Mammon, the latest slice of Nordic Noir, finds a new home on UK television airing not on BBC4 but on the commercial equivalent More 4. It’s also not from one of the traditional sources of the genre, but is instead a production of Norwegian television – although the overall Scandinavian flavour remains broadly familiar all the same.
The story starts with journalist Peter Verås (Jon Øigarden) investigating a case of corporate embezzlement at one of the country’s biggest companies; the twist is that the culprit turns out to be Peter’s own brother Daniel, who subsequently kills himself leaving Peter devastated. Five years later and Peter remains obsessed with the case, when a belated bequest from Daniel leads Peter to a remote waterside spot which suddenly becomes the scene of a second suicide by a man whose last word is “Abraham!” That sets Peter back on the trail of what happened to his brother, and it’s soon clear that a lot of people are involved in a previously unsuspected far-reaching conspiracy which extends even to the country’s Minister of Justice.
Mammon is less a crime show along the lines of Forbrydelsen or The Bridge than it is a paranoid thriller, making it closer to the recently-broadcast Belgian series Salamander if anything, although its Nordic routes means that it nonetheless retains a suitably low-key, low-light subtlety with a more interesting and fleshed-out supporting cast of friends, family and colleagues than Salamander managed, which proved very much a more one-dimensional show along the lines of 24 or Spooks.
There’s a problem in the main role, however, in that the part of Peter is essentially a not terribly interesting one and is overshadowed by just about everyone else on screen. It also feels very heavily influenced by Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo where a journalist is paired with a far more interesting female character, here financial crimes specialist Vibeke Haglund (Lena Kristin Ellingsen). She has a past with Peter, but is currently suffering from crippling agoraphobia that leave her housebound after a series of suspicious events that led her to fear her life was at risk as a result of the original Verås investigation.
Overall, Mammon is effective drama and certainly kept me gripped – there were two moments in the first two episodes that genuinely had me jump out of my seat when they happened. The conspiracy seems a little far-fetched and improbable even this early into the short fun of six episodes, and the explanation for the coincidental suicides is going to have to be really clever indeed to avoid going totally over the top. That said, I’m certainly intrigued enough to want to find out and will be sticking with it to the finish – even if it’s some way from being up to the high water mark of the best that Nordic Noir has shared with us over the past five years.
Mammon airs on More 4 on Fridays. It will be released in the UK on DVD on May 5 2014.