When we meet Dicte (short for Benedicte) she is 16 years old and in the throes of giving birth to a child which turns out to be a baby boy. Within two hours, the baby is taken from her.
Flash forward 24 years. Dicte is now a divorced Mom of a 17-year-old daughter. She has returned to her hometown of Aarhus, Denmark, and is working as a crime reporter for Dag Bladet which happens to be Norway’s 2nd largest tabloid newspaper, and there is a Swedish daily newspaper of the same name. Since we are set up in Aarhus in Denmark – it really doesn’t much matter as the office is quite small and could easily be a bureau office for either paper’s Danish edition.
Any way, we come to learn that Dicte Svendsen has returned to her hometown and is working as a reporter. Long ago, within hours of the birth, her baby was given up for adoption, she was disowned by her parents, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses for bearing an out-of-wedlock child, fathered by a man who was not a Jehovah’s Witness.
She’s very good at her job, and she has a nice house out-of-town, where she and her daughter live. Dicte has two girlfriends – Anne Skov Larsen who works as a midwife at a large Aarhus hospital, and Ida-Marie Svensson, who is married and struggling to become pregnant.
There’s a photographer at the newspaper who will play a major role in this series, as will Dicte’s daughter Rose, and a pair of police detectives – a man named Wagner, and a lady detective called Bendtsen. Season One consists of 10 Episodes that each run about 45 minutes. And these are 5 stories of two episodes each.
The crimes are drug smuggling, black market body organs, surrogate mothers who are prostitutes, crimes of passion, a kidnapping, and revenge etc.
In a single sentence Dicte can be described as a woman who tries to cope with being a full-time reporter, a part-time sleuth – all while trying to restart her life.
The stories are adaptions of the mystery thrillers written by Elsbeth Egholm, who is a very successful Danish author. Right now Dicte Season One is available on Netflix, and Season Two, which has just concluded its broadcast run in Europe on November 26th is scheduled to become available via Netflix in 2015.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Scandinavian television and movie industries have become a major factor. Such American TV shows like The Bridge on FX, and The Killing on AMC were both remakes of series from Denmark and Sweden. Wallender and Annika Bengtzon have also done well here and in Great Britain. If you liked The Millenium Trilogy – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and two other titles, then you should be intrigued by Dicte.
Dicte is portrayed by actress Iben Hjejla who bears a resemblance to Jamie Lee Curtis. Detective Wagner is played by Lars Brygmann who also appeared in the hit Danish TV series Borgen. (My review of that is here). (<—-click)
Okay, you are probably wondering why you should watch this. Parenting, single motherhood, and divorce are universal stories. Crimes of passion and murder are also topics that we all watch and appreciate. The thing of this series is that Dicte has some spectacular luck. She’s always either a step ahead of the police in discovering a body, or she goes to interview some one who turns up dead; so she’s often at crossed purposes with the detectives. On the other hand, she has terrific instincts, and while Dicte isn’t always right, she quite often offers the police some promising leads.
Beyond that, she faces issues that are also universal – like loneliness, concerns about her maturing daughter, dealing with a problematic ex-husband, as well as becoming involved with a co-worker. Her friends also have issues like a philandering husband on one hand, and the other comes to feel ill-situated as she has not had children, and cannot bear children.
I stress that while this show is about crimes, reporting, and is also a procedural from the police perspective, it is also about problems relating to families. Mind you, this is not to say that there’s no action, no gun play, no horrific crimes, and no chases – we get all of those. But we also have the softer issues.
Now I think that this shows offers a fine blend of being a crime thriller, as well as a human drama. Aarhus is Denmark’s second biggest city after Copenhagen, and the stories are shot in locations throughout this port city as well as the surrounding countryside and suburbs.
Hjejla seems perfectly cast as the 40 something who has to deal with a lot. Don’t be surprised if she is sometimes moody and/or does something wrong or illogical. She’s not mistake proof, nor is she Ms. Prim and Proper. Her girl friends also make their share of mistakes as do the police. Sometimes you feel that Detective Wagner orders his female partner Bendtsen around too easily, and that he doesn’t offer her enough respect.
But Bendtsen (played by Ditte Ylva Olsen) is a brilliant detective. She handles most of the technical details of the investigations while Wagner does the more physical stuff as well as handling the interrogations of suspects. They make a good pair.
Other characters to watch for are the editor at Dag Bladet, the staff photographer at the newspaper, and Dicte’s daughter Rose and her boyfriend.
Just so you know, this is in Danish with excellent English subtitles, and the series has top flight production values. The city of Aarhus is an old city with new projects going on all around town. The look of the city is a mix of Old World charm, as well as a sophisticated and modern appearance of the people and their attitudes.
I’m recommending this as a series, and stating with assurance that it is both entertaining and satisfying TV. So if you have a Netflix streaming account. you should take in this series. Below is the trailer which unfortunately does NOT have English subtitles, but it will offer you a good look at the series as well as the cast and the production values. The full series, as shown on Netflix has superb English subtitles.
I’ve done a review of Dicte’s second season —–> click here