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The Investigation – the best Scandinoir drama for ages

Blimey, ten years ago to the day I was blogging about a brilliant new Danish drama called The Killing.

Since then, most TV noir, regardless of where it’s from, has become dull: clichéd, unpleasant and downright pornographic in its glorification of serial killers and imprisoned women. But The Investigation, which debuted on BBC Two last night, looks like it might be up there with The Killing.

What makes it different? Like The Killing, there’s only one murder, which has taken place before the drama begins. There’s also only one suspect, and we know they’re guilty. We don’t know their name, let alone what they look like. Their interrogation takes place off screen.

So, unlike your standard police drama, the “action” focuses on the police, prosecutor and victim’s parents. This is an odd procedural – there have been no autopsies and suspect interviews (yet); instead, we get endless phone calls, emails and some wrangling with IT equipment. In a sense, it’s about working in a busy work environment, which anyone who works in an office could relate to, except the stakes and pressure are incredibly high.

There’s not really much action. A lot happens, but the stately pacing and staging invite us to consider events in terms of how they affect the characters, and how they deal with a gathering storm. Scenes that would be vital to a traditional drama take place off screen, reported to the chief police officer Jens Moller. At the moment he seems unflappable as the number of calls – and the importance of what they convey – increases. Although a major family announcement is ruined when he has to leave the dining room table a couple of times, mobile clamped to his ear.

Add to this the standard high quality Scandi decor and a gloomy, rainy palette of blues and greys. It made for an entertaining, mesmerising whole, aided by some great, measured performances, especially from Søren Malling as Jens Moller. I’ve only seen the first two episodes, so there’s plenty of time for it to descend into farce as most of these dramas do when they collapse under the absurdity of the plot, but I’m reasonably confident this will remain a refreshingly good watch.