TV: Trapped (Season 2)

Early in season two of Trapped, I wondered why I’d been drawn back to it. It’s slow, moody, and outwardly quite conventional, and now has the added drawback of being a police procedural — given the state of things, a problematic look. Eventually, though, season two’s plodding opening stages coalesce into something involved and engaging, painting its isolated northern setting as a tortured, microcosmic reflection of the world’s troubles.

Like many tales of Nordic noir, this one begins with a brutal death: a distraught man with ties to rural white nationalism sets himself on fire in Reykjavik, attempting to take his sister—a politician named Halla (Sólveig Arnarsdóttir)—with him. Enter police detective Andri Ólafsson (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), now working in Reykjavik. Andri returns to his hometown in northern Iceland to investigate the man’s death, where he reconnects with his former colleagues Hinrika (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir) and Asgeir (Ingvar Sigurdsson). Their straightforward investigation is immediately complicated by a second, and quite likely connected, murder. Together, the small team digs into the crimes, which orbit around the controversial expansion of a local power plant that has brought foreign workers to the area. As the local killings trigger the town’s worst impulses, the investigation gradually uncovers the reason for the crime spree, and buried, tragic secrets that have haunted the town for decades.

Season two’s early episodes are sluggish, and too often the plot—while generally sound and impressively intricate—relies on foolish decisions and behavior from its characters. Even so, Trapped is a generally enjoyable dark mystery likely to appeal to fans of Nordic noir. Characterized by earnest performances and gorgeous location cinematography, it stirs together a timely cocktail of contemporary issues—racist xenophobia, toxic masculinity, homophobia, capitalist greed, environmental negligence—which boil down global problems to an intimate local level. In some ways this makes it similar to another Iceland-shot show called Fortitude, a generally superior show with science fiction and horror elements, but otherwise something of a thematic cousin. Trapped is more down to earth and modest, perhaps, but possesses a similar stark appeal. If the show’s title in season one was literal, since the town was cut off from the outside world due to weather, season two leans into the metaphorical angle of being trapped: trapped in a small town, or by a toxic mindset, or by suffered trauma, or by unjust circumstance. I’m not convinced I ‘d classify it as great TV, but it’s pretty good stuff: earnest, nicely produced, and likely to resonate with thoughtful fans of international mystery.

 

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