ANNIKA: Light and engaging British TV police procedural

Annika is a modern police procedural, written by Nick Walker in 2021. This lighthearted and funny series is well written and superbly performed in the best tradition of British mystery drama.

DI Annika Strandhed and her Marine Homicide Unit investigate murders along the gorgeous Scottish shoreline. The private lives of Annika and her team are intertwined with their attempts to bring murderers to justice. During each episode, Annika turns to the camera and speaks directly to the audience. Some viewers don’t care for breaking the 4th wall but here it works. We, the audience, are Annika’s confidants. With each murder, Annika relates a classic tale, such as Moby Dick or Agamemnon and ties the tale to the murder and to her private life.

After a disastrous first meeting with her team, Annika walks out and addresses the camera. “I was sent on a leadership course when taking this job…I went on a mini-break to Madrid instead…I regret that now.” Annika is flawed, diffident and very funny. Nicola Walker (no relation to the writer), the very skilled actor playing Annika, is well known in British crime TV. You may have seen her in Unforgotten or in River, costarring with the incomparable Stefan Skarsgård.

Annika’s second in command is DS Michael McAndrew, played by Jamie Sives, an old lover, who wants Annika’s job. When the new team is discussing a victim who has been harpooned through an eye, Michael gives his report, “Cause of death, um, well, a massive harpoon to the head.” Annika says, “Michael is our search diver and, ah, almost immediately spotted that the harpoon might be a factor.” Michael responds, “Call it an instinct.”

Like any police procedural, the detectives must solve a murder a week. Which means that the developing story is the lives of the detectives and their families. Annika’s family is her unhappy teenage daughter, Morgan, played by Sylvie Furneaux. Morgan sulks, ruins the school play, and has vodka in her sippy-cup. Annika fits in well-meaning but haphazard single parenting before dashing off in her boat to attend the next murder.

The murder mystery puzzles are adequately intricate and generate mild suspense. And there are regular threats to the officers, and there are a lot of explosions and boat chases. The stories could do with more tension, but the characters are so likeable, and the dialog so amusing, that we forgive the light touch in the action department.

If you like a cleverly written series with excellent actors and literary references, then catch this charming and beautifully performed series on PBS Masterpiece Theater (channels on Amazon Prime and Vudu on Roku). Annika is 83% on RottenTomatoes. Season 2 is due out soon.

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