QotD: “Let’s take the glamour out of TV crime drama”

How do you dramatise a murder without glamorising the murderer? The Investigation (BBC4), a Danish drama about the death of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, has a radical solution: it turns her killer into a faceless, nameless void. Ms Wall disappeared in 2017 after interviewing and taking a trip with an amateur submariner in Koge Bay, south of Copenhagen. The series focuses on dogged police efforts to retrieve her dismembered corpse from the sea and, amid the accused’s ever-changing story, to reach the seemingly extraordinary level of proof required by Danish law.

Although this is an infamous case, The Investigation does not once name the killer. (So neither will I.) Nor does it dramatise the interrogations, always the exciting centrepiece of a police procedural, thus denying a murdering narcissist the thrill of a charismatic actor speaking his words. Through the grief of her parents, however, Kim Wall infuses the story.

What a contrast with The Serpent, the BBC drama which portrays Charles Sobhraj, the 1970s “Bikini Killer”, swanning around with a glamorous wife in swimming-pooled luxury wearing designer shades. Sexy dead girls — whose families no doubt still mourn — are dragged semi-clad down beaches. There are Serpent playlists on Spotify so you can chill to that poisoned backpacker vibe. How Sobhraj, who revelled in toying with the police, must smirk in his prison cell. The Investigation, no less gripping for its restraint, leaves you oddly uplifted by the gargantuan effort to secure justice for a single woman. While The Serpent just left me queasy at its glib marketing of murder.

Janice Turner

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