We've seen a fair number of "cold case" television series in the past few years, mostly from England and the U.S. But these Department Q tales have something more, in terms of intensity and originality of characters, and depth of stories, which range from a woman kidnapped and held in a pressure chamber for several years, to a group of rich kids in school gone very wrong, to a faith-based psycho. The last two themes are also familiar, but there's nothing familiar about the way they're laid out and developed in these three memorable movies.
The cast is completely unknown to me and I suspect most American viewers, with the exception of Fares Fares, who played a small but pivotal role in the late, lamented Tyrant on FX. He's even better in the Department Q trilogy, playing Assad, the partner of Carl, also well played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas. Carl is on the verge of being burned out, for a variety of reasons. His boss barely tolerates him, and he has no luck with women. But he has a heart of a gold and an indomitable spirit, and is exactly the kind of detective you'd want on your side if your case or cause was hopeless.
American series have tried to emulate narratives like these, with new, American productions of The Killing and The Bridge, which were both very successful in their original European productions. The American productions had their moments - I reviewed both of them in this blog - but also had their flaws, and now I intend to see the originals whenever I can. You do have to pay attention to the subtitles in the Department Q Trilogy and all the Scandinavian productions but it's worth it - and if you speak a little Yiddish, you'll get some of the words (common roots of German and Scandinavian), not to mention occasional English words like "ok" and some choice expletives thrown in.