'Van der Valk' Episode 2: Did the series use LGBTQ+ portrayal alongside erotica-loving nuns as bait for clout?
Spoilers for 'Van der Valk' Episode 2 'Only in Amsterdam'
The second episode of the PBS crime-thriller tugged at many loose strings to bring a vividly lacking "oomph" one would need to become a series that was mildly interesting. Productions under the crime genre, whether a movie or a series, usually needs a solid script to stand on - the plot behind the procedural is what makes the episode interesting. It seems as though 'Van der Valk' decided that the script based on themes that are popular on the small screen such as erotica and religion would be their leg to stand on - it was not. If you watched the first episode, 'Love In Amsterdam', you would vaguely remember how social issues such as politics of the left and right and art became the background noise. In 'Only In Amsterdam,' themes such as global mysticism, controversial drug facilities and murder that involved blood sucking and asphyxiation is the mess we're in.
Shows like 'Dexter' and 'Criminal Minds' are known for their psychological play - that's their trope, and it seems as though while 'Van der Valk' was trying to do the same, they failed. The fact that each episode of the three-episode series is 90 minutes, we would hope that it would reek of character development and excellence script transitions. Instead, it seemed as though a child's imagination was written by a team of adults desperately trying to pose crazy tropes as bait for the series to stay afloat. Don't get us wrong, there was a lot of potential for this remake of the 1972 series that starred Barry Foster - they just tried too hard.
This episode saw the odd death of a Muslim worker at an addiction clinic leading the team to a library where the victim had researched "religious erotica". In this mess, they also introduced a lesbian Catholic nun who was also interested in the genre of erotica that the victim did. On a more personal note for the team, the numb yet alert Lucienne Hassell (Maimie McCoy) is going through a breakup with Piet van der Valk (Marc Warren) helping her through it. While this may sound simply like a fiction novel, it's delivery felt like a comedy - it was too much at once. Let's not forget the cringy lines like "That’s a nun picking penises off a tree" and “I like erotica. Do you have a problem with that? Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.”
The desperate need to build in controversial themes as the team solves the murder was a sad attempt to bring a decent allure to the series. It's almost laughable if you don't lose interest in the first 30 minutes. Van der Valk's cynical approach is almost too cliche to be taken seriously, but his inability to properly fit the role of the character that had debuted with excellence by Foster clearly shows in every scene he's in. There is one more episode left of the series, and we're hoping the shocking need to lure interest with popular tropes takes a back seat - although that's too much to ask at this point. We're hoping that the least it would get people to do is watch shows like 'Criminal Minds' to get what the actual delivery of a crime thriller feels like.
Episode 3 airs on Sunday, September 27, 2020, at 9 pm EST and is titled 'Death in Amsterdam'. The synopsis reads: "An eco-fashion vlogger turns up dead during his video feed. Cloovers takes special interest in the case, which uncovers a bitter rivalry between two firms dedicated to ultra-green clothing. Piet and Dahlman confront the vengeful son of a corrupt cop that they previously put away."