Mini-review: Mammon 1×1 (More 4/NRK)

In the UK: Fridays, 9pm, More 4
In Norway: Aired on NRK, Norway in January

Channel 4’s recent French acquisition Les Revenants was a surprising success for the channel, getting 1.5m viewers on a Sunday night when more high-profile US acquisition Hostages was pulling in less then 800k on a Saturday. Clearly flush with excitement for the potential of all things foreign and looking to the equal success for BBC4 of its Scandinavian acquisitions The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen, Channel 4 has now acquired Norwegian drama Mammon for its BBC4 equivalent, More 4.

Mammon follows journalist Peter Verås (Jon Øigarden), who works for Norway’s most respected newspaper, as he uncovers evidence of a financial fraud involving the country’s political and financial elite – evidence that points to his own brother. He makes the fatal decision to pursue the story, which leads to his brother’s suicide. Verås presses on, but the closer he gets to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes for him and his family.

Closer in tone to The Bridge and even Those Who Kill than to The Killing, Mammon is something of a bizarre beast. It doesn’t feel realistic at all, whether it’s in simple mundane details like a newspaper publishing a potentially hugely libellous story on the say-so of a journalist with a single anonymous source or the truly strange events that take place towards the end of the episode (spoiler: the hero being bequeathed diving gear by his brother, five years after his death, and being told to be at a certain place at a certain time, which he duly does, only for a car to plummet off a cliff and into the lake in which he’s swimming). Its set of characters is equally odd, with Verås’s news editor looking like he’ll pass out at any moment from poor lifestyle choices and suspects that he’s pursuing menacing him with a golf club.

But that oddness does make it more interesting than more conventional dramas in the same way as The Bridge’s did. There’s no one as compelling as Saga Noren, of course – indeed, the female characters are particularly non-descript and this is particularly macho and manly as Nordic Noir goes – and the conspiracy angle does worryingly take it into Salamander territory, but there is at least potential in Mammon.