Fall hook, line and sinker for Nicola Walker's latest character.
Review by Amanda Ellison
DI Annika Strandhed - Nicola Walker
DS Michael McAndrews - James Sives
Jake Strathearn - Paul McGann
Morgan Strandhed - Silvie Furneaux
Viewers who shed a tear at Nicola Walker’s dramatic exit from the BBC’s Unforgotten will be pleased to learn that she has resurfaced in a new police procedural, Annika, showing on the relatively low-profile Alibi channel.
Filmed largely around Glasgow, the Clyde and Loch Lomond, the six-episode series charts the investigations of the Marine Homicide Unit (if you can suspend your disbelief and just imagine that the need for such an institution exists), headed up by newly-promoted Norwegian Annika Strandhed (Walker). Yet another police procedural, Annika is predictably formulaic and pedestrian as far as plotlines go: in the first episode, a harpooned man is fished out of the water, soon identified as that of the owner of a local whale-watching boat. The subsequent investigation centres around the deceased’s family and close contacts – and, well, you can probably write the rest of the script yourself. The familiar tropes of the genre are key ingredients, such as a resentful colleague who applied for Annika’s job (which had the potential for a far grittier rivalry than the borderline friendly relationship that actually ensues), the sulky and sarcastic Vodka-swigging teenaged daughter who has trouble settling in, a team of colleagues that is lukewarm towards her at best, the obstacle-strewn romantic endeavours – in this case with her daughter’s therapist, played by Paul McGann. Originality is not Annika’s USP.
And yet, one is compelled to keep watching …
Much of this show’s appeal is character-driven. Unsurprisingly, Walker lights up the screen in her role as the witty and acerbic DI. Her character – and indeed the whole concept – is based on her role in the successful BBC 4 podcast, Annika Stranded. So Walker has form here, and her experience shows. What helps make Annika just different enough to hold viewers’ attention are two elements: firstly, its Scandi provenance adds a hint of noir – Annika’s frequent allusions to Scandinavian literature and Norse mythology ensure that the Nordic theme is omnipresent; and secondly, Annika frequently breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to camera - hence to us - with a result that is both intimate and reminiscent of a cross between the flippancy of Miranda Hart and the drollery of Frank Underwood in House of Cards. And it’s genuinely funny at times, lightening up a genre that can sometimes take itself too seriously. Ultimately, the charm and charisma of the lead wins through. Take Walker out of the equation, and switching channel is high on the agenda. As it is, she just might reel you in …