Starring: Jon Oigarden, Terje Stromdahl, Lena Kisten Ellingsen
Director: Cecilie Mosli
This offering from Norway (as shown on More 4 and available on DVD as part of Arrow’s Nordic Noir label) is a grandiose conspiracy thriller of a kind that we haven’t seen on these shores since the hallowed days of Edge of Darkness and Between the Lines. Things kick off with Peter (Jon Oigarden), a crusading journalist, investigating financial wrongdoings at a defence firm run by his own brother, who takes the fall and kills himself, but the mystery deepens when it turns out that the dead man was the source of the original tip-off. With the aid of ex-policewoman Vibeke (Lena Kisten Ellingsen), Peter sets out to learn more, and he unearths secrets than take in political corruption, a dodgy business school, the credit crunch and a new wrinkle upon the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac. At the same time, counterbalancing this larger story, is a more intimate family drama as the mounting crisis brings into focus Peter’s own troubled relationship with his father, Tore (Terje Stromdahl).
Mammon does nothing to dispel the notion that Norwegians are a grumpy lot. The performances tend towards the quiet and understated, and of the characters, only Vibeke and Tore really break out of the dour, Scandinavian mould to grab your attention – one being a tightly wound, short-haired computer geek with more than a whiff of the heroine in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the other a wonderfully scary vicar forever fulminating upon Peter’s failings.
But the series makes up for what it lacks in banter and small talk with a remorseless dramatic grip. The plot demonstrates a real sense of scale and flair, invoking weighty themes to do with the responsibility of the press, the stultifying nature of privilege in Norwegian society and the forces of repression and guilt in the home. And with the stakes ramped up episode by episode, the show has a healthy dollop of action too and more than its fair share of tense, creepy and scary situations, including several bloody murders, a nail-biting sequence in a snowbound cabin and a good old-fashioned manhunt, all steeped by director Cecilie Mosli in an appropriately brooding, ominous atmosphere. Just occasionally things teeter into the far-fetched, and you might not warm to many of the cast, but overall Mammon is a peppery, bracingly Nordic pleasure.