First Look: Midnight Sun (Sweden)

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screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-19-05I’m aware this site wouldn’t normally do something like this (extensively preview a show that hasn’t been signed by a UK broadcaster) but Midnight Sun sounds so intriguing and could be the next big Nordic thing. With all that in mind and being a resident in Sweden, I wanted to at least see what it was like and give you an idea of it. Midnight Sun (Midnattssol) started in Sweden at the weekend and it got off to a promising start. I do think this will be picked up by some channel in the UK, so here are my first impressions…

Kiruna is a mining town in the very north of Sweden. The mine itself is huge and imposing – ominous. The town is home to 18,000 people. If you add in the rest of the municipality the total is approximately 23,000. And that’s in an area nearly exactly the size of Wales. Beyond the town, there is a vast wilderness, a landscape that lends itself well to aerial shots and helicopter scenes. Both stunning and eerie.

Kiruna is by no means cut off from the world, but backup isn’t exactly around the corner if anything should happen. So, in that sense there is some feeling of isolation and having to deal with whatever situation occurs with little resources and without waiting for experts. Especially in the wilderness. And, of course, that’s where it all starts. We are pushed in at the deep end with an opening scene not to be missed; it sets the tone immediately and it is grim. It appears we are not dealing with “standard” murders in this series but it remains to be seen whether the underlying plot is strong enough to get away with the spectacular or whether it will feel too extreme and contrived.

Without going into too much detail, a French murder victim is found, which means that there will be a collaboration between Swedish and French authorities. There is a core team of three investigators.

Leading the preliminary inquiry is chief prosecutor Rutger Burlin (Peter Stormare). Though his exterior is somewhat rough and unkempt, this man is clearly experienced and competent as well as respected by the local police officers. He’s in essence happily married but things haven’t been great of late so he and his wife are trying to spice things up a bit.

Burlin is assisted by younger prosecutor Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten) who is divorced but content to focus on his teenage daughter when not at work. Harnesk isn’t exactly pally with the police and old rumours are circulating that hint at something unpleasant in the past. He tries to ignore this but it’s not likely to just go away. Will this be linked to his Sami roots somehow?

Violent crime detective Kahina Zadi (Leïla Bekhti) of North African decent, has little to tie her down and frequently travels for work. Having just been suddenly confronted with a very traumatic part of her past, she agrees to skip her planned two weeks off work to go to Sweden and be part of the investigating team there. Whatever it is she is running from will surely catch up with her at some point along the way. Having ascertained that there is very little information to be found about the victim his Paris apartment, she soon arrives in Kiruna.

Burlin is something of a tower next to Zadi but they seem to find each other on an equal footing. There is no immediate stereotypical culture or personality clash but instead professional respect and understanding. This is both nice and reasonable. They work well together in a crisis, acknowledging the horrible nature of what they have encountered. Later on Zadi is sharing in tentative jokes with Harnesk as they start to get to know each other. The three main characters thus far seem comfortable with each other. Will it last or will cracks appear further down the line? Maybe they just haven’t been tested enough yet? Never mind things are bound to be more and more gruesome as the plot thickens.

In the trailer there was a lot of hinting at a Sami connection to the murders but none of it was present in the first episode. It will be very interesting to see how the Sami culture is dealt with in the series. With respect one hopes, rather than as some curiosity or caricature. There is an unsavoury past in the way Sweden has treated the Sami and there is still some conflict today.

I’m intrigued to see how the plot will unfold and if it will live up to expectations. One thing is clear already: the sun may shine but this is Nordic Noir and there will be plenty of darkness.

Charlotte Carling

For all our news and reviews on Scandinavian crime drama, go here

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