The Inner Circle has been called Sweden’s House of Cards, an up-close look at the power plays that divide the winners from the losers in the hidden corridors of government. It’s a fast and occasionally furious look at a brand of politics where a scheme and a smile trumps hard work; here’s your guide to the people who run Sweden and those who just think they do.
The Prime Minister
Every year in Sweden politicians and the media gather in and around Almedalen, a park in Visby on the island of Gotland. Speeches are given, meetings are held, lobbyists are hard at work, DJ battles take place (seriously) and for a week or so the entire political system hogs the media spotlight.
But this year, things are going to be a little different: just before the event, PM Elvira Kropp (Anna Bjelkerud) makes a call to one of her ministers, letting him know that she plans to resign and she’s planning to point him out as a possible party leader – which would also make him the next PM.
As the current Minister for Enterprise, David Ehrling (Niklas Engdahl) is a rapidly rising star in his party. With a background in law and business, he’s driven and somewhat idealistic (in that he believes in a better Sweden… led by him), but his lack of a traditional political background means he’s not fully aware of the pressure that comes with the top job, and his rapid rise means he hasn’t yet erased the shadier aspects of his past.
So when the current PM says he’s her chosen successor, he jumps at the chance without realising exactly what it means. As a minister he might be able to get away with a string of extra-marital affairs, but it’s a whole different world as PM. Likewise with his dodgy business dealings, which includes involving the Russian mafia in the sale of a Swedish-linked port in the Ukraine.
He might have the drive, the ambition, and the ability to look good in front of the camera to get to the top. But there’s plenty of people waiting to take a shot at him, and there’s loads of ammunition lying around if they’re willing to look.
The Spin Doctor
Behind every great man there’s a great woman, and in Ehrling’s case she’s his media advisor, Lena Nilsdotter (Nanna Blondell). Her job is to make him look like Prime Ministerial material, which rapidly becomes a lot harder than it first seemed.
Fortunately for him, Nilsdotter is a fixer in every sense of the word, just as skilled at massaging the media as she is covering up crimes and shunting his enemies out of the way. But when a journalist turns up dead, she might find even her extensive abilities are stretched to the limit.
For every winner there has to be a loser, and by choosing Ehrling for the top job the PM has put a few noses out of the joint. As the Minister for the Environment, Ann-Louise Hegel (Eva-Maria Björk) has put in the hard work and gained the experience required to run the country, only to have the prize snatched from her at the final stage. Is she going to step aside quietly, or is she going to fight for what she thinks is rightfully hers?
Where there’s politicians there’s the media, and if you’re covering Swedish politics Almedalen is like a feeding pool for sharks. Which is a problem for Eherling and Nisldotter, because Astrid Pahlawi (Melinda Kinnaman) is good at her job and has them dead in her sights. With plenty of material to work with – there are even rumours that Eherling and Nisldotter are having an affair – keeping one step ahead of her is not going to be easy.
Long ago Ingrid Ehrling (Johanna Wilson) stopped caring about what her husband gets up to out of the house. But when he steps into the spotlight as a possible PM, it’s no longer possible for his family to stay in the shadows. That’s not a bad thing for his career – standing alongside a happy family rarely hurts a politician – but as Ehrling’s skeleton-filled closet is being ransacked by the media, the pressure on everyone around him begins to mount. Whatever his flaws, he loves his family, and they’re going to be torn apart in front of the public – unless someone’s willing to make a very tough choice.
The Crazy Brother
When talking about Ehrling’s brother Joel (Olle Sarri), words like “erratic” and “loose cannon” come to mind. He’s been positioned as the truth-teller in the family, the counterbalance to his slick brother in just about every way. But as the pressure on the Ehrlings continues to mount, having someone like him around rapidly becomes a worse-case scenario, and not just because of a hairstyle that’s impossible to look away from.
The Local Cop
A dead journalist isn’t just something that can be swept under the rug no matter how much the power players might wish it would go away. Enter local cop Bojan Eriksson (Barbro 'Babben' Larsson). His investigation might lack the high drama of the political arena (at times it seems more like the movie version of Fargo), but he’s still looking into a murder - and what he uncovers could topple a government.
The Inner Circle is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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