Something very odd happened about 52 minutes into Arne Dahl: The Blinded Man, the latest Scandicrime drama from BBC4. Until then things had been proceeding pretty much as procedurals do. The storyline concerns the serial murder of Swedish financiers and money men, an event that prompts the creation of a special-investigation squad. Given that one plutocrat a day is pitching forward into their caviar, I would have thought that the killings might have prompted the deployment of the Swedish army – that's an impressive work rate even for a television killer – but the Swedish police didn't seem to be panicking, just pulling together a number of helpfully disparate officers to work the case, including a detective under a cloud for shooting a hostage-taker and a feisty Hispanic officer who suspects him of racism.
The odd thing was this. Working late one night on tracking down the source of the bullets used in the crimes, the feisty one is interrupted by an office cleaner. He seems to be an unusually fastidious, even nerdy, type and at one point, he moves to wipe the board on which the team have been noting down the evolving leads. You see him take a great swipe across the board, but then Feisty notices what's going on and shouts to him to stop. At which point, the film appears to reverse and the erased names magically reappear from beneath the cleaner's cloth. Blimey, you think, they must have called in David Lynch to direct this bit.
No explanation was given for this sudden eruption of the hallucinatory into an otherwise doggedly straightforward thriller. Feisty seemed a bit surprised himself, blinking rapidly as if he couldn't believe his eyes. But then we were back to business as usual – an affair of red herrings and familiar collegiate wrangles. I'm afraid I never quite recovered. It's one thing to potter along with a thriller that you feel is doing the best that it can, quite another to feel bored by one that's just done the equivalent of flashing its knickers at you without warning. When are you going to get saucy again, I kept thinking, but it never did, preferring instead to trundle through familiar career dilemmas and a series of implausible side-plots. If you really can't live without subtitles on a Saturday night, it may ease the craving until something better comes along. But you'll probably end up hoping that something better will.
In Nick Hewer: Countdown to Freetown, Lord Sugar's beady-eyed sideman set off to deliver a circular saw to a Sierra Leone street kid. It's a 5,000-mile journey by car, over very bad roads and through some very dangerous territory, but if you're wondering why he didn't just have the circular saw shipped to Freetown and then delivered by local hauliers, who would presumably have welcomed a bit of extra trade, you haven't been paying attention. That would have been much duller as television, and it was television that was being serviced here just as much as James, who was kept in the dark for much of the programme so that the eventual reveal would be more of an event. They didn't appear to get quite what they'd hoped for: “I don't need him to break down in tears and sob all over me,” said Hewer after unveiling the apparatus that was going to propel James from jobbing day labourer to budding entrepreneur. “I'm glad he didn't.”
Hewer has actually helped, of course, and he also pointed out that charity might take the form of investment in talent, rather than just a drip-feed of cash that generates a new kind of dependency. But the problem was that Luke Campbell's film only glanced at these large and important issues rather than tackling them head-on. The expedition might have helped those in real need – a British public that doesn't fully understand the complexities of aid – but in the end it couldn't deliver.Reuse content