Sunday, July 6, 2014

International Mystery: Johan Falk Series

What makes someone risk his life every day for the sake of others? 

What makes someone risk the torture and death of his loved ones? 

What makes someone risk being ostracized by family, knowing what they think they know is totally wrong? 

What makes someone risk their soul and voluntarily go deeper and deeper into hell?

Those are the questions I've been asking every week when I watch this new season of Johan Falk, now playing on Sundays at 9:00pm on MHz Networks International Mystery series:

I’m obsessed every time I watch an episode not with our lead character, Johan Falk, but with Lisa.

Currently on Sundays MHz Networks is showing "Season 2" of this Swedish police series, Johan Falk. The series so far consists of 15 films released between 1999 and 2013.  From reading about Swedish or Nordic Noir series in general, I know that some episodes are seen on TV, some are released in movie theaters and some are released only as DVD's.  I'm not sure where this current group of films we are viewing fall in the 15 film series.  I tried to figure out when the episodes with Lisa began and ended, if they did, but still not sure.  I see on IMDB that an episode is now filming for airing in Sweden in 2015. Hope we'll see it here in the US. 

Last year I watched the first season of Johan Falk starring Jacob Eklund as the lead character.  In the first season we see Swedish policeman Falk both at work and in his personal life. What started out as what seemed like a local robbery turns into a case of international crime and criminals. The first season took us through a number of cases that Johan solves, despite resistance from his superiors. He attracts the attention of Europol, but refuses the job. At the end he's dissatisfied and leaves his job as a policeman.  It's been a while since I watched the first series, so the facts about the individual cases are a bit fuzzy. 

Jacqueline Ramel 

As for his personal life, when we first meet Johan he's having an affair with his colleague, Anja, played by Jacqueline Ramel.

In one of the crimes he's investigating in Season 1 he meets Helene Andersson.  At first she's a "person of interest", and later a potential victim of the case Johan is investigating. During the course of the episode Helene and Johan fall in love.  It's interesting that Helene is played by Marie Richardson, wife of series star Eklund. Richardson is a familiar face for those that watch Swedish mystery/police series.

Jacob Eklund and Marie Richardson

I liked and recommend the first series of Johan Falk films. It's a good police procedural with international intrigue, good acting, and conflicted characters. But I have to confess it's this second series airing now that has grabbed me by the throat and won't let go.  

The second series opens nine years later. Johan has spent a decade working for Interpol, but is tired of his mostly desk job.  He wants to go out into the field again and be there when the action happens. He accepts a job in a special unit GSI in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Johan and Helene have now been together for ten years and have a young son.  Helene has a career in marketing, if my memory is correct, and like most two-career couples, they must decide what to do.  To join Johan in Gothenburg, she must quit her job and move. Right now she's still at her job in another city, and visits Johan on the weekends.  To add to the complicated personal life, Johan's former girlfriend Anja is now the head of police in the same police station where the GSI special unit operates from.

But let's be frank, the center of attention in the second series is Lisa.   In order to avoid any major spoilers for any that have not seen at least the first episode, read on (click on Read More below) if you want to know more about Lisa and the actors in this series (SPOILERS).

In the second series once again you have Johan and his fellow police officers dealing with individual crime stories, but there's a very powerful story arc that runs through all episodes. This story arc involves an informer, an informer under deep cover, with Johan Falk as his handler.  

I thought of writing this post without revealing more about the informer, Lisa, but I just have to talk about the character and especially the actor.  

Joel Kinnaman as Frank Wagner 

It's wonderful to watch an actor in a scene when the audience knows something about his character that the others in the scene with him do not.  To watch his face and see the barely contained emotions there when he has to be the gangster that he is, and not the undercover informer we know him to be.  We cry with him when he feels the rejection by his family, and yet know he cannot tell the truth. We feel protective of him, and yet sometimes repelled by the things he must do to survive. We also feel him getting deeper and deeper and maybe becoming more and more against his own wishes as the gangsters he's helping investigate. Yet there is a goodness and fairness in the character that makes this portrayal even more engaging. 

I also have to put in a good word for the acting partnership of Jacob Eklund and Joel Kinnaman.  It's a pleasure to see the relationship between the characters grow from mutual suspicion to mutual respect. At the point we are now in the series, it's becoming a tentative friendship.  Like real life, there are even moments of humor between the two men.

Jacob Eklund (Johan Falk) is the son of  two actors and he is married as I mentioned before to a fellow actor, Marie Richardson .

He trained at the Theatre Academy in Stockholm and in addition to his TV and film work has worked on stage with the Royal Dramatic Theatre . Eklund also runs his own film production company LĂ„ngholmen Theatre & Film AB.

Jacob Eklund

Joel Kinnaman who plays Frank Wagner was born in Stockholm, Sweden as Charles Joel Nordström. His mother, a therapist, is Swedish and his father, Steve Kinnaman (originally David Kinnaman), is American. His father left the United States at the time of the Vietnam War.

Kinnaman has dual citizenship, both Swedish and American. His father's family is from the US Midwest, and his mother is Jewish (she is descended from Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to Sweden). He speaks both English and Swedish.  Kinnaman spent a year in Texas as a high school exchange student. 

I see on IMDB that he has a role in RoboCop (2014), but I haven't seen any of those movies. 

Joel Kinnaman

The second Johan Falk season is now airing on MHz Networks at 9:00pm on Sundays (of course, every series I want to watch is on at that time on Sundays!) but you can catch previous episodes online on their website.

(Thanks to IMDB and Wikipedia and


  1. It is very exciting to read that Swedish crime series such as Johan Falk also be seen in the U.S. - in the original and not as a remake. I love the Johan Falk movies and I am always happy when someone else does as well. The third season I found almost even better than the second - but I am quite surprised that they will do another Johan-Falk-Movie after the great showdown of the last part!

    1. Hello Mariewin, thank you so much for your great comments. I'm lucky to live in an area that shows the Swedish/Scandinavian crime series, as well as crime series from other parts of Europe. Sadly it's only available in limited public TV stations around the county. Glad to find a fellow Johan Falk fan. Don't know about that last film, saw it listed as "filming" in Joel Kinnaman's IMDB page. We'll see.

  2. Joel Kinnaman is also one of the protagonists in the US version of the Killing

    1. Hello, thanks for adding that. I started watching The Killing on Netflix after seeing Joel in Johan Falk. I'm just starting Season 4 now, sorry Netflix didn't continue with the show.


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