The Hero’s Journey in “Below the Surface

A group of lethally efficient and heavily-armed terrorists have seized an underground train in the tunnels under Copenhagen, and have incarcerated their 15 hostages in a home-made prison inside a new and not yet functional station beneath the imposing Marble Church. The Counter-Terrorism Task Force has been activated to deal with the threat.

The intelligence agencies inevitably suspect the terrorists might belong to ISIS or Al Qaeda, but they’ve declared no political allegiance. Their leader, who calls himself Alpha – his masked comrades go by Bravo and Charlie – has announced that he wants “a partnership” with the authorities. However, he seems to have learned his diplomatic skills at the same school as M. Barnier and the charmless Mr Tusk, since his offer is “give us €4m or we kill all the hostages”.

Heading the state’s response is Philip Norgaard (Johannes Lassen), a Special Forces professional from a military background (his dad used to be the Defence Chief), but, even though he’s the man in charge, a scintilla of doubt hangs over Norgaard’s psychological fitness for the task. Episode one opened with unpleasant scenes of our hero, bearded, dishevelled and tied to a chair, being savagely beaten by a smirking man with an unidentifiable but ostentatiously villainous foreign accent. Though the amount of punishment he was suffering would have killed any normal person several times over, Norgaard somehow survived and got away. Not only this, but his photogenic cheekbones and boyish good looks remained miraculously unblemished. However, he still suffers vivid flashbacks of the experience, and keeps being woken up (in his artfully-styled minimalist apartment with its panoramic views over beautiful downtown Copenhagen) by nightmares. This has irked his girlfriend Louise (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, pictured above), who thinks he’s not being entirely honest about his condition.

Louise is going to have plenty of opportunities to study Phil’s emotional state, because as fate would have it she’s a member of his hostage negotiating team. So far they’re not having much luck with their efforts to find a chink in the terrorists’ armour – an attempt to sneak a spy camera into the terrorist bunker was quickly spotted, while the brainwave of sending a walkie-talkie down in the lift was peremptorily dismissed by Mr Alpha. Even more exasperatingly for the counter-terror bods, the only person the terrorists will talk to is the matronly TV news anchor Naja Toft (Paprika Steen), a kind of Scandi Fern Britton who’s apparently the top-rating matriarch of Danish TV.

Though promptly sacked from her network for her unauthorised Skype interview with hostage Marie, Naja was soon at it again, hosting a chat on her personal blog with captive karate instructor Adel (Dar Salim, pictured above, from Borgen and Dicte). You’d have thought the security people would have put a stop to such grandstanding self-publicity, but no. In fact Naja is even fronting a nationwide campaign to raise the ransom money to free the hostages, though it’s already too late for poor Adel, who tactlessly rubbed up his captors the wrong way. Thing is though, Philip Norgaard is pretty sure he knows who Alpha is, even though he’s supposedly a dead man. There are personal scores that must be settled.