A detective whose unit investigates waterborne crimes walks onto a bridge, seems to be into the digicam and says, “Name me Annika.” She then proceeds to speak with the viewers about Ahab and his white whale whereas she watches a homicide sufferer being pulled from the River Clyde.
That was our introduction to the British crime drama “Annika,” and thru two seasons (the second premieres Sunday as a part of PBS’s “Masterpiece”) the heroine has continued to speak to the viewers: agonizing over her difficult relationships, considering by her instances, delivering deadpan ripostes unheard by the opposite characters onscreen. And in every episode she invokes a literary work — “Twelfth Evening,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a Scottish ballad a few kidnapped youngster — that ties into that week’s story in refined or, considerably extra typically, apparent methods.
Which may sound like a double deal-breaker, and I clicked away from “Annika” the primary time I heard the phrases “Moby-Dick.” However I knew I might return to it, as a result of Annika Strandhed, the Norwegian-born, Glasgow-based cop, is performed by Nicola Walker — an actress whose ubiquity on British tv is totally justified by the wry, layered humanity she brings to all her characters. Walker’s capacity to flesh out the feelings lurking beneath self-consciousness and awkwardness makes the first-person conceit of “Annika” not simply tolerable however apt and fascinating.
The prominence of her voice within the collection additionally flows naturally from the present’s supply, “Annika Stranded,” a BBC drama podcast about an Oslo murder detective that was a solo showcase for Walker. (Each reveals had been created by Nick Walker, who is not any relation to Nicola Walker, in the event you can consider it.) The tv present provides Annika, who relocates to Glasgow to steer a fictional outfit referred to as the Marine Murder Unit, with a three-person investigative workforce, a lonely however good-humored teenage daughter and a someday love curiosity, who occurs to be the daughter’s therapist.
That’s a normal complement for a collection of this sort, and other than the protagonist’s fourth-wall-breaking, “Annika” is a typical British cop present, within the classes of regional and serio-comic. It boasts pretty Scottish surroundings, with facet journeys to locations like Edinburgh and the Hebrides, and spends a number of its time on or close to the water. It’s a dead-body-of-the-week present with a humorousness that’s perched comfortably between darkish and twee; it could possibly be a extra literate, extra severe cousin of “Midsomer Murders” or “Monk.”
The murder instances largely have the eccentric origins that this subgenre requires — a tech billionaire drowned in his basement aquarium; a physique pulled out of the North Sea encased in a block of ice — and their options can appear nearly inappropriate, an impression that grows stronger within the new season. The forensics periods and laptop searches and sudden flashes of deduction have a cookie-cutter familiarity; probably the most invigorating facet of the police work is the present’s fetish for slapstick foot chases, which start about twice an episode.
Somewhat perfunctoriness within the mysteries will be excused, although, given the general pleasure available from Walker’s efficiency. Annika tends to her workforce roughly ably, however her work suffers from the pressure she places on herself by making a hash of her private life. She is buoyant and fun-loving beneath a heavy mantle of fierce Nordic repression, and Walker’s mastery of stumbles, stammers and transient, piercing embarrassment retains us on the character’s facet.
Walker has a pure genius for establishing rapport with an viewers, demonstrated in home melodramas like “The Cut up” and “Final Tango in Halifax” and in a succession of crime dramas. The most effective of these was the fantastic cold-case collection “Unforgotten,” which she led for 4 seasons till her character was killed off in an arbitrary and dramatically unsatisfying vogue. “Unforgotten” returned for a fifth season final month (additionally on “Masterpiece”) with a brand new detective performed by Sinead Keenan, and it was nonetheless superb — taken as a complete, it’s superior in writing (by Chris Lang) and course (by Andy Wilson) to “Annika.” However with out Walker, it doesn’t communicate to us in fairly the identical manner.