Beck offers tough cases that leave a lasting mark

Saturday: Beck (BBC Four, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Friday, 6th May 2022, 5:00 pm
Martin Beck
Martin Beck

The nights are shorter, dawn is breaking earlier every day and, if only a little bit, the weather is getting warmer.

It’s certainly not the time of year you’d associate with crime drama. They tend to be murky, dark affairs where the rain never stops and the only reason to wear sunglasses is to hide the black eyes of a beating.

Anyone who’s tuned into BBC Four on a Saturday evening during the past decade or so know this to be true. That’s because the 9pm slot has become synonymous with such programmes, particularly those with a European flavour. It’s the place where fans have been treated to the likes of Spiral, The Bridge, The Killing and Inspector Montalbano, all of which have broadened our televisual horizons while becoming ratings winners for the broadcaster.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Klas Freden and Alex Beijer

Yes, despite Brexit, the nation’s love for Euro-thrillers remains unbowed. Other nations have, of course, been represented – Cardinal hails from Canada, Hidden Assets is Irish, Mystery Road comes from a land down under and, most recently, we’ve seen the last-ever run of the bleak Welsh series Hidden.

After a week-long break from such programmes (the premiere of the French movie By the Grace of God featured at 9pm last Saturday), we’re pleased to see one of the longest-running of the so-called Scandi-noir brigade returning to our screens.

Swedish series Beck is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year (although in the UK, we didn’t pick up with it until 2015). Some viewers have commented after watching the trailer for the eighth run that its star, Peter Haber, is looking a little long in the tooth. Well, we all tend to age a fair bit over the course of a quarter of a century, so that can be forgiven!

He was a mere whippersnapper of 44 when the show began, and in truth, his alter ego would probably be retired by now. Nevertheless, Martin Beck – a character who first appeared in a series of 10 books by novelists Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo – is still going strong, albeit in a different capacity.

His days of chasing down criminals on the streets of Stockholm appear to be over. When we catch up with him again, he’s back at work following a period of rehabilitation and has been promoted to the new position of chief. Alexandra Beijer is now the lead investigator, with more than able support from her colleagues Steinar Hovland, Oskar Bergman, Ayda Cetin and Jenny Bodén.

Throughout the run we’re warned to expect tough cases that leave a lasting, emotional mark on the tight-knit group, and that by the end of the series, the pressure is almost at breaking point.

Their first case begins when a body is found floating in water near the suburb of Liljeholmen. It turns out to be that of a 39-year-old Danish citizen known to be tied up with a notorious drug network – and as the investigation progresses, Beck’s team head for danger as they inadvertently find themselves caught up in a gang war.