DEPARTMENT Q – THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES. Denmark, 2013, as Kvinden i buret. Nickolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fare, Per Sheel Krüger, Sonja Richter Teleplay Nicolaj Arcel, Jussi Adler-Olsen (his novel). Directed by Mikkel Nørgard. [The first film in the “Department Q” series, followed by The Absent One (2014), and A Conspiracy of Faith (2016).]

   Another fine example of Scandinavian Noir, based on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novels of Department Q, the closed case section of the Copenhagen police headed by damaged and difficult Chief detective Carl Mørck (Nicolaj Lie Kaas), an arrogant and sullen cop whose last two partners were killed and crippled in a case that left Mørck wounded and unable to work Homicide, the first of a series of made for television movies that are dark, violent, complex, and intelligent.

   In The Keeper of Lost Causes Mørck returns to work to find himself assigned to Department Q, in the basement, to work cold cases, basically spend two days on them and close them. His assistant is Detective Assad (Fares Fare), a Muslim, who like Carl has nowhere to go in the department.

   Carl hasn’t much hope for the new job until he discovers one of cases involves the disappearance of Merette Lyndgard (Sonja Richter) five years earlier. Merette, a government official, went aboard the ferry with her mentally disabled brother and at some point apparently committed suicide by jumping overboard.

   Carl wanted the case five years earlier when it was assigned to Bak, a detective he considers a moron. It never made sense to Carl that Merette would take her mentally unstable brother on the ferry with her if she planned to commit suicide.

   The bulk of the drama involves Carl and Assad probing deeper into the case bungled by their predecessor, their battles with superiors who don’t really want cold cases solved, just stored away, and flashbacks to what actually happened to Merette, all while Carl and Assad gradually become a trusting partnership. All while building an impressive line of suspense more reminiscent of a movie than something made for television.

   When Assad is able to get close to Merette’s mentally closed off brother Uffe, the two discover Merette’s suicide may have been something else entirely, and begin to put together a case that leads to a second murder in Sweden and a motive for incredible revenge that dates back to Merette’s childhood and the tragic accident that left her brother mentally crippled.

   If you hate subtitles, you may not care for these, but all three are dark and well written, pitting Carl and Assad (well played by Kaas and Fares) against dangerous killers who prey on the weak and the innocent. Each one is deeper, trickier, and more powerful than the last, without ever being exploitative or routine. Victims, police, and even the killers are wounded humans struggling to survive, twisted by and saved by their mere humanity.

   I will grant you that you would think Carl would learn to wait for backup, but it is established at the beginning of The Keeper of Lost Causes that isn’t his strong point, and satisfying as it is, they probably need to end one film without Assad beating the crap out of the bad guy after rescuing Carl, but this isn’t weekly television, and normally you probably would not watch them as close together as I did (and in all honesty Assad beating the crap out of these bad guys is a needed cathartic release by the time you get to the down to the wire endings).

   All in all this is superior police drama with a touch of the great detective in its lead, and plots you won’t lightly shrug off and that have a touch of Ross Macdonald to them in their portraits of wounded people doomed by sins of the past, with just a hint of Hannibal Lector in their truly frightening killers.

Note: The films are available currently on Hulu with English subtitles.