We're easily seduced by subtitles. The very fact that something in a foreign language has been deemed worthy enough to be exported to lazy monoglot English speakers (of which I am one) immediately offers a quick kind of artistic legitimacy. There's also the fact that it's harder tell if the acting is bad because of the accents (my theory as to the baffling popularity of Downton Abbey in the US).
Equally, the quality of the raft of Scandi dramas has become their own mark of assurance. So, ipso facto, The Legacy (Sky Arts 1), a subtitled Danish drama from DR Fiktion, the production unit behind The Killing and Borgen, ought to be Some Cop. Right? Well, the good news is, it is.
I'd assumed before knowing anything about it that The Legacy would be a crime-y/ political-y thriller like its forebears. Instead – and presumably the reason why it's on Sky Arts rather than Atlantic – it's the story of the death of an artist and the effect of her life on her children. To use playwright/actor Tracy Letts's body of work as a comparative tool, it's August: Osage County, not Homeland. Indeed, scenes with Kirsten Olesen's Veronika Gronnegaard, the artist, falling to pieces, did actually feel very reminiscent of the former (before we knew her cancer diagnosis).
Annoyingly, a combination of being able to count and knowing from the show's blurbs that it is about Veronika's legacy with her four children slightly ruined the first episode's major reveals – that the florist Signe is actually Veronika's fourth child (and didn't know it) and Veronika is about to shuffle off this mortal coil. But we'll live.
There's certainly lots to recommend The Legacy to non Scandi-drama watchers. Principally, the fact that it's a slightly smart, weird, off-kilter family drama of which there are probably too few of on British television. Its premise is strong, too – after one episode there are already plenty of unanswered questions. Those include what will happen to Veronika's artistic retreat (presumably to be wrestled over). And, more pertinently, why does Frederik, a grown-up father of two, think it's appropriate to have a giant poster of German industrial-metal legends Rammstein in his living room.
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