There’s nothing original about its central idea, but don’t let that stop you from watching Below The Surface, a nail-biter of a TV series from Denmark now streaming on Hulu. A group of average citizens held hostage by masked gunman is a story we’ve all seen, but Below The Surface delivers nonstop tension with crisp pacing and multiple connected stories.
In the first few minutes of Below The Surface, gunmen escort passengers from a stopped subway car into the tunnels of the Copenhagen metro system. The hostage-takers have an area prepared in a not-yet-opened section of the network. Though hard to escape from, it’s also easy to defend. The captives stay locked in a large cage under constant supervision.
Johannes Lassen plays Philip Nørgaard, head of a special task force assigned to deal with the hostage situation. He’s surrounded by a supportive, capable unit, particularly Louisa (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, right), his sort-of girlfriend, who is particularly skilled at interviews and negotiating. Philip frequently flashes back to a time when he was held hostage. He thinks the same person may be behind this incident, but questions whether that’s reality or illusion.
Negotiations open almost immediately, with parallel planning to attempt a rescue. Unfortunately, Philip and crew have little intel on the hostages themselves, the captors, or the layout of the below ground chamber. Negotiation may be the best course, but not all agree. The captors make contact with a popular television anchor, Naja Toft (Paprika Steen, below right), as a way to keep the cops off balance.
Predictable events occur as the crisis continues. Not all goes well, of course. Casualties occur. One of the captors is a loose cannon when angered, so the tightly controlled conditions begin to unravel. Pressure from higher-ups descends on the task force and increases as the crisis remains unresolved. The media and police have somewhat different interests, making the cops’ job that much more difficult – for the most part.
One exception relates to ransom. With Denmark having a strict policy against paying ransom, one option for ending the situation is a public fund raising campaign to pay for the hostages’ release. Naja signs on to lead the effort.
Beyond being just a tense crime thriller, this is one of the central questions in Below the Surface. When, if ever, is it appropriate to bend to the captors demands in order to save the lives of hostages? In later episodes, more of a backstory emerges, making this question even more relevant. And, what’s happening below the surface with Philip?
The Below the Surface TV series was created by Kasper Barfoed for SAM Productions. It first aired on Kanal 5/Discovery Networks in Denmark and ZDFneo in Germany. All eight episodes, 45 minutes each, are found on Hulu in the US.