TV: Deadwind (Season 1)

In these dark times, do we really need more bleak, Nordic noir conspiracy thrillers? I say, sure! There’s pushback against darkness in art these days, and that’s only sensible in light of the pre-apocalyptic state of world affairs; an aversion to grim, depressing entertainment only makes sense. Well, maybe I’m weird, but to me there’s something reassuring about dark art done well. Considering the absurdly chaotic, random evil of modern reality, something like Deadwind —a Finnish police procedural with a conspiracy at its core—conveys the sense that evil can be figured out, made sense of, solved. It acknowledges darkness, but sets people in inspiring opposition to it, turning their struggle into light.

Deadwind’s hero is Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala), a thirtysomething Helsinki police detective who returns to Finland in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death, after living abroad in Germany. Still reeling with grief and trying to raise two children on her own, Sofia throws herself into her first case back on the force: solving the murder of Anna Bergdahl (Pamela Tola). Anna’s body was found buried on the site of an ambitious clean-energy real estate development, and Sofia’s investigation—aided by her peculiar new partner Sakari Nurmi (Lauri Tilkanen)—sends her into a labyrinth of infidelity, greed, and corporate espionage. Sofia pursues the case doggedly and makes steady progress, but her churlish treatment of her new partner and blinkered workaholism thinly mask despair underlying her behavior. But eventually, as the puzzle pieces of the mystery come together, her gradual respect for and trust in Nurmi helps her solve the case, and get through her ordeal.

Deadwind satisfies all the signature requirements of effective Nordic noir: gorgeous Scandinavian scenery, dark snowy landscapes, gritty, stoic heroes, a tangle of shifty suspects, and an involved mystery backdrop. But where this one stood out for me is in its core relationship. Initially, Karppi and Nurmi present like a stock detective partnership, but thanks to unmistakeable chemistry and affecting performances from Viitala and Tilkanen, they develop into a formidable and inspiring team. The tortuous details of the plot—a grab bag of angling suspects, red herrings, and side plots, some predictable, some unlikely, some genuinely surprising— don’t matter nearly as much as subtle, effective dynamic between the heroes. The mystery on its own is pretty decent, but more satisfying is watching these particular people solve it. And while the subject matter may be dark and bleak, its heroes infuse the proceedings with hope. Solid stuff, and I hope to see it continue.

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