Hmm. Not all Scandi drama is as good as The Killing. The other night we sat down with a recording of the first episode of a brand new Danish drama, Dicte. This features a female journalist, Dicte Svendsen, who has recently moved back to her home town of Aarhus to work on a provincial newspaper following a divorce.
The Radio Times preview wasn’t enthusiastic but we thought we’d give it a go anyway. And for the first hour and a half of a two hour episode, it wasn’t bad. A little ‘soapy’, perhaps, but then first episodes often need to establish the characters and set up the situations that will run smoothly through the rest of a series.
So, we had Dicte herself, a feisty type used to the more underhand journalistic techniques prevalent in big city newspapers, who isn’t afraid to lie, scheme or schmaltz her way to a good, crime-related story. She also has an unhappy secret, as she’s trying to track down the son she gave away for adoption as a baby and hasn’t seen since. On top of that there’s an ex-husband who clearly still adores her, a couple of loyal female friends, a prickly detective and his bantering side-kick, and a dishy but arrogant doctor at the local hospital who seems to have time to stitch Dicte back together again (and engage in a little horizontal wrestling) even in the middle of his shift.
The story, involving young girls forced, seduced or paid into surrogate motherhood (which is illegal in Denmark) was moving and the plot was reasonably exciting, if a bit stereotypical with its fashionable links to the Eastern European mafia. But then, with about half an hour left to run, things went downhill. Fast. Dicte rushed in, like a ministering angel, where everyone else would have enough sense not to tread. Needless to say she got herself kidnapped by said Eastern European mafia, but luckily they were so inept they were easily overpowered by the prickly detective and his partner, who seem to represent the entire police force of Aarhus. Back-up? What back-up? What uniformed police? No, just send in two detectives with guns to an armed siege situation. No way will they get the hostages killed.
The episode wrapped up with Dicte herself battered and bruised, but clearly not put off life or journalism in Aarhus. I’m not so sure about us, though. The main trouble with the programme’s format is that it’s a crime drama with a protagonist who isn’t a crime professional (police officer, detective, agent, PI). That’s going to make things difficult. Because the writers are always going to be fishing for reasons to have Dicte in on the action at the denouement, and as a journalist she quite often wouldn’t be. That means shoe-horning her into the scenery with increasingly unlikely or unrealistic devices – and that, for us, spells a massive turn-off. You can forgive someone rushing in to a dangerous situation once, but week in, week out? It all gets too silly, and far too predictable. I’m not sure we’ll be bothering with Dicte again. Which is a shame, because some of the writing – especially the humorous touches which are missing in other, darker Scandi dramas – was rather nice.