Things I learned watching The Killing and several other euro-crime shows.
I’ve been watching a run of TV crime series from Europa in recent months and have started to notice that they all seen to reinforce some of the generalized stereotypes from whence they came…..
At the risk of droning on about another PAL release that no one else can watch, I’ll be brief about the excellent Danish series The Killing (remade and currently airing on AMC in the States). This 20 hour series follows a single murder case in Copenhagen and it’s apparently true what they say about Danes – they love rules and bureaucracy…. and the men are very tall. Denmark might even have more rules than Canada and everyone follows them…. well, mostly. Being a rogue-Dane is to purposely not signal when turning. It is a place where the police make seemingly endless mistakes (they arrest the wrong person at least half a dozen times during this investigation for example). By the midpoint of the series, everyone is under investigation, including the investigators. Women seem to run things in Denmark and most people have three names. No one ever turns on the lights, even when strange noises are coming from the next room. It’s a very tense place to live, partially because it’s so dark indoors and partly because you can easily get arrested for something you quite clearly could not have done. Alibi-schmilibi….. we’re taking you in. Again?…. but I was in a coma. Sure you were buddy. Get in the fucking car.
Italy’s (more specifically Sicily’s) Inspector Montebano is a man’s man living in a man’s world. Brimming over with machismo, Montebano could impregnate anyone in the room at will, including the men, by simply looking at them. No silly women investigating crimes in Sicily – this is exclusively Uomo-territory. Crime investigation in Sicily starts, like all things, with a two hour lunch and several glasses of wine. Relax, the victim is dead and that’s not changing any time soon seems to be the criminal investigation credo on the shores of the Med. Swimming, food and sex are key to being a top cop in Sicily. Bureaucracy is rampant, but ignored by virtually everyone. No one signals.
Back in Scandinavia, the Norwegians appear to live in a dark world of endless sexual deviance. All men are predators except private dick/supermodel (and Thor lookalike) Varg Veum, who catches them. Everyone is mentally unstable and most of the population prey on young women. It must be the relentless cold and darkness. Varg is worn out, but spectacularly attractive.
Over to France with another recent PAL acquisition called Spiral (Engrenages, which translates more accurately to “gears” in English), a French television police drama series about being a civil servant. Gears follows a host of characters, all civil servants, involved in the investigation of Paris crime. It’s structured a little along the lines of the U.S. series Law and Order, except in France everyone shows up at the crime scene where the dead and horribly-mutilated body of the dead prostitute has been dumped. The cops, the judges, the coroner, the parking authority, dog-catchers, school teachers and Parks and Rec officials are all involved in the initial crime scene investigation…. because they’re French. Women and chain-smoking, silver-maned civil bureaucrats run the show in France. The weathy are instantly under suspicion for all crimes committed within the Paris city limits and are routinely rounded up to explain where they were on the night of the murder. Based on the first few episodes of Season 1, they are all guilty, some of the rich just haven’t been caught yet. Everyone is beautiful, except the horribly-mutilated corpse (although, according to two separate characters in the opening episode, was very beautiful prior to being savagely attacked by some as-yet-unidentified capitalist).
The Wallander Swedes are all sad….ruthlessly good at solving crimes, but sad nonetheless. They all drive Saabs and Volvos, meet for coffee and trade sad stories about their sad and lonely lives. Kurt is particularly sad, but it’s never quite explained why he’s so down in the dumps. It could be worse…. they could be in Norway slogging it out with Varg investigating some S&M murder or child porn ring, or worse… in Denmark, relentlessly pursuing and arresting all the wrong people and filling out endless forms, or still worse yet…… in Finland….a place that no-one from the rest of Scandinavia ever brings up. Ever. God only knows what’s going on there, but it can’t be good.
So, the lessons learned here? Well, first off Sicily is where you need go to pursue an enjoyable career in law enforcement. Norway is the place to be if you’re looking at catching (or becoming) a serial rapist/child murderer. Varg could definitely use some help. Sweden is a nice fallback if you just don’t give a shit about happiness. Misery loves company they say. If you’re currently an employee of the City of Toronto, Paris is your civil servant Xanadu. And finally, if solving the crime quickly or accurately isn’t high on your list of priorities, Copenhagen is your best bet… but you’ll need to be tall, or a women.
Oh yes…. and forget Britain… everyone who lives in the U.K. solves crimes and there’s not nearly enough criminals to go around as it is.