Everyone is looking over their shoulders in “Snabba Cash.” It’s never for more than a moment or two. But once you start tracking when and how and where the people in this Netflix drama series do it, it’s hard to ignore. “Snabba Cash” is the kind of show that continuously convinces you that doom could be lurking around any corner.
It’s also the kind of show that would be a no-brainer hit with even the slightest push from a streaming service in need of one right now. For a corner of the viewing audience looking for a show to take the TV crime show mantle, “Snabba Cash” has all the tension, patience, and craft that have run through all comparable recent faves. A cross-generational look at big business in Stockholm, drenched in danger and laser-focused on everyone caught in its wake, it’s the kind of show that grabs hold tight and doesn’t let go.
Drawn from the same Jens Lapidus book that spawned a trilogy of films roughly a decade ago, “Snabba Cash” places itself right inside a particular corner of the Swedish crime world. At the outset, the show traces three different central figures. Leya (Evin Ahmad) is an aspiring small-business owner, on the verge of taking her buzzy start-up idea into the financial stratosphere. When he’s not working at his wedding side gig, Salim (Alexander Abdallah) is a hitman/lieutenant for a big player in the local drug trade. After one or two bad decisions, Tim (Ali Alarik) finds himself in debt to some of the same people that call Salim’s shots.
The show’s first season slowly weaves together all their fates until it reaches the inevitable boiling point. Even in Season 2, without some of that same connective tissue, “Snabba Cash” has the steady, continuous build that fuels some of the best buzzy shows. Each 45-minute episode ends with both spent nerves and anticipation. At points, “Snabba Cash” is exhausting by design, feeding on the raw power that so many of its characters are trying to grab for themselves.
Directors Jesper Ganslandt, Måns Månsson, and Lisa Farzaneh, along with series DPs Jonas Alarik and Erik Molberg Hansen, are never all that far away from whoever the show’s attention is fixed on. There’s an immediacy in each situation that never ticks over into the handheld camerawork fetishizing that sometimes plagues shows with a similar tone or goal. When shootouts break out, “Snabba Cash” is often looking at the mayhem from inside the getaway car. When Leya is in an elevator or backstage, preparing for a big speech/presentation, Ahmad is a magician at holding the screen without bringing added attention to how much the camera is well within her personal space. Throughout, there’s an overall visual control here that never lets the viewer slip into chaos, even as some of the show’s characters are.
All of this is helped by “Snabba Cash” having a strong understanding of place. It takes advantage of outdoor meetings and confrontations in settings that stretch out for miles in each direction. Few shows on TV get this much help from feeling dropped into a ready-made environment. (One thing that also helps: an elite title sequence. A parade of “candid” photos that puts living room Polaroids of characters living and dead right along crime scene snapshots? It’s a concise, minute-long summary of everything “Snabba Cash” has to offer.)
That environment in turn plays host to a fragile ecosystem. “Snabba Cash” has a certain level of unpredictability that comes from the power imbalance changing at any moment. Season 2 in particular drops a metaphorical grenade into the hierarchy of illegal activity in Stockholm, whether on street level or in fancy temperature-controlled boardrooms. When so many people involved in their business of choice see success as a matter of life and death, you’re going to end up getting a fair share of that last part.
So “Snabba Cash” doesn’t just stick with the same cast and find increasingly improbable ways for them to wriggle out of trouble. It’s hard to imagine the show ever working without Leya as a case study, but if any show could potentially withstand the departure of its main character, it’s one where the game never really ends. For everyone involved in the different webs with Leya at the center, series head writer Oskar Söderlund wrangles a specific set of firsthand consequences. Some of them are ones that people in the show experience directly. Some are ones that everyone else has to live with the memory of. It’s not a show to take the easy route out of an impossible situation.
In Season 2, those consequences trickle down even more to another generation. Just as a power struggle brings in teenagers as armed combatants, teachers are being told there’s no additional funding for the schools those kids go to during the day. At every level of business, “Snabba Cash” shows a divide between those who have the luxury of being comfortable and those left to fight to keep what they have. That goes for the adults making those life-and-death decisions and those younger than them who learn lessons based on who survives.
Another layer that Söderlund helps unlock in Season 2 is examining how people sit in the aftermath of what’s happened to them. There is bloodshed on this show, but never in a flippant or sociopathic way. Every episode of “Snabba Cash” has its fireworks moment, but there’s some balance in those quieter stretches when everyone has to confront the ripple effects that split-second decisions have on those around them. The past is there to visit those who can’t escape it. For anyone who takes a chance on diving into these interconnected worlds, they’ll also have a hard time pulling themselves away.
“Snabba Cash” Season 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.