Forbrydelsen Season 2: She's back! Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah Lund and Mikael Birkkjaer as Ulrik Strange

Forbrydelsen (The Killing) season 2, currently on Topic, sees Danish detective Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) paired with a new partner on a new mystery. At the opening of the series, Sarah surfaces as a zombie-like border patrol cop, resigned to live out her life in penance for the myriad ways she screwed up in season 1. But when a dead woman turns up tied to a pole in a Memorial Park (I believe it’s the Danish equivalent a National Cemetery, for veterans) Sarah’s old boss, Brix (Morten Suurballe), sends Detective Ulrik Strange (Mikael Birkkjaer)to fetch her. Meanwhile, rookie politician Thomas Buch (Nicolas Bro) is pressured by the Prime Minister (Kurt Ravn) to become the Minister of Justice after the current Minister has a heart attack. There is an anti-terrorism bill that the PM wants Buch to introduce and get passed in parliament at all costs.  Over at the military hospital, former soldier Jens Peter Raben (Ken Vedsegaard) is up for release. We don’t know why he is in the psych ward, but we know he’s been there for 2 years, has done his treatment, and is ready to get back to his wife and son. Somehow, these disparate threads will come together through the murder(s).

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The Case

Because the body turned up at a Memorial Park, the PET, or national intelligence agency, has to get involved, in case there is a political or terrorist motive to the murder. When Brix brings Sarah on board, the cops have the husband in custody for the murder. “It’s not the husband,” Lund declares after looking at the file. The cops and PET bristle and argue with her. “Whatever,” she says, making to go back to border purgatory. But then a few things happen in quick succession. Lund figures out that the woman, Anne Dragsholm (Sarah Gottlieb), was tortured before she was killed. Sure enough, a video surfaces of Anne, beaten and tied to a chair, reading a statement by the “Muslim League” about the infidel Danes and their atrocities toward Afghan civilians during the war. (This is set in 2009) Meanwhile, at the military barracks, there is another murder, of Allan Myg Poulsen (Nicolai Dahl Hamilton), a soldier who was in Afghanistan and about to re-deploy.

The Politics

The politics in this season are pretty complicated, but I’ll outline the basics here. In the world of this show, there are three political parties in Denmark. Thomas Buch (and the Prime Minister) is in the party that is currently in power. When Buch becomes Minister of Justice, there is an anti-terrorism bill that the PM wants him to introduce. In order for it to pass in Parliament, Buch will have to get either the People’s Party or the Opposition Party to sign on. The Opposition Party backs out completely, and the People’s Party will sign only if Buch adds more security at the expense of civil liberties. Buch doesn’t believe in curtailing civil liberties and really does not want to give in to the People’s Party. When the video of Anne reading the “Muslim League’s” statement is posted, there is huge pressure to get that bill passed. So, Buch desperately searches for a way to stall the bill, and begins following the investigation very closely, as well as looking into some of his predecessor’s activities.

The Military

We are introduced to the military story via Jens Peter Raben. He is up for release from the military psych ward, but will need to show that he has a job waiting for him. He summons Myg, who is the secretary of the local veteran’s club, to help with that. When Myg visits, it’s clear that he is not well. He announces to Raben that he is re-deploying, which comes as a surprise. “Why?” asks Raben. “Because I thought it would stop, but nothing has changed,” Myg blurts, then rushes out. The next thing we know, Myg is dead. Turns out Raben was the commander in Afghanistan of a small, elite group of soldiers, who are getting picked off, one by one. Something bad happened in Afghanistan, and the soldiers were under investigation for killing civilians, but they were exonerated. They had hired Anne Dagsholm to represent their case. Unfortunately, Raben can’t remember what happened because he had a breakdown, hence his term in the psychiatric hospital.  Anne had clearly discovered something, and was trying to re-open the case. That’s when she was murdered, and her murder was pinned on a non-existent Muslim extremist group.

Our Take on Forbrydelsen, season 2

I had never seen Forbrydelsen season 2, and it is a great relief to say that it’s outstanding. No sophomore slump here. Upon re-watching season 1, I found it to be draggy. It was 20 episodes long, after all. In 2007, that was short. Now we are down to 6 or 8 episodes per season in crime thrillers. This season of Forbrydelsen is only 10 episodes, and I much prefer this pace. Basically, they cut out the grieving family storyline. Lund is still brilliant yet impulsive, which lands her in hot water over and over. And she is still obsessive, completely unable to engage in social niceties while in the throes of an investigation. The politics are a little hard to follow, especially since our system in the U.S. is different. But it’s easy enough to understand that Buch was supposed to be a rubber stamp for the PM and the Minister of Defense, who are clearly colluding on a cover up of some sort. Buch’s not really likable, but you end up rooting for him when he throws a wrench into their plan. As in season 1, the writing is fantastic. The plot is complex, and the politics interesting. I also like that they expand the story past the boundaries of Denmark, which is very different from the provincial story of season 1.  It reminds me of the excellent Norwegian series Nobel. If you are looking for something to sink your teeth into, you can confidently choose season 2 of Forbrydelsen without worrying about it not living up to season 1.

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