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Editor’s note: As we gear up for the US premiere of ‘Johan Falk Season 2′, we gave writer Allison Lowe Huff the enviable task of binge watching every Johan Falk movie ever, starting with the original ‘Johan Falk Trilogy’ and moving onto Season 1 below. Viewers familiar with Falk may learn a thing or two from these recaps, and new viewers (you’re in for a treat!) should watch both the trilogy and Season 1 first before digging into Allison’s unique take on this insanely entertaining and supremely suspenseful Swedish series!

Johan Falk Season 1

Five years after his dramatic re-entry into the workforce, Johan Falk is changing jobs, again! His new position takes him back to Gothenburg where he now serves as the Europol/Interpol liaison with the GSI, the special ops unit of the G-burg police. It’s a perfect fit – the years have not dimmed his tendencies to ask forgiveness rather than permission, and the team seems supportive of his regulation-skirting habits. It’s a good thing, because their first few cases together require quite a bit of rule-bending as they face off against local gangsters with a diverse crime portfolio. When his old friend and colleague, Tommy, is lost in a showdown, Falk must take on the job of handler for their guy on the inside, codenamed “Lisa.” Here’s the thing, “Lisa,” is not just some small-time snitch. He’s Frank Wagner, a brave, sensitive guy played with nuanced subtlety by the superb Joel Kinnaman. Frank is one of my favorite characters in any cop show in years and he very nearly steals this one. Johan’s team includes his hardass with a heart of gold boss, Patrik, the unflappable Sophie, and assorted others – Lasse, blue-eyed Dick and Matte – rounding out the team, sometimes providing welcome comic relief, sometimes even knocking Falk down a peg, which he sorely needs.

Frank Wagner (Joel Kinnaman) with the Rydell gang

Third wave, still rolling
The rivers of organized crime activities still flow into Gothenburg from many sides. Often with the help of Frank Wagner, Falk’s crew proceeds to take down major criminals from multiple countries, engaged in a seemingly endless variety of wars against rivals and every branch of the police, who then trip over each other while pursuing leads. (The number of times Falk or a member of his team is nearly arrested by the regular cops… you work in the same building, guys, come on.) Yes, gangsters love to multi-task, and they seem ready to fight over anything, including high-grade weapons, drugs, prostitutes, and… financial control of restaurant coatrooms? That last one seems like a really Europe-specific type of corruption, but it’s as deadly a battle as any other faced by the GSI. The international nature of everything makes each of these stories truly interesting, and, even more, entertaining – did you know, for example, that when a Swede wants to insult someone from Norway he calls him a “fjord boy?” I laughed for a long time. Anyway, what none of these criminals ever expected was the relentless pursuit, to the exclusion of all else (including his family), of Johan Falk! Frank must live on the edge of a knife time and again to help him get his man. Indeed, Falk’s unremitting nature leads to inescapable consequences time and again, like…

Henrik Norlén as Lasse Karlsson and Jakob Eklund as Johan Falk

Family ties
After finally moving past his grief for his lost girlfriend and baby in the Johan Falk Trilogy, Falk makes a home and family with Nina, Helén and their young son, Ola. This stability having been so hard won – I mean, he had to save Helén and Nina’s lives several times — you’d think he’d do whatever it took to keep it together, but… well. Let’s just say that even as the bodies stack up on all sides, my greatest disappointment with Season 1 was Falk’s infidelity. Like, you can face down everyone from Russian mobsters to Estonian drug smugglers, but you can’t wait for your partner’s plane to land before falling into bed with Anja? Family life is also complicated for Frank, as his undercover status requires him to have the public face of a gangster. His own mother dies thinking he’s a criminal, and his wife is beaten into a miscarriage when she wanders into one of his jobs. Falk is sympathetic to these tragedies, and feels similarly bad that, you know, he keeps getting Frank into situations where he is stabbed, shot at and nearly blown up. However, Falk is still so all about results he won’t give any guarantees that Frank will ever be allowed to get off the job. Still, Falk is not completely devoid of tenderness.

Peter Andersson returns as Leo Gaut

Old acquaintances
It’s not just Anja with whom Falk has an ill-fated reunion. Trying to stop the coatroom criminals, he encounters his old nemesis Leo Gaut. Ah, but Gaut is on the up-and-up now, supposedly, just a simple restauranteur trying to make a living. Weirdly enough, this appears to be true, but when his family is threatened by the gang trying to shake him down, Gaut’s old self emerges. This time, however, he and Falk are on the same side. It doesn’t do Gaut much good, though he does achieve a sort of freedom, finally. The same can’t be said for Frank Wagner. Trapped between his public and private jobs, and forced to once again let down the woman he so dearly loves, he’s stuck in a position where he can’t stay and can’t go, while Falk, to escape his guilt, wants to leave Gothenburg for a while and see the world with his family. I can only hope that for Frank, at least, Johan Falk Season 2 sees the scales of justice in better balance.


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About the author:
Allison Lowe Huff is a freelance writer and editor with an overly concentrated interest in mystery stories from anywhere and everywhere. Follow her on Twitter @lowehuff.