National Post (National Edition)

The Investigat­ion is year's first great drama series

SHOW MOVES METHODICAL­LY THROUGH STORY IN A SIGN OF RESPECT FOR SUBJECTS AND VIEWERS

- DANIEL D'ADDARIO

Toward the end of the new limited series The Investigat­ion, the show's central police inquiry seems stalled. Nothing is moving in the right direction, and all players seem understand­ably frustrated. One cop (Laura Christense­n) sets things right with an unlikely note of encouragem­ent. “This isn't a perfect crime,” she tells her boss (Søren Malling). “It's a clumsy, disgusting crime. So we must have overlooked something.”

This is an unexpected note for the TV procedural — which thrives on the sleuth as genius, seeing through a case that comes as a shock to the viewer.

But The Investigat­ion, written and directed by Tobias Lindholm and streaming on Crave after having debuted overseas, is no ordinary show. For one thing, the outcome will be known already to readers of the news: These Danish-speaking cops, in Copenhagen, are looking into the real-life 2017 killing of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, reported missing after she boarded a submarine to interview its owner.

For another, the work of the police, facing down a crime sloppily committed but difficult to pin down, is allowed to proceed with a grinding forward momentum. It's a pace that can be punishing but that also makes gains that much more impressive.

That The Investigat­ion moves so methodical­ly through its story is a sign of respect for subjects and viewers alike — it's a show that understand­s the gravity of its own story. Its intense unity of vision makes The Investigat­ion the first great scripted series of 2021.

A healthy share of The Investigat­ion's success is owed to its cast. Malling plays Jens Møller, the head of homicide in the Copenhagen police department. The performanc­e is one suffused with duty. As Møller's personal life suffers and as his psyche is overtaken with the monthslong quest for justice, one senses him pushing himself forward.

Pilou Asbaek of Game of Thrones delivers an only slightly flashier performanc­e as prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen, who acts as something of a story engine: He can only bring the case forward if Møller and team manage certainty on a case seemingly designed to frustrate.

Those frustratio­ns find human expression in the late Kim's parents Ingrid and Joachim Wall (Pernilla August and Rolf Lassgård) whose grief is given a dignity, and — lacking a place to put it or a way to express it — a sort of oceanic shapelessn­ess. In one strikingly shot sequence at the midpoint of the series, we see them facing the water that, somewhere, holds their daughter, collapsing in a sort of unsolvable anguish. As we move from close-up to a long shot with water lapping their feet, the parents are dwarfed by sea, and by the pain within.

Their hopelessne­ss lends urgency to the quest, one that, early on, sees Møller writing four columns on a whiteboard: “natural death / accident / suicide / homicide.” (Lindholm, who never indulges showiness in his shots, knows his way around a sort of bleak rigour: in addition to his work for the big screen and as a writer of the Danish series Borgen, he directed episodes of Mindhunter.)

In order to determine Wall's death was occasioned by the final of these, his team must find, in the waters off the Danish coastline, the pieces of Wall's body. This is the series at its grimmest, both for the manner in which the boundless ocean conspires against the case ever being solved and for certain specifics: Buch-Jepsen tells Møller, at one point, “I can't dismiss the accused's explanatio­n if we don't find the head and any lesions.”

Uplift is hard to come by here. But there's a sense of wonder glimmering around the edges of the process. For instance, in searching for the head, Møller has dispatched some 100 volunteers to search the Danish and Swedish coasts.

Christense­n's Maibritt Porse has a haunted forward stare that instructs you as to the meaning she finds in closing this case. The scenes she and Malling share are among the series's best, infused with a sort of slow-burning anger that's been metabolize­d into the quest for justice.

That impulse toward justice is a human one, one that can be put toward troubling ends: So often, crime TV has its roots in the gleefully punitive. So many shows provide a giddily indulgent look at the dark side of humanity.

Here, though, Wall's killer is neither seen nor mentioned by name throughout the series. It may seem lofty to say that the cops' primary objective is to solve the case rather than prosecute the killer — a prosecutor is involved, after all — but the show ends up convincing its viewer, beat by painstakin­g beat. Its subject matter is, tragically, perfectly apt: Wall was known in life for superlativ­e work as a journalist, bringing underexpos­ed cases to light through rigorous reporting. The similar rigour of those seeking to bring closure to the far-too-short story of her life was one way of honouring her.

The Investigat­ion, so deeply a tribute to what is good — self-sacrificin­g, humble, serious when it counts — about the communitie­s we share, is another.

IT'S A SHOW THAT UNDERSTAND­S THE GRAVITY OF ITS OWN STORY.

 ?? HBO ?? The Investigat­ion is based on the real-life police investigat­ion into the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, known as “the submarine case.”
HBO The Investigat­ion is based on the real-life police investigat­ion into the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, known as “the submarine case.”

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