Beyond the Bay: Transnational Seascapes in The Investigation

Curator's Note

Episode two of the 2020 Danish true crime series The Investigation (Efterforskningen), a dramatic account of the investigation of the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, critically expands the series’ transnational constellation of seascapes. In this scene, head homicide investigator for the Danish police Jens Møller (Søren Malling) has secured permission from Wall’s parents to search her laptop for possible clues about her disappearance. The decision to release Wall’s laptop to the authorities is not taken lightly, as Wall’s father Joachim (Rolf Lassgård) warns the detectives “Our daughter is a journalist and many people trust her.” Indeed, Wall’s socially committed journalism is presented as a foil to the nonstop tabloid reporting on her disappearance, whose audience's seemingly insatiable appetites do not appear so far removed from “the current near-bottomless demand for Danish drama” by major streaming platforms.

Maibritt (Laura Christensen), a Danish detective who becomes a daughter figure to Jens as he struggles to salvage his relationship with his biological daughter, initiates the laptop search. Immediately Maibritt uncovers photos related to Wall’s award-winning reporting on the ongoing devastation caused by US nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands. As Maibritt navigates through the photos of the Marshallese, Joachim gravely notes that the failure of the US to contain the nuclear waste has made the islands a “ticking time bomb.” This reference to Wall’s investigative reporting is strikingly juxtaposed with the Danish police’s framing of the criminal case as its own “ticking time bomb.” The series emphasizes this temporal frame by featuring intertitles marking the number of days the investigation has spanned, with much attention given to the Royal Danish Navy’s search of Køge Bay for key evidence that viewers learn is at risk of being buried in the seabed or corroded by salt water.

The technological and engineering feats performed by the navy in the course of recovering Wall’s body dominate the series’ portrayal of the sea. The lengths taken to search Køge Bay are largely motivated by the paternalistic drive for justice embodied by Jens and Joachim. Yet episode two’s interest in Wall’s journalistic archive gestures to a broader imagining of seascapes, one that resists true crime’s conservative tendency to focus on individual perpetrators and saviors instead of critiquing entrenched power structures. The references to the ongoing ramifications of militarism in the South Pacific seen in episode two resonate with the news reporting on Wall’s disappearance featured in the series pilot, which includes a segment on the influx of refugees crossing into Greece from the Mediterranean Sea. The seascapes portrayed in the series thus are figured as transnational zones that have the potential to make state violence legible beyond the frameworks of individual trauma and victimization.

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