The chief of Denmark’s Terror Task Force Philip Nørgaard (Johannes Lassen) is back and he’s… relaxing on a boat? Hanging out with his girlfriend and her son like a regular dad? What happened to last season’s all-action ex-soldier haunted by his past and willing to do almost anything to save his comrades?
This season is created by Jesper Bernt (who was head writer on the second season of Danish-led European production The Team), and he’s not afraid to take things a little slower than the action rush that kicked off season 1 of Below The Surface. It’s the right choice, both for the show and for its lead character; after the messy way that season 1’s subway hostage situation ended up, no one could blame Nørgaard for needing a break (season 1 is now streaming as a box set at SBS On Demand).
Unfortunately, Nørgaard’s new, much more restful lifestyle is rudely interrupted when June Al-Baqee (Yasmin Mahmoud) arrives on his doorstep. She wants to talk to him about a video she sent him showing Danish soldiers illegally involved in the fighting in Syria, and it’s something she knows a lot about: she fought in Syria herself and was prosecuted by the Danish government for it.
Turns out that her fight was something of a lose-lose situation for her, as ISIS are now gunning for her too. So when she’s promptly kidnapped from Nørgaard’s doorstep, there’s no shortage of suspects. Luckily he’s able to give chase; unluckily, it’s on a bike, so the kidnappers manage to give him the slip.
This is where the wider story kicks in. Nørgaard calls in old Terror Task Force comrades from season 1, S.P. (Alexandre Willaume) and Simon (Peder Thomas Pedersen) to investigate. The kidnappers obviously have their own agenda, though exactly what that is remains a mystery; their leader Yusuf (Ola Rapace – you may remember him as Stefan in Wallander) is himself taking orders from a mysterious “A”.
Obviously Nørgaard isn’t about to just go back home and start fixing up his sailboat, especially with Bülow (Søren Pilmark), the head of military intelligence sweeping in to take over the kidnapping as a matter of national security. (Can anyone else smell a cover-up?) So Nørgaard blows off the family dinner, does some snooping around of his own, and manages to spot the kidnapper’s car at a ferry terminal just as the ferry is about to set sail for Sweden. Will Nørgaard be able to jump on board in time?
Considering much of the next seven episodes takes place on the ferry, it’s no spoiler to say he does – even though the gap he has to jump is pretty wide; looks like Nørgaard’s military training must have focused a lot on leaping. What it doesn’t seem to have focused on is keeping his friends on the force up-to-date with his investigation, as he goes ahead solo and proceeds to search the ferry for the kidnappers.
Meanwhile, June has taken her rescue into her own hands, stabbed one of the kidnappers and escaped. So now there’s two groups looking for her – and with not much time left before the ferry reaches its destination, the kidnappers are going to have to come up with something serious if they’re going to keep their plan on track.
By the end of the second episode all the pieces have fallen into place: the ferry is now the scene of a hostage situation with the kidnappers having seized control of the ship (and killed at least one crew member in the process, so you know they mean business). June is still in hiding, and the ship isn’t going anywhere until they find her. And Nørgaard gets to play the Bruce Willis role in this particular version of Die Hard on a Boat – though as later episodes show, June definitely isn’t afraid to fight back either.
Unlike the first season, this one doesn’t focus as much on the backstories of the hostages, which is fair enough. There’s a lot of story going on here already, especially once it starts introducing flashbacks for both June and Nørgaard. In June’s case, they help fill in why she decided to fight ISIS; for Nørgaard, they fill in exactly what happened to him after season 1 and chart his mental journey back from the stresses of his first hostage situation.
Add in a lot of intrigue back on dry land (military intelligence and the Terror Task Force really don’t get along) and developing tensions between the kidnappers, and there’s plenty of drama on offer. It’s a good thing Nørgaard had those eighteen months off work to rest up; he’ll need all his wits about him if he’s going to make it off the ferry alive…
Seasons 1 and 2 of Below The Surface are both available as a box set at SBS On Demand.
Season 1 start here
Season 2 start here
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