It happens to all of us: just about the time you think a program is about to win you over, it defecates all over the place. I’d mentioned in my review of LIFETIME – the last installment of the series focusing on a glamorous reporter investigating a life of crime – that, perhaps, ANNIKA BENGTZON had come into her own. She faced her personal demons – an exhausting work schedule, a failed marriage, a disturbingly unattached motherhood, etc. – and it all came together in such a way as to provide her a semblance of a climax, a conclusion to many threads that had been cleverly pulled tighter and tighter. However, where LIFETIME was arguably a series high, its follow-up – A PLACE IN THE SUN – ranks as a series low.
What’s a shame is that it didn’t have to be. In fact, 75% of it is quite nice. But that ending? Did they simply make it up as they were going along or what?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Things at work are starting to change for Annika Bengtzon (the lovely Malin Crepin): her boss is retiring, she’s being eyed for the top spot, but (after her refusal) a rival-colleague takes over the day-to-day operations. For her first assignment in the new administration, she’s sent to Spain on a quest to uncover what may have been the murder of a former Swiss hockey player and his family. However, as Bengtzon begins to pry further, she realizes that there’s much more here than meets the eye, including an estranged daughter who has gone missing and the possibility that her wealthy parents were trafficking in drugs!
Oh, poor Annika! Just when things were starting to actually look up for you, then you decided to invest in A PLACE IN THE SUN. Despite the sheer lunacy of the ending, there was so very much going for this procedural: Annika was moving on with her life, she came to accept the changes in the office, and the story even gave her a bit of a love story, complete with drinking, dancing, and disrobing. However, this PLACE in the sun just wasn’t meant to be.
Essentially, there are far more problems I can logically discuss without spoiling it all. Suffice it to say that there are several plotlines always in play in the episode, and the intent clearly was to draw all of them together in such a way as to deliver a surprising ending, the type of which viewers couldn’t see coming. Well, what they’ve crafted here does work on that level … but it also smacks heavily of implausibility, and that’s never a good thing.
What does work? Annika is treated to a new, budding relationship with a Swedish officer who’s been assigned to work with Spanish authorities, and that subplot gives Crepin finally the chance to smile. I’m talking ‘genuine smiles’ here, as it’s all handled very nicely, very romantically, and very well folded into the larger story. To complicate matters, her estranged husband shows up (he just so happens to be a conference in the same area), and the two are given as well a setting and circumstance that begins to hint of a possible reconciliation. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen – clearly, Annika’s better being in no relationship, and one might even question her fitness as a mother – but it’s still only the start of coincidences required to tell the story the way they did.
I’ll leave it at that. I was disappointed, especially after the brilliance of LIFETIME. All I can say is Bengtzon’s future looks a bit dim.
ANNIKA BENGTZON, CRIME REPORTER: A PLACE IN THE SUN  is produced by Yellow Bird Films, Degeto Film, TV4 Nordisk Television, Nordisk Film, and Filmpool Nord. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by MHZ Networks. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, here you go: this is a Swedish spoken language release with English subtitles available. (No, there is no English dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications, I’m increasingly impressed with the quality of the sight and sound that goes into BENGTZON; it’s nothing short of incredible, though some of the shooting locations this time around were far from the glamor of past installments. Sadly – as is too often the case when these foreign productions find release on American shores – there are no special features to speak of. (Shame on you, Sweden! For shame!)
MILDLY RECOMMENDED. Excellent production values, some terrific but small acting moments, and some of the most exotic locales used in all of the ANNIKA BENGTZON series isn’t enough to save this installment as the complex web spun throughout about 75 of its 90 minutes utterly falls apart with an entirely implausible ‘development’ in the last 15. The level of coincidences necessary to hold this potboiler together based entirely on whodunit made me wonder if this actually were the shooting script or something a group of half-drunk cast and crewmembers threw together last minute. An immeasurable disappointment to what had thus far shaped up to be a smart program with smart writing.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MHz Networks provided me with a DVD copy of ANNIKA BENGTZON, CRIME REPORTER (EPISODES 4-6) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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