Spoiler alert: this recap assumes you’ve seen the second episode of Blue Eyes on More4 or Walter Presents. Don’t read on if you haven’t.
This is getting very dark. And I don’t just mean the fact that for much of the time what’s happening on screen is so hard to make out you want to turn the brightness up. Let’s just say that with Sarah still missing, Annika’s killer on the loose, the police baffled and arresting more or less everyone, and now a gang of fascist thugs leaving a trail of bodies across Stockholm, I will be giving Sweden a miss for my holiday this year. Especially if there’s an election on.
A perpetual air of menace hangs over Blue Eyes, and the intercutting of light and shade, dusk and day, is cleverly done. Two competing views of the country are portrayed: the nightmarish one of rightwing intolerance and fascist violence, and the old vision of collective, connective harmony that we used to believe in. That idea of social democratic Scandinavia as a model for the world was wrecked by Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik, and Blue Eyes is underlining the point. The darkness is winning.
Blue Eyes recap: episode one – the march of the far-right, Swedish-style
I thought of Breivik because of the character of Gustav. We first meet him teaching a class of what look like adult learners. He is lecturing them on the role of history: if you don’t know what happened in the past, how can you understand the present or shape the future? Quite right, Gustav. Good point. He gets a message on his phone – “Play on Friday … ?” A spot of Strindberg perhaps? But no, as we discover later once we’ve learned that thugs are targeting criminals they think shouldn’t be on the streets, it’s not that sort of play.
Our first impression of caring, sharing, right-on Gustav couldn’t have been more wrong – Blue Eyes is intent on exploding stereotypes. He is a Hitler wannabe obsessed by the “Jewish conspiracy”, and is running a group of fascists who want to foment a rightwing revolution during the election campaign by bumping off paedophiles, rapists and drunk drivers. It seems a bit odd to put drunk drivers on his hitlist, but maybe something was lost in translation.
Mattias and Hasse.
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Plausibly psychopathic … Mattias and Hasse. Photograph: Channel 4
At the scene of one murder, where the plausibly psychopathic Mattias bludgeons a child rapist to death, the group’s name – Veritas – is spray-painted in red on a wall in the victim’s flat and spotlit with a lamp. A scarily powerful way of announcing itself.
Meanwhile, the avuncular Olle Nordlöf of the rightwing Assurance party is busy signing up the late Annika’s daughter, Sofia, for the cause. She rebuffs him at first, realising she is being used, but the fact she is broke and doesn’t like her brother Simon’s Muslim friends weakens her resolve. Her delightful (if oddly named) toddler son, Love, cries a lot, as does Simon, who inexplicably blames himself for his mother’s murder.
Elin, our heroine, is doing her best to find Sarah, and visits the latter’s flat, where she finds a photograph of Max, another employee at the justice ministry who has until that point been developing quite a cosy relationship with Elin. The news that Max and Sarah slept together at a political conference a couple of years earlier puts their dinner plans on hold. What does Max know? Come to that, what do any of us know? These Scandi-noir dramas are like jigsaws where the different pieces have to be tried every which way before a picture emerges. So far we haven’t even managed to put the outline together.
Gunnar is having a distinctly rocky time … the lantern-jawed justice minister being trounced by the rightwing Olle Nordlöf in a TV debate.
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Gunnar is having a distinctly rocky time … the lantern-jawed justice minister being trounced by the rightwing Olle Nordlöf in a TV debate. Photograph: Channel 4
And what about Gunnar, the lantern-jawed justice minister? He tells Elin someone is trying to frame him for Sarah’s disappearance. But do we trust him? I suppose we should – he comes across as one of the good guys in this Manichean political world – but there is something about his ingratiating manner that jars.
Gunnar is having a distinctly rocky time: bested by Olle in a TV debate about Annika’s murder, given a dressing down by the prime minister, and told he was being excluded from the election campaign by the PM’s super-sharp female strategist. No wonder he seems to spend all his time drinking whisky. His mistake, says the weaselly special adviser Ludwig, was to get involved in a controversy. “We win elections by avoiding all conflicts,” he smarms. Don’t engage; don’t make policy pronouncements; just bore the electorate to death and govern. An alternative veritas.