“Beck” – Is back [TELEVISION REVIEW]

Peter Haber as Martin Beck and Jennie Silfverhjelm as Alexandra Beijer in "Beck."Photo courtesy of Johan Paulin, Filmlance International, and MHz Choice.

“Beck” is a fabulous Swedish police series based on the characters created by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö that belongs right up there with “Inspector Morse,” and its spinoffs, “Lewis,” and “Endeavor.” Beginning in 1998, “Beck” has astonishingly jumped over the years with season 2 having episodes that filmed in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and continuing this pattern of year-hopping from season 3 until the present with Season 7, premiering soon, produced in 2021. Although there is generally a thru-line in each season, the episodes can be watched as stand-alone 90 minute movies.

What is especially admirable about “Beck” is the overall consistency of the series even when, over the years, seminal characters have been eliminated and others have appeared. There have certainly been ups and downs as manifested by the weakness of Season 6. But all is forgiven because the four episodes of Season 7 are terrific. The new characters have jelled and the mysteries, while at times a bit difficult to follow, are better written than some of the previous years. Perhaps this may have been due to a shift in the writers and the look of the show that took place in Season 5. Prior to that, all the episodes were written by the team of Cilla and Rolf Börjlind. In Season 5 various different writers took over and the show seems to have transferred from a film to digital format giving the shots a less nuanced look.

If you’ve followed the series from the beginning, it’s especially interesting to see the characters age…all except Beck who looked old in 1998 and looks only marginally older in 2021, although the ills of oncoming “maturity” have taken a toll on his gait and patience.

As portrayed by Peter Haber, Beck is a methodical leader who has no appetite for politics and will never act rashly before a case is solved to his satisfaction despite the theories being thrown at him, left and right, by any and sundry. In the later years this has led him into direct conflict with his supervisor Klas Fedén, a classic example of failing upwards, so despised by Beck, a man of impeccable integrity.

Peter Haber as Martin Beck and Kristofer Hivju as Steinar Hovland in “Beck.” Photo courtesy of Johan Paulin, Filmlance International, and MHz Choice.

Beck, no longer a team leader but instead the Chief Inspector who oversees operations of the various groups under his command, pays particular attention to his former group, now headed by Alexandra Beijer, similar to Beck in her approach to cases. Her team has had difficulty adjusting to her leadership primarily because Steinar Hovland, the lead detective, had hoped to get her position. He seems to have settled in and things are going a bit smoother. Other members of a team she inherited from Beck are Oskar Bergman who started life in the group as a young, not particularly competent detective in Season 3 and is now visibly much older and a genuine, albeit sincere, screw-up. There is also Jenny Bodén, quiet, thoughtful, and patient; Josef Eriksson, smart, hard-edged, and hot tempered; and Ayda Çetin their crack researcher who can track a missing crook to the corridor of his hideout.

The cases are all interesting, although more convoluted than in the past, perhaps to open a door to Klas Fedén interfering and undermining Beck. He’s a perfect foil and villain because he’s so easy to dislike.

This season is also permeated by a feeling of impending doom. Beck’s health has been deteriorating. He is being urged at every turn to retire. Actually he retired at the end of an earlier season only to come back in the administrative position he now holds. Retirement held no interest for him and the prospect of spending all that time at home interacting with his eccentric neighbor Grannen or his harridan of a daughter Inger drove him back to the office. Grannen, with his neck brace and drink in hand, always has a tall tale to tell, invariably about himself and obviously impossibly false. He amuses Beck but a little bit of Grannen goes a long long way. A stalwart since the very first episode of the series, he is the perfect comic relief, always adding a light touch of fantasy to this serious drama.

Revealing anything about the episodes that sync together nicely would be unfair. Suffice it to say that even with new cast members and complicated scenarios, some of which work better than others, you will not be disappointed. Unlike the fun French detective series like “Art of the Crime,” “Magellan,” and “Murder In,” “Beck is worthy successor to the original Swedish “Wallander” series that ran from 2005 to 2013. Not as complex or conflicted a character as Krister Henriksen’s Kurt Wallander, Peter Haber’s Martin Beck exhibits a similar depth of character and approach to solving difficult cases.

Besides Peter Haber, excellent through all the years, the rest of the cast is uniformly good with special mention to Ingvar Hirdwall who plays the enigmatic Grannen. Jennie Silfverhjelm as Alexandra Beijer is elegant with depth and mystery. Måns Nathanaelson as Oskar Bergman portrays distraction, cluelessness, and inadvertent incompetence to a realistic degree. He represents the quintessential Scandinavian civil servant, sincere, modestly capable, if that, and there for life. Jonas Karlsson as Klas Fedén is so good you will genuinely hate him and scream at the television when he meanders thoughtlessly onto the stage, wrecking more deliberate havoc as he tries multiple ways to undermine Beck. Martin Wallström as Josef Eriksson, the newest member of the team, is the handsome resident hothead of mystery who, one hopes, will grow in depth if there is another season and we can only hope there is another season after this. I’m not yet done with “Beck.”

In Swedish with English subtitles.

The new season launches on MHz Choice on December 21.

 

 

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