The Legacy II Recap: Episode 3

An episode like this can only be done once per tv-show. If what happened in this episode doesn’t fundamentally change who the characters are, and if the rest of the show continues on in this sensationalistic way, then this would be the episode where we would say that the show ‘jumped the shark’. But. If the show manages to handle what happened in this episode in a reasonable manner – and I’ve seen the rest of the season – but this isn’t a question that can be answered by just four more episodes – then this episode will be seen as a high- and turning-point, where the show removed a couple of shades, and threw a couple of the person so hard to the ground, that it’ll take a lot to bring them back. And while I don’t want to argue whether or not what happened this episode was ‘good’ per se, I have to say, that for 55 minutes I was extremely impressed with acting, script and directing. They really threw themselves into it.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 3.15.01 pm

Frederik choked Gro. One of the main characters in the show choked his own sister. He got her resuscitated, yeah, but it could have gone both ways. How are we to accept him as a character after this? That’s a question that each individual viewer must answer, but it can’t be said that this attack came out of nothing. Frederik attacked Gro in season one, but got a bloody nose out of it. And he tried to rape Solveig towards the end of last season. Frederik is violent towards women, and has been so for some time. And specifically women, the episode won’t let us forget that. As they fight on the couch, Gro’s naked thighs keep moving in front of the camera. And after Gro sits back up, and runs her head with her hand, the camera circles back to her thighs, thereby focusing on her femininity and vulnerability.

‘You and your hatred, right? First mom, then Emil.’

Frederik thought his mom threw his father out of the house, after which the father killed himself. Frederik wants to be different, to be strong, the breadwinner, the problemsolver, the controller. He wants to control Solveig, Emil, Hanna and Villads. He is a horrible person, but the moment I can’t forget, the moment that keeps him slightly sympathetic, still, in my eyes, is when he told Solveig that he had gone into therapy, and we could see the disappointment and disapproval wash over her face. He is trapped. He is afraid. He is an asshole. He is weak. If this was an American show, Carsten Bjørnlund would win an Emmy for this episode, especially for that moment after the assault, where he stares at Gro with horror in his eyes. And as she runs a comforting hand down his cheek, he recoils, as if something has just broken inside of him. But his response is crushing as well in the short scene later where Gro says:

‘You should take a look at yourself, Frederik.’

Such a sad expression on his face. And by the way, Trine Dyrholm was marvelous as well, to say the least. If those two hadn’t been able to sell what happened, then the whole show would have fallen apart. And the conclusion was strong as well. Only by humiliating himself, by being brave enough to show him self as completely weak and pathetic, was Frederik able to compel the governor to take care of the case. But precisely because he handled it, he once again seemed strong, the role he should never ever occupy again, the role he had just shown that he’s unable to handle.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 3.16.20 pm

It’s obvious that The Legacy is a female-dominated show, both with the characters and creatively. Creator and head writer is Maya Ilsøe, conceptualizing director was Pernilla August, and there’s been a bunch of other women writing and directing for the show. There’s a danger in saying something too categorical, but I don’t think this episode could have been made by men. Not in the same way. Not because it’s rare to have a tv-show which depicts violence against women, that is pretty common – heck, it seems to be all Game of Thrones wants to do these days. But the violence rarely comes from characters, who, apart from being violent against women, are seen as sympathetic. Take a show like Sopranos: In one of the most famous scenes from the show, a minor character kills a prostitute with his bare hands. But he’s already the most despicable of the gangsters, his murder of a woman just makes us more aware of how despicable he is. Frederik is a nice man, a strong man, a smart man, who just has the minor problem, that he again and again is violent towards women. Hereby, the show shows violence against women not as something transgressive and horrific. But as something way too normal. Which only makes it that much more horrific.

Another masterstroke is the way the episode crosscut between the different stories. It’s kinda nonsensical (as the episode was shown in Denmark, it was pointed out on Twitter how there seemed to be no timezone difference between Thailand and Denmark). But it worked thematically. We’re presented with two looming catastrophes: 1) Signe has invited people to examine Gro’s fake artwork, and even Gro’s nemesis Kim has showed up. 2) Frederik has planned to ruin Emil’s chances of getting out of jail. Then we get first the scene with the examination, but there is no catastrophe, it goes perfectly. Kim even cries. Then, in Thailand, not only does Frederik damn Emil to jail, but Frederik and Gro then show the family from a horrific side we didn’t imagine existed. Then cut back to Grønnegård, where we suddenly realize an even bigger catastrophe is about to happen: Signe will use the examination of the fake artwork to finally choose the side of her family at Grønnegården, instead of her family at the handball-hall, by canceling her contract with the renters of the field, and even change lawyers from Ole to Kirsten. At exactly the moment where we want her to run away screaming, she does the exact opposite. That’s great drama.

And then, at the moment when the family was at it’s most dysfunctional, Henrik and Isa arrived to take away Melody. ‘Do you think there is the security here, and the parental figures, that a baby needs? Are they available here?’ Stupid, bourgeois Henrik asked those questions, at the exact moment it was hardest to deny he was right. Melody was taken, and crying Thomas showed that he is the most sympathetic part of the family.

So much happened in this episode, before we finally arrived at Emil sitting alone on a stool, in a bathing robe, after learning that Frederik has harmed Gro. He sighs and looks at the roof. Then look on Frederik’s nice suit, that he’s forced to wear. Curtains. A perfect end to an episode, which had a high bar to pass, that everyone involved passed with flying colours.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 3.18.03 pm

Et Cetera:

  • The episode was once again written by Maja Jul Larsen, and as with the earlier episodes of the season directed by Jesper Christensen. I’m beginning to suspect that he could make a really good film with the right script.
  • Four fantastic shots: 1) The last one with Emil on stool, framed by door. 2) Rene speaking on the phone with Gro, in the shadow in the shed, with sun and green trees behind her. 3) Signe filmed in the woods, on her way to her field, filmed from behind like in a film by the Dardennes. 4) The best shot of the episode, and perhaps the show: Gro and Emil outside of the prison, filmed from afar, two small humans outside of the big wall and the enormous tower. The meeting filmed in a single shot, and suddenly a dog runs through the frame! That detail was so far from typical Danish drama as anything I’ve ever seen.
  • I still don’t like the subplot about Signe and Martin, but it fit in with the episode, that Signe spent some time with a man whom her father despises. Plus it was a fine detail that they drank ‘sponsor champaign.’ While working at the handball hall, Martin is as different from that milieu as can be.
Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.