The Hero’s Journey in “DNA”

Torleif Hoppe (co-creator of The Killing) was inspired by a real event in Denmark for his latest crime thriller DNA. There had been an error in the National Police’s DNA records central registry. This glitch in the system meant that piles of cases were never recorded, something that seemed unfathomable – and perfect for a crime thriller. It also made Hoppe want to dive deeper into the theme of identification and origins. 

“DNA is something that you pass to your children, but it’s also about your origin, how your social and geographical environment affects who you are. The series is therefore a metaphor about identity. I felt DNA was an interesting starting point to tackle existential and societal themes.”  – Torleif Hoppe

DNA is a crime show, but with a personal story and tragedy at its core. Rolf Larsen (Anders W. Berthelsen) is an investigator at Vestegnens Police Department in Copenhagen. He is married to Maria, who is returning to work as a stewardess, after giving birth to their daughter Andrea. When Maria needs to travel to London for training she reluctantly leaves Andrea in the care of Rolf, who assures her they will be finel; after all, the nanny will be coming to help him.

But just as Rolf is looking forward to a few days alone with his daughter, work calls: An 11-month-old, Minna, has been kidnapped from a kindergarten in Brøndby. Against the wishes of his superiors Rolf decides time is of the essence and releases her photo to the press. The photo makes the news across Europe, and when Rolf receives a hint from Poland, he decides to go and talk to a witness who claims to have seen Minna. But a storm is raging and the new nanny is trapped in Jutland due to the weather, so Rolf decides to take his little daughter with him on the trip to Poland.

DNA season 1

Rolf’s colleague, Jarl Skaubo (Nicolas Bro), offers to join them and they reach the last ferry to cross the Baltic Sea. Rolf struggles with seasickness during the storm. He goes outside for some air and briefly parks the stroller while he runs to the bathroom. When he comes back, his daughter is gone, the stroller is at the bottom of a stairwell, but Rolf knows he strapped her in. He tries to stop the cars leaving the ferry, but it’s too late, Andrea is gone. Did she fall overboard or was she kidnapped like Minna? 

DNA season 1, Olivia Joof Lewerissa, Anders W. Berthelsen

Five years later we meet Rolf, who after the loss of his daughter has been divorced from Maria and now works as a local police officer in Northern Jutland. He is introduced to young police assistant Neel (Olivia Joof Lewerissa) while investigating a stolen car, which turns out to be so much more. Through her investigation Neel uncovers a flaw in the Danish DNA registration system. The error goes back several years and includes hundreds of cases, including the Minna case, which was closed. 

DNA season 1 Charlotte Rampling

When Minna’s DNA matches a recent murder case in France it is reopened, and joined by the experienced French investigator, Claire Bobain (Charlotte Rampling). Embarrassed by the huge errors in the Minna case after Rolf was taken off it and the scandal of the DNA system error, Rolf’s superiors add him and Neel to the case to assist Claire. Rolf and Claire return to Poland to find out what actually happened five years ago. But Rolf has a hidden agenda: the hope of finally finding out what happened to his own daughter.

DNA season 1, Zofia Wichlacz

Parallel to Rolf’s search, the series follows a young Polish girl named Julita (Zofia Wichlacz). At only 19 she discovers she is pregnant. Her boyfriend, Tadek wants her to keep the baby and proposes. But when Tadek is tragically killed in a traffic accident, Julita is left alone with her pregnancy and ends up seeking help from the nuns at Mandorla Monastery. But strange things happen at Mandorla, and when the nurses tell Julita that her daughter is stillborn, Julita is convinced that the nuns have stolen her.

Julita, who begins a desperate search for her daughter, lives in Stalowa Wola, the same town Rolf is led to through his investigation. From here, Rolf’s and Julita’s tracks begin to cross, but how are these crimes across Denmark, France and Poland all linked together? 

DNA is quintessential and addictive Nordic noir. Be prepared because it’s hard to watch just one episode at a time.