“Department Q” (2013 – present)

Thriller/Nordic Noir

4 Television Movies

Developed by: Peter Aalbæk Jensen, Louise Vesth

Directed by: Mikkel Nørgaard, Hans Petter Moland

Featuring: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter, Søren Pilmark, Pilou Asbæk, David Dencik, Danica Curcic, Pål Sverre Hagen  and Jakob Ulrich Lohmann

Børge Bak: “Do me a favour… if I get murdered… don’t investigate my case.”

It is fair to say that television crime dramas, in particular foreign language crime dramas are now a dime a dozen, they exist in almost every language covering a variety of normally brutal and heinous crimes. These international television shows seemed to begin with the Nordic Noir genre that started with the excellent “The Killing” (2007-2012) from Denmark which itself was re-made in the US as a hit there. What followed was a myriad of not only crime, but political stories primarily from those Nordic countries that attempted to originate new stories as well as sympathetic flawed people who were only one step behind their quarries. These whodunits spread throughout the world expanding beyond their origins with many variations on a theme, one of the most successful English language versions being “Broadchurch” (2013 -2017) from the UK featuring David Tennant and Olivia Coleman.

What all of these shows have in common in terms of plot and narrative is rather simple, with most of them obviously created with an ending in mind, sometimes that ending (as well as revelation) can be shocking enough to come out of left field where no viewer may expect the story to end up. The other thing that these narratives have in common is an almost endless supply of red herrings that keep an audience guessing throughout what can seem like an endless amount of episodes. As a viewer I find not only the amount of episodes as well as the endless amount of suspects exceedingly frustrating.

This new series of movies are all based around the books of  Jussi Adler-Olsen who is not only an experienced author but has had is work turned into movies before. Adler-Olsen in his work shows an empathy for all his characters even though his main protagonist has issues in dealing with other people, which is the hook that all these stories are based on.

These movies are all expertly directed as well as being beautifully photographed, taking into account the grand geographic location of the local countryside, as not only a unique backdrop for the action but also incorporating it as a character to visually show the audience the kind of isolation that each of the separate characters are going through as they progress through the main story as well their own separate narratives.

As well as the characters being spot on, the cast has been chosen very well, in particular the two leads in Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares who are as different from each other as any two leads could be. It is inspired casting having a native Dane who is out of his depth with almost everything but the tracking down of killers and solving crimes. Whereas Fares Fares is middle eastern who seems more at home in a foreign land than his own partner but needs pushing to solve the cases that are bestowed on them by corruption or laziness.

The writing on this show is actually one its top strengths which may seem obvious but in fact by time something this complex gets to the screen the heart of it can be removed by over zealous producers and directors, but that is not the case here. This has as I have said great characters but it also has them making honest decisions, in particular the son of one of the suspects has some incredibly hard things to come to terms with, and i think his performance for me is the most real as is the conclusion he comes to – that is all down to the decision made by the writers.

As I have already stated this is a really good crime series with very little in the way of false leads or starts, it ratchets up the thriller aspects while never coming up short on plot elements that propel the story along, at times very quickly. It also creates space for real character moments that ring true not only to the story but to each of the characters that they interact with. As with any modern crime story the ‘heroes’ are flawed but find their way through life by clinging (desperately sometimes) to positive aspects of life whereas the similarly flawed ‘villains’ are almost nihilistic in nature, illustrating there is indeed a thin line between the good and the bad. This is a show that is easily re-watchable, unlike other genre shows due to its fast pace and relatively short episodes both the number and length. I recommend this highly not only to watch but is well worth the investment to own a copy.

The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013)

Carl Mørck is demoted to Department Q, the cold case unit, after a raid goes wrong. One case, a suspected suicide, piques his interest. His investigations suggest that the woman, a rising politician, was actually kidnapped. Mørck ruffles feathers, and is told to halt the investigation, but he and his colleague Assad continue. A car crash leaves the children from two families without one or both parents and siblings. One of the children, a boy, grows up to seek revenge on a woman who as a girl caused the crash. The man blames the woman as she covered her dad’s eyes as he was driving, which caused the crash.

The Absent One (2014)

The story centers around the murder of twins in 1994, one of whom was also raped. At first unwilling to get involved in the case, Mørck changes his mind after their father commits suicide after approaching him one night and leaving behind a box of material on the case he has been collecting for years. Dept Q’s investigation leads away from the young man originally convicted, towards a group of students from a nearby boarding school who became pillars of the Danish establishment.

A Conspiracy of Faith (2016)

An 8-year-old message in a bottle, written in blood, leads Detective Carl Morck and his assistant Assad to a series of child abductions from religious communities throughout Denmark. The majority of these abductions have not been reported for some reason, and some of them are suspected to have ended in murder

The Purity of Vengeance (2018)

A series of mysterious disappearances in 2006 are eerily connected to the same institution.

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