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The nail-biting world of Nordic noir

7 mins read

Who knows how to do winter better than the Scandinavians? With terms like hygge and koselig, the Scandinavians have inspired the rest of the world in their eager anticipation of wintertime, seeing it as a time to spend with family and friends. 

So, it stands to reason that winter is the perfect time to indulge in Scandi crime shows. The stark white, snowy scenes are the ideal backdrop for some absolutely nail-biting plot lines. And thankfully, there are so many great series out there for us to enjoy! 

Wisting – Norwegian

Detective William Wisting is recently widowed, struggling to find the time for his two fully grown children and facing some of the biggest cases of his career. His daughter, Line, is a journalist who will stop at nothing to uncover a story, putting her in peril time and time again. 

Wisting seems to give you two seasons worth in just one- with the FBI getting involved and closed cases being reopened. All throughout the show, we see that everything is connected. You will spend the whole time trying to figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

The Observer even called it the “best Nord noir ever,” so if you are looking to sink your teeth into some gritty and dark drama, Wisting might be a good start!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Available on: BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime

Credit: Banijay

Wallander – Swedish

If you just cannot abide subtitles but want those Scandi vibes, look no further. The BBC has adapted the Swedish classic, Wallander, starring BAFTA winner, Kenneth Branagh; Tom Hiddleston even plays a prominent role in the first two seasons!  

Wallander is less of a slow burner than some of the other shows on this list, in that it focuses on a new crime each episode. Yet, each episode manages to avert audience expectations, with twists that we don’t see coming and exciting plots. 

This role delves into the personal and professional lives of one of the most interesting characters to don our TV screens. And with 12 episodes across 4 seasons, this show is easy to binge.

Plus, if you can’t get enough of the character, Young Wallander is also featured on Netflix!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Available on: Netflix, BBC iPlayer

Credit: BBC

The Valhalla Murders – Icelandic

When a spate of gruesome murders take place, detectives Kata and Arnar must uncover what links them all… besides the gouged-out eyes. Both are struggling with turbulent pasts that they must wrestle with, alongside facing public scrutiny for a case that very quickly faces public scrutiny. 

The cinematography stunningly conveys the ominous tone of the series, through its focus on the bleak greys of an Icelandic winter. And to really add to that spine-tingling sensation, the soundtrack guides us through some rather stomach clenching scenes. 

Perhaps the most troubling thing about this show, is that is based upon a real-life event that took place in the 1940s. Guaranteed you will not regret giving this show a watch! 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Available on: Netflix, BBC iPlayer

Credit: Truenorth/ BBC

DNA – Danish

When working on the case of a missing child, Rolf Larsen discovers a flaw in the system that could solve the disappearance of his own daughter 5 years ago. The stakes are higher than ever with the possibility of being reunited with his daughter, as well as a conspiracy that could hold earth-shattering ramifications for hundreds of families, past and present. 

It’s hard to look away from the gruelling revelations that this show has to offer. The acting is phenomenal, the formidable Charlotte Rampling (Broadchurch, Dexter) constantly scrutinising the actions of Larsen, played by Danish actor, Anders W. Berthelsen, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats or the brink of tears. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Available on: BBC iPlayer

Credit: BBC

Deadwind (Karppi) – Finnish

Deadwind, known as Karppi in Finland, is a show that revolves around single mother and brilliant detective, Sofia Karppi. When the body of a woman is uncovered at a construction site, Finnish police are spoilt for suspects and motives. The show delves into the lives of a multitude of characters, reflecting the messy nature of life. Nothing is simple.

As well as Karppi’s professional life, we get to see how her personal life is faring after the recent loss of her husband. With a young child and a rebellious teenager, she certainly has a lot on her hands at home, as well as in the office.

This show takes excruciating slow burner to the absolute limit, whilst still holding a captive audience. Detective Sofia Karppi is your typical Nordic noir detective, in that she rushes into danger without a second thought. What sets Deadwind aside, is the amount of twists. Just when you think ‘case closed,’ Karppi spots a loose thread and has to keep pulling.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Available on: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Scandinavian dramas succeed in their understated and subtle approach to plots that Hollywood may be tempted to dramatize with explosions- though Wisting does undoubtedly succumb to this fever at points. Instead, they favour a slowly unravelling mystery, that promises to leave the viewer unsettled. 

Truly, Nordic Noir poses itself as a serious contender of being the best of crime shows worldwide. The incredibly stunning winter scenes act as the perfect catalyst for a dark drama to unfold. 

Featured image credit: Banijay

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