Set for its debut in North America, the first season of Swedish mystery series Bäckström is fabulous, and already I can’t wait for the second one to arrive.
With the second season of Bäckström having started filming, audiences on this side of the fjords have two things to look forward to, starting with the premiere of the mystery drama’s first season in the US and Canada tomorrow.
Based on Swedish criminologist Leif GW Persson‘s novel Can You Die Twice?, Bäckström stars Kjell Bergqvist (Spring Tide, 30 Degrees in February, Death of a Pilgrim) as “master detective” and “world’s greatest homicide investigator” Evert Bäckström. The eponymous detective gained these epithets, along with fame, legion of fans, and a regular spot as a criminology expert on the television crime news program Spaning, due to his 99% success rate in solving cases. No surprise, the guy’s got an outsized ego, an overinflated sense of importance, and a dismissive attitude.
Bäckström can also be a really good guy, especially when it comes to Edvin (Elvis Stegmar), his clever nine-year-old neighbor, a bullied boy scout and a master detective in the making. (If Edvin were Australian, I’m sure he’d be one of the Inbestigators.) The morning after an armored car was robbed by a gang of armed masked men, Edvin visits Bäckström with a “code red” — a murder case. On a small, uninhabited island in the Swedish archipelago, the boy found a human skull with a bullet hole in it.
Working with Bäckström on the case of the skull is investigator Peter Niemi (Rolf Lydahl, Beck) and forensic analyst Nadja Högberg (Malgorzata Pieczynska, Before We Die), but not detective Ankan Carlsson (Agnes Lindström Bolmgren, The Restaurant), who’s been assigned to the armored car robbery. So Bäckström’s boss, Toivonen (Pekka Strang, Tom of Finland), gets Kristian Olsson (Filip Berg, Black Lake) from Patrol and Adam “Olzzon” Oleszkiewicz (Peshang Rad, Gåsmamman) from Task Force to help Bäckström with the investigation.
Although Bäckström believes this is a murder case, it could be a suicide. All he has to go on is the skull. What he doesn’t have are the victim’s ID, the rest of the skeleton, the crime scene location, the murder weapon, the name of the killer, or the motive for murder — thus, he doesn’t actually have a criminal offense with which to charge anyone. When the DNA results come back, the case gets more complicated, as they confirm that the skull belongs to an Asian woman, Jaidee (Sandra Yi Sencindiver, The Bridge), who died in the 2004 Thailand tsunami. How could she have died twice?
That’s what Bäckström wants to know, and he wants to question Jaidee’s widower, Daniel Jonsson (Linus Wahlgren, Crimes of Passion), now a career diplomat working for Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hanna Hwass (Livia Millhagen, Veni Vidi Vici), who ends up taking over as the lead on the case, nixes this, forcing Bäckström to continue the investigation in his own way, which includes going to Thailand.
Meanwhile, Olsson and Olzzon are delving into a missing person case that could be connected to Jaidee’s death, as Carlsson investigates both the armored car robbery and a murder that appears to be linked to it. However, her targets, a gang of Russian criminals, are always one step ahead, and Carlsson is sure that someone in the department is leaking information to them. But who?
In other matters, Hwass has it out for Bäckström, and his nemesis on Spaning, “star attorney” Tomas Eriksson (Jens Hultén, Johan Falk), is more than willing to help her bring him down. While they plot the end of his career, Bäckström is starting a new, rather cozy relationship with PR guru Tina Bonde (Helen Sjöholm, As It Is in Heaven). Could it be love? It looks that way to Edvin.
As Bäckström, Carlsson, et. al. get closer to solving the cases, the danger to them and to those around them increases…
As an entertaining mystery series, Bäckström delivers the goods. The story itself is well crafted, intricate but not overly complex, and well paced. While it isn’t a cozy mystery, there is very little in the way of on-screen violence and no on-screen sex, and if I recall correctly, no on-screen nudity, all three of which many viewers will appreciate. The show also isn’t dark or heavy; rather, it’s more like a full-bodied medium roast.
Evert Bäckström is a charismatic and intriguing character, particularly in his “on-the-scene” approach to developing crime theories (the production of which can be visually striking), and it’s now hard to imagine him being played by anyone other than the talented Kjell Bergqvist. The same goes for Elvis Stegmar, who plays the Sherlockian Edvin with such sincerity that you forget he’s acting. The friendship between Bäckström and Edvin is one of the most priceless father-son-like relationships you’re likely to see in a crime drama. Two other characters that make Bäckström a joy to watch are Olsson and Olzzon, buddy cops with no criminal investigation experience but who make good nonetheless; most of the series’ good-natured humor and laugh-out-loud moments are because of them.
I thoroughly enjoyed Series 1 of Bäckström, and hope you like it as much as I do.
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