Robin is a journalist with a long rap sheet of jobs in TV magazines, from Radio Times to the Daily Mirror's We Love Telly.
The Killing II
BBC4 from Saturday, 19 November, 9pm
Why did we all find Sarah Lund so compelling when series one of Forbrydelsen was shown earlier this year?
She never smiles, she’s not glamorous, hardly a good mother, she’s emotionally cold and obsessively driven.
Well, she’s back this month and we can watch and wonder again about this very Scandinavian, very enigmatic female cop.
The current Nordic crime-fiction invasion specialises in tortured detectives, from Henning Mankell’s Wallander to Arnuldur Indridason’s Erlendur, but at least in the dour Erlendur’s case we have some insight into his lonely, obsessive mindset (the brother lost in childhood during a snowstorm). But Lund – we can only wonder about.
As season two of The Killing begins, we see her at a low ebb. She’s no longer an investigator following her work on the messy Birk Larsen case two years previously, having been dispatched to the country to do some kind of border duty.
She’s in a dingy flat, frying eggs for breakfast, and seems alienated from her son and mother.
However, she is suddenly visited by detective Ulrik Strange, who has been sent by Lund’s former boss in Copenhagen, the stony-faced Lennart Brix. The Copenhagen cops are troubled by the macabre and puzzling murder of a female lawyer, found tied up in her garden and stabbed 21 times.
Brix’s boys suspect the husband, who was having an affair with his secretary but has an alibi. Lund at first turns down Brix’s request to take a look at the case, but later agrees to evaluate the crime scene.
And as ever, her take on the evidence runs counter to her colleagues’. She does not believe the murder was a crime of passion…
The new series is different from the original, but it is good to see Lund in new surroundings with fresh challenges. Once again there is a political backdrop to the investigation, with a new justice minister grappling with demands for strong terrorism laws. There is also a military strand to events, with a soldier desperately hoping for release from a psychiatric ward following a breakdown.
Happily, some things remain the same. The days in Copenhagen are still dark and rain-sodden, and Lund, despite having a new jumper, is still walking into the path of trouble.
Sofie Gråbøl’s award-winning portrayal of the emotionally buttoned-up Lund was the highlight of the crime-drama year when BBC4 showed The Killing I back in January. As Brix says to her stiffly on her return, ‘Good to see you.’
And it is – whoever you really are.
Garrow’s Law series 3
BBC1 from Sunday, 13 November, 9pm
Despite this being the third series of the 18th-century Old Bailey drama based on transcripts from real cases, I am always surprised at how few people seem to have watched this fascinating show.
Perhaps that is why the Beeb has placed it in Sunday night’s prime 9pm slot, where it should gain new fans now that the all-conquering Downton Abbey has shut down for the year.
Andrew Buchan returns as William Garrow, barrister at the Bailey and something of a lost hero from history. It was creator Tony Marchant’s inspired idea to write a drama about the man who repeatedly tweaked the beaks and the establishment with some audacious legal victories.
Like Sarah Lund, Garrow is also struggling as we get reacquainted. At the end of the last series he was (wrongly and vindictively) found guilty of ‘criminal conversation’ – or sex with another man’s wife.
Garrow and Lady Sarah Hill had been making eyes at each other, but there had been no ‘criminal conversation’. However, Sir Arthur –played by Rent-a-Cad Rupert Graves – jealously prosecuted the pair.
Following that scandal, they are social outcasts and on hard times. And Garrow taking on the case of James Hadfield, who fired a gun at George III, is not likely to win him any popularity polls with the establishment or the patriotic mobs.
It’s a typically intriguing case to open this four-part series. Garrow is perplexed about how to defend Hadfield, whom he realises is mentally disturbed, having claimed to have heard God telling him to die in order to save the world.
However, to be legally adjudged mad in 18th-century England you had to be raving permanently and foaming at the mouth. Garrow has to challenge the law by pointing out that a man can be lucid most of the time, but have a shaky relationship with reality – a bit like King George III.
Which will be a very tricky defence to pull off.
You’d be mad to miss it.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Clocks
Finally, fans of David Suchet’s little grey cell exponent should note that the Poirot mystery The Clocks will be part of ITV1’s Christmas line-up next month.