist and a detective the best part of four episodes to figure out the two cases are connected. I did feel that Carrie-Anne Moss was a little under used – presumably they wanted to keep English dialogue to a minimum – and it perhaps says something that a Black British actor is getting work by pretending to be American in a Norwegian television show.

There are several seeds planted early on for episodes six to ten – a murderer, Vidar Haglund, being released at the end of his sentence, a young blonde, Linnea Kaupang, whose police report of stalking is disbelieved, and Frank Robekk, who is uncle to a missing blonde who he insists Haglund or the American serial killer has murdered.

In a shift from Christmas to spring, the feted Wisting is ambushed during a TV interview about his handling of Haglund’s conviction, which seems somewhat flawed. Wisting is suspended from duty, pending investigation, but has to stop Robekk from going after Haglund, work out who planted the dodgy evidence and stop any more blondes getting deaded. Meanwhile, Linnea goes missing, possibly having committed suicide or being murdered. And Line investigates a murder in Vigeland Sculpture Park, although her trail leads to Larvik.

Apparently, it takes a journalist and a detective the best part of four episodes to figure out the cases are connected…

It’s all pleasingly complicated, although the actual villain has a large (spoiler) signpost over their head. With Rebus and Hole, you might be willing to suspect that they’d suspend procedure to get the right conviction, I’m not sure I ever believed that Wisting might be guilty. He may be a traumatised blank canvas who is alienating his children, but he’s an ethical traumatised blank canvas who is alienating his children. Even if he obtains police records in a dubious manner. There are a couple of loose ends – Moss’s absence is felt, Thomas is forgotten about and there’s red-herringed subplot that seemed to be skipped over. (Come to think of it, there’s another red-herringed blonde subplot which I suspect makes more sense in the books.) And I did wonder if the ninety-minute drive between Oslo and Larvik was undertaken a little too easily.

Whilst the acting is impressive – as far as I can tell from English subtitles drowning out the Norwegian dialogue – the direction is perhaps a little lacklustre. There is a little too much aerial establishing shots of Oslo/Larvik – Modus did the same for Stockholm – and they are fans of the bird’s eye view. Few characters get to enter places they shouldn’t be without someone turning up right behind them. But it’s a fun ride.

Two earlier and two later books have been optioned – Nattmannen, Bunnfall, Vinterstengt and Blindgang – and I hope the producers get to film them.

 

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