The second series of Icelandic courtroom drama ‘Réttur’ ended in 2010, with quite a cliffhanger: a lawyer is on a hunting trip with an eccentric client, who picks up his rifle and announces that he’s always wanted to take aim at the Most Dangerous Game. The camera pans away; cut to black. Reader, I LOL’ed.
The long-deferred third series of ‘Réttur’ does not pick up where it where it left off. Two of the stars have returned: Magnùs Jónsson plays Logi, a badboy lawyer—he has a beard now—and Jóhanna Vigdís Arnadóttir plays Brynhildur, his wary partner, rival and foil, but ‘Case’, as it’s now called in English, has otherwise been reworked completely by its producers at Saga Film and Channel 2, where it debuted in 2015. Gone is the latter-day ‘L.A. Law’ vibe of seasons one and two, with their trial-of-the-week structure, mixing high-gloss nighttime shots of Borgartún high-rises with attempts at plumbing the depths of Reykjavík’s gritty criminal underworld.(A children’s TV host strongarmed into smuggling cocaine!)
‘Case’, as the show is called in English now that it’s being exported, is far more upto-the-minute: a nineepisode inquiry into a single death, which inevitably uncovers the secrets and lies, the hidden vices and buried shames, of a prosperous welfare state in a landscape evocatively stripped of colour. Yep, it’s another dour Nordic neo-noir, bio-engineered to satisfy the insatiable tastes of foreign binge-watchers. It made it onto US Netflix last fall, and Britain’s Channel 4 picked it up this winter for its streaming service. It’s grim, says the Guardian, but “you’ll be hooked.”
‘Case’ begins with the discovery of the body of a young ballerina, hanging from rafters at Þjóðleikhúsið. This local golden girl was named Lára (as in, “Who killed Lára?”), and it’s an apparent suicide, though cop Gabríela isn’t convinced by the shifty responses she’s getting from everyone from the girl’s adoptive parents, to her friends from the youth centre. While last year’s hit Icelandic crime series ‘Trapped’ centered its investigation around a milk-sipping, sleepy-eyed hair mountain-turnedinternational sex dad Ólafur Darri Ólafsson,‘Case’ makes concessions to a more familiar hard-boiled vernacular, with Logi swigging Absolut from the bottle as he commits a break-in on behalf of Lára’s birth parents. Gabríela provides a more quintessentially Icelandic presence, with Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir, a new addition to the ensemble, hitting subtle notes of stoic surliness in her wade through layers of drug peddling and underage porn, presented oh-so-clinically.
‘Trapped’, despite its wintry doggedness, was escapist, in its Agatha Christie-esque single-set whodunnit premise, and if anything ‘Case’, with its underworld fixers and green-haired sexpot hackers, is even less grounded in the sensationalistic twists it puts on local subjects like teen autonomy, casual sex and chemical dependencies. But this drama about the tragic death of an exploited young girl can’t help but play a little differently now it did when it came out, following the unprecedented reallife murder that shook Iceland at the start of the year; as the plot of ‘Case’ unfolds, its slow, quiet scenes, playing out in dull and endless winter daylight, seem less suspenseful than grief-stricken.