REVIEW: The Flatey Enigma (S1 E2/4)

For confirmed Icelandophiles like myself, episode one of The Flatey Enigma was pure nectar: an engaging mystery, a likable, interesting central character, 1970s period detail, Icelandic Sagas lore, and stunning, windswept coastal scenery. These elements make for an engaging

It reminded me of a prototypical Sunday night drama you’d find here in the UK, but because it’s Icelandic there’s something a little bit extra to it.

We left our heroine, Jóhanna, in a bit of bind. Her abusive ex, Brynjar – a policeman from the capital – was now on the island investigating the murder of Danish professor Gaton Lund was now on the island.

This episode was all about Brynjar and Jóhanna leading a not-so-merry dance together. He couldn’t believe she was on the island, she was terrified at his arrival. In fact, more terrified because he didn’t know he was the father of her child. Remember, the last time she saw him she had snuck out in the dead of night – pregnant – to escape his clutches and leave the country.

As Brynjar investigated the murder, it was only a matter of time until the two ran into each other. This provided tension galore.

When they did finally meet, she was cagey and would not be interviewed alone. She only revealed some of the information about what happened on Kentilsey island a few days’ earlier. Brynjar, for his part, was suspicious and obviously jealous of Kjartan. So much so he planted some evidence at the crime scene.

Brynjar’s an interesting one – a brooding Heathcliffe-type of character, it’s hard to believe that Jóhanna ever fell for this brute in the first place. He’s repressed and violent, she’s a free spirit and interested in the world. Dressed in black leather, he’s an archetypal villain, a different type of policeman to what we’re used to seeing.

We’re used to coppers being tortured and wracked by trauma, yes. But angry, violent and an abuser, no.

At the moment, Brynjar looks like a nasty piece of work.

One thing that Brynjar did do was to enforce a lockdown on the island, so now The Flatey Enigma really is a single-location mystery.

As the episode drew to a close, Brynjar found out about Snorri – his son – and it all kicked off.

A theme throughout the episode was the gossipy nature of a small community, and soon they sold Jóhanna out: she drank too much, they said; being a single mother brought shame on the family, they said; and she wasn’t at home the night before Lund’s murder.

Brynjar got a Telex (yes, a Telex) from Reykjavik, saying that Kjartan – the loner – had a violent past.

But not as violent as Brynjar.

Paul Hirons


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Elaine S. says:

    Very much an engaging mystery and what a landscape too. This really held my attention, from being set in somewhat challenging earlier times through to the claustrophobic feel of the island with its assortment of characters. Looking forward to more.


  2. heyteach99 says:

    Any thoughts I had of Brynjar’s character being misunderstood were quickly put to rest after the violent bathroom scene between him and Johanna. He is a thorough thug and and corrupt, right down to planting evidence. Johanna’s friend’s husband parallels Brynjar : the controlling partner with an implied undercurrent of violence. I wonder if she will play a part in helping Johanna eventually free herself from Brynjar and maybe liberate herself as well? This island is due for a clean sweep. Great series so far.


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