Category Archives: Icelandic Crime Drama

NORDIC NOIR Alibi announces acquisition of Black Sands from Iceland

UKTV channel, Alibi, has announced its first ever Nordic Noir acquisition.

From Iceland, Black Sands (Svörtu sandar) is an eight-episode series starring Aldís Amah Hamilton.

Anita, a DI in her thirties, is forced to return to the hometown she fled 14 years ago. A reckoning with her mother is inescapable, but when the body of a young woman is found, everything is upended. Anita is dragged down into the dark abyss of her past, looking for a possible serial killer and the reckoning turns into a nightmare.

The channel says the series will air in November, with the transmission date to be confirmed.

More news as we get it.

First full trailer for Trapped series three unveiled

Only this week we brought you news of teasers for series three of Icelandic series Trapped, or Entrapped as it’ll be known on Netflix.

Now Icelandic state broadcaster has released the first full-length trailer.

Police duo Andri and Hinrika, get drawn into a war in the remote highlands, where two rival groups fight over specific pieces of land, but for very different reasons.

The neopagan and peaceful sect, The Extended Family, led by its founder and spiritual leader Oddur (Egill Ólafsson) has raised camp on the land, see the land as sacred and want to be close to their heathen Gods. A group of Icelandic bikers, led by an angry young man, Gunnar (Haraldur Stefánsson), also claim the ‘sacred site’. In order to take ownership of the land, he calls for backup and soon a group of Danish bikers arrive by ferry, led by the Danish leader, Hopper (Bo Larsen). The clash of the two groups leads to the death of a young man, Ivar (Auðunn Lúthersson). It turns out that Ivar was not unknown to Andri, so he feels obliged to join Hinrika in the North to investigate the murder case.

It starts in Iceland on RÚV on Sunday 17th October, and will then come on to Netflix… soon.


NORDIC NOIR Trapped series three gets Icelandic transmission date

The highly-anticipated third and perhaps final series of Trapped has been confirmed to broadcast in its native Iceland on Sunday 17th October.

In addition, the show’s home channel, RÚV, showed two teaser trailers during the recent election coverage (grabbed for us by an eagle-eyed viewer and reader of the site).

The beloved Icelandic crime series will pick up two years after the ending of the second season. Police duo Andri and Hinrika, get drawn into a war in the remote highlands, where two rival groups fight over specific pieces of land, but for very different reasons.

The neopagan and peaceful sect, The Extended Family, led by its founder and spiritual leader Oddur (Egill Ólafsson) has raised camp on the land, see the land as sacred and want to be close to their heathen Gods. A group of Icelandic bikers, led by an angry young man, Gunnar (Haraldur Stefánsson), also claim the ‘sacred site’. In order to take ownership of the land, he calls for backup and soon a group of Danish bikers arrive by ferry, led by the Danish leader, Hopper (Bo Larsen). The clash of the two groups leads to the death of a young man, Ivar (Auðunn Lúthersson). It turns out that Ivar was not unknown to Andri, so he feels obliged to join Hinrika in the North to investigate the murder case.

As we now know, this series will not air on BBC Four like previous series. Instead it will appear on Netflix outside of Iceland and will be known as Entrapped.

However, the UK transmission date is still unknown and could be in 2022.


NORDIC NOIR First trailer released for Icelandic crime series Sisterhood

One of the series we’re looking forward to in the medium future is Icelandic series Sisterhood (Systrabönd).

Starring Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir, it tells the story of three grown-up friends who have to face ghosts from the past after the skeleton of a teenage girl is found in Snæfellsnes is connected to the disappearance of a fifteen-year-old girl in 1995.

The series is written by Björg Magnúsdóttir, Jóhann Ævar Grímsson and Jóhanna Friðrika Sæmundsdóttir,  while Jóhanna Friðrika Sæmundsdóttir, Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir and Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir star alongside Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir.

To watch the Icelandic-language trailer, go to this site.

The series will premiere on Síminn at Easter.

Entrapped (Trapped) finishes filming, airs in Iceland in the autumn

Trapped (Ófærð) creator Baltasar Kormákur says that Entrapped – the new Netflix version of Trapped, or series three of the icelandic crime show – has finished filming and will premiere in Iceland in the autumn.

It’s hoped that it will follow on to Netflix worldwide soon after.

The show’s home channel, RÚV, said in a statement: “The TV series Ófærð has enjoyed great popularity. No Icelandic drama series has received more views in this country. 

“The popularity of the shows has also spread beyond the [country]. The first two series were shown on Netflix and Amazon, among others. Filming for the third series has been going on recently, and it ended recently.”

Kormákur himself said: “It’s been a complicated year, but it has gone very well and we have got through it. And towards the end, of course, COVID was starting to lighten up a bit. There were some delays, some actors being quarantined, that delayed us. But this has still been a great year in many ways for filmmaking. “

In terms of the series itself, he says: “It will be exciting. Very exciting. And quite different from the previous series. It’s a slightly different tone in it.”

“There are events there, perhaps something poetic, that we have not seen before. It’s a religious cult we create in Iceland. It is related to atheism. And the motorcycle gangs, which are now known here, that collide. And it will be a bit like Icelandic history or the west.”

More news as we get it…


REVIEW The Valhalla Murders (S1 E7&8)

We all know that atmospheric Icelandic series, The Valhalla Murders, has been fairly generic in terms of themes, plot and things we’ve seen before a lot in crime dramas, but there’s no denying that it’s nonetheless an enjoyable and very watchable series.

Not least because of lead character duo Kata and Arnar.

It was revealed at the end of episode six that their boss – Magnus – was present at Valhalla the night young Tomas was murdered and that he had falsified reports to cover his tracks. So the question now was, how would Kata broach the subject, and bring down someone who had been a mentor to her?

Yes, it was time for The Rogue Detective.

She asked Borgarnes ally Hakon to lodge a complaint with a judge in order to open an investigation into Magnus, but it was shut down almost immediately from someone high up. Who that person was wasn’t clear but I had my suspicions. Remember Pétur, the State Prosecutor who had denied a cover-up by the authorities earlier on the series?

Yes, him.

Kata was going around everyone that she knew and trusted, asking for help in processing a blood sample to no avail – literally no one was willing to help. Even Arnar couldn’t quite believe that family friend Magnus would do such a thing.

So she did something desperate – she knew that Magnus was due to go on live TV to discuss the murders with Selma, so she gave the journalist her evidence and Selma confronted him live on air. Magnus floundered, and stormed – well, more like staggered, disoriented – out of the studio. Bang to rights.

Meanwhile, Arnar faced heartbreak when young Fannar – the vulnerable son of first victim Þor – tragically took his own life. Arnar had built up a strong bond with the teen during the investigation, and seeing him lying on his bathroom floor gave him extra motivation to crack this case. He found that Fannar had a mark on his forearm, as did other victims from Valhalla. They all had an identifying mark – it looked like they had been branded – and it was then he began to question Magnus.

With Magnus on the run, and Kata buoyed from the success of her bold move to get Selma to confront him on national TV, she went to Pétur’s place to get him to reopen the case. And, of course – and as entirely expected – it turned out to be a very bad move.

Pétur drugged her and began to cart her off to a basement (there’s always a basement) to finish the job. He also branded her with the same symbol he had branded his previous victims, which gave things a creepy feel.

Mangus called round while Kata was out for the count, and the two argued – something about Magnus freely accepting money, he shouldn’t worry because Pétur would take care of things, Tomas had it coming to him… So the two were in cahoots, but there was never a clear explanation as to what really happened and why.

Also while Kata was out in ga-ga land, Arnar (looking more and more like the Milk Tray Man) was getting busy. He visited Magnus’s house and had a chat with his wife Rúna, and they discussed Magnus and her history of foster parenting. And, specifically, why it had all come about and how, after they started adopting all of their money worries disappeared.

So there was a link between Magnus and teenage boys.

But again, it was kind of vague – did Magnus foster kids specifically from Valhalla? Why did he accept money? Was it for covering things up and letting Pétur get on with his horrific abuse?

We also had to find out what was really going on with Arnar and his brother and sister. While he was round at Magnus and Rúna’s place, they discussed his time with them as a foster child. So that was why Arnar and Magnus had a close relationship.

But that still didn’t quite explain why he was fostered. There was one final scene between Arnar, his sister and brother, which ended in a fight. However, even though their mother was mentioned, we still didn’t know what really happened between them.

The longer the final episode went on the more I felt that the show was trying hard to tie up loose ends but not doing a very good job of it. Each revelation seemed to produce more questions than answers.

In the end, Arnar managed to track down Pétur and Kata, who by now was beginning to come around.

After a traditional climax where both detectives faced very dicey situations, the day was saved. It reminded me so much of The Bridge, Karrpi… all of those shows. (Did anyone else think when Kata dived into the water to retrieve Arnar they would have died from the cold? And how did a man in his 60s overpower Arnar and even a half-drugged Kata anyway?)

Despite all of this – the twist not being too much of a twist, the signposting (I really think that they missed a trick by introducing Pétur far too early in the piece, or at least introducing the element of doubt in his character), the retrodden ground, the loose ends not being tied up satisfactorily etc – I actually did enjoy the series.

Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir was great as Kata, and she formed an entertaining partnership with Arnar, who revealed layers of emotional complexity. I also loved the atmospheric soundtrack (by Petur Ben) and Iceland was its usual spectacular self. And, for the most part, it dealt with a tricky, emotive storyline well and sensitively and explored themes of parenting, and the consequences of dereliction of care.

I’d go as far to say that I’d like to see more of Kata and Arnar in future series, because I really feel like now this establishing story is out of the way, Thordur Palsson and his team could really let loose and break the shackles of Nordic Noir conventions.

But, at the end of the day, when the world outside is a bit scary, you want something familiar and fun (in a crime drama kind of way). In that sense, The Valhalla Murders ticked a lot of boxes.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.





REVIEW The Valhalla Murders (S1 E5&6/8)

As we edged into the second half of The Valhalla Murders, this atmospheric and engrossing Icelandic crime drama, tensions were running high – not least because Kata is in deep trouble at home. If you remember the end of episode four, her teenage son Kari was implicated in a hideous sexual assault video.

While some people groaned at yet another story strand that featured the wayward offspring of a lead detective character, it did at least present to Kata a moral quandary – dob her son in, or protect him at all costs. She still hadn’t made up her mind, although she did throw an incriminating sweater into the bin.

Tonight’s double-bill started off with a flurry of activity. Perhaps it was too flurry-some, but it was definitely a flurry. Back at base, Arnar and the team were hard at work coming up with a new suspect. Some CCTV footage, some fingerprints taken FROM AN ACTUAL PHOTO (that was pretty ingenious), and the identification of a grey Yaris car all led to one person: Steinþor Jonsson.

And so it all happened in a flash throughout episode five – Kata and Arnar split up into two separate entities to follow leads, which all led back to a garage in the middle nowhere; a killer’s lair with all of his clippings and photographs pinned to a wall. It was thrilling stuff, not least because at the end of the episode there was an almighty stand-off.

Earlier on in the episode, the father of the boy who attended Valhalla and whose bones were discovered at Hvalfjörður – Kristjan – had heard that a suspect had been found. He was desperate for Steinþor to receive justice, and wasn’t content with Kata’s reassurance that he would be found. (There was a social media leak that revealed Steinþor’s identity.)

So even though it was a twist, it wasn’t too much of a surprise that the murderer all along hadn’t been Steinþor at all, but Kristjan, taking revenge on the home and the staff that had destroyed and ultimately led to the death of his son. Yet again, we’ve seen the vigilante parent to justice into his or her own hands.

But it was only half-way through the series, or at least just into the second half, so this couldn’t be the end.

And so it proved.

The final stand-off between Kata and Kristjan ended when the latter knocked out the former and shot himself with her gun. For this, Kata was suspended.

Which was just as well because this gave her time to sort out the business with Kari at home.

Thankfully (I say thankfully because I really didn’t want this strand to drag out for too long), Kata confronted him and he denied everything, saying the he hadn’t even been there – the video had been sent to him. No matter, he was furious that she could even think to accuse him of a heinous crime and stormed off to his dad’s who, in turn, blamed her, took him into the station to report the video and took him away to live with him.

And this is where we saw Kata come apart at the seams a little. She desperately wanted to have that bond with her son and worked so hard to achieve it, but now he was being taken away. The theme of parenting and the care of children once again was front and centre.

The theme continued with Arnar, who (eventually) agreed to go to father’s funeral, despite his hesitance. He soon wished that he hadn’t, because two men forcibly escorted him from the church mid-service (charming). Why, we’re not entirely sure, but it feels pretty certain that his god-fearing family did not take his coming out particularly well. (Better off without them, Anar.)

And it was interesting because as we paused for breath between act one and act two, we saw how both Kata and Arnar wound down, reacted and filled the void after an intense investigation had been completed. Kata collapsed in an emotional heap (she thought she was going to die at the hands of Kristjan, after all), and Arnar went out to a club, got drunk, snogged a guy in the toilets (albeit absolutely on his terms). The emotional damage a tough crime investigation inflicts on those who investigate it was on full display – Kata wanted to stop all feeling, while conversely, Arnar wanted to feel something, anything.

And so to act two.

Magnus and co were cock-a-hoop that Kata, Arnar and the team had solved the case, but Hugrun the excellent pathologist had found something in Gudmundur’s autopsy that didn’t sit right – he was the only one out of all the victims who hadn’t been killed in the same way. Furthermore, there were no cuttings on the wall of Gudmundur in Kristjan’s lair. Thor, Omar and Brynja yes, but not Gudmundur.

You could also add in Steinþor’s hospital bed statement, where he basically said Tomas was killed at Valhalla and the two were best buddies who were planning to escape on that fateful night.

And, up in Borgarnes, Hakon decided to have a closer look at Valhalla and found a secret room in the basement. He called Kata because he didn’t know who else to call. So Kata – after receiving a very touching note from Magnus, telling her to stay calm and that she was the best policewoman in the city – drove up to Borgarnes. After a quick spray of Luminol (man, I love me some Luminol), the spooky secret room was illuminated in phosphorescent evidence that pointed to the slaughter of someone or some people. Tomas, yes. But who else?

A bit of extra digging by the pair found that there was plice car at Valhalla on the night that Tomas was murdered, but this was not in the official report. As soon as I heard that there was a cover-up, my mind raced and I immediately thought… Magnus. Kata’s mentor and biggest supporter back in Reykjavik. She had received an unexpected message from him, which put up in our minds, and he had just dispatched Arnar back to Norway (Arnar had taken him the new evidence that they were looking for another killer earlier on in the episode).

So when retired policeman Tryggvi Sighvatsson named Magnus – or Maggie as he called him – as the man who wrote the report that night, I wasn’t too surprised. It was a neat twist for sure, but one I did see coming (and this is coming from a person who’s normally always wrong about these things). Maybe I’ve been watching too much Line Of Duty and can smell bent coppers a mile off.

So once again, The Valhalla Murders was solid and sometimes thrilling, but again guilty of signposting and treading over well-worn ground. However, the characters are still engaging, as is the story, and there was plenty of great, pacy action. Now we’re faced with the prospect of Kata going rogue to bring down her boss in the final two episodes.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.




REVIEW The Valhalla Murders (S1 E3&4/8)

Last week, BBC Four made a welcome return to Iceland with The Valhalla Murders, its new eight-part crime drama.

Starring Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir as Reykjavik homicide detective Kata, and Björn Thors as profiler Arnar, it started off in very watchable, enjoyable fashion. (Whenever I say ‘enjoyable’ when reviewing a crime drama, I wonder what people must think – how can a drama featuring its victims whose eyes have been gauged out be ‘enjoyable’ in any way? What I mean is, The Valhalla Murders was enjoyable in the context of crime dramas – it was well-acted, nicely directed with excellent cinematography and featured an atmospheric soundtrack. Add in a snowy Iceland, and you had all the ingredients of something absorbing and immersive.)

The final scenes of episode two saw another erstwhile staff member of the Valhalla children’s home murdered, her body found inside the derelict home itself. The killer was obviously sending a message and killing people who could have done bad things to its children during their time there – especially as the victims (another former staff member – a reputable doctor – was also murdered tonight, and also received the same staff photograph the other had received).

And yet, another, more unexpected victim of the murderer – or at least a victim connected to the case – emerged in tonight’s double-bill, and it tied in with the seemingly random set of bones found in Hvalfjörður Kata was investigating before the serial killer struck – the bones were also found to be connected to Valhalla.

What I liked about the emergence of this victim was how the emotional impact of the death hit his parents – including father Kristjan – who had been wondering for all these years what had happened to their son, Tomas. They revealed to Kata that their relationship had almost ended in the aftermath of their son’s disappearance, and they had both suffered struggles with mental health and substance abuse. The mark of a good crime drama is how well it details the emotional toll of crime, and The Valhalla Murders did a good job in tonight two episodes.

Another way it showed the emotional toll of crimes was to feature two of the survivors of sexual abuse at Valhalla. Kata and Arnar’s team – thanks to some diligent work, which sometimes meant sleeping in the station overnight – had found some of the people who actually attended the children’s home. In the end, these two now grown men ended up on television, detailing their experiences in emotional fashion.

Which was just as well, because the government (or the Icelandic equivalent of child services) had always denied any wrongdoing at Valhalla.

All told it was an emotional two instalments tonight.

Not least because Kata had her own gutwrenching problems at home. There have always been accusations that her teenage son Kari was up to no good, despite his butter-wouldn’t-melt demeanour. Now we got a real flavour of exactly what he had been up to – he had seemingly been present during the rape of a female school colleague at a drunken party. And there was a video to prove it. After pulling some strings to find out what was on the video, and actually interviewing the survivor herself (dangerous Kata, dangerous), Kata was plunged into a very difficult situation – to the extent that we saw her in the final scenes thinking about hiding some crucial evidence.

Now, add in Arnar’s own family problems (his father died, and we learned that they had a very strained relationship – as he did with his brother – perhaps because he was gay), and it’s pretty obvious that The Valhalla Murders is all about parenting, and what it means to be a parent.

With the themes intact and the action ramping up, I have to say I’m enjoying it – there’s emotional oomph, action, procedural intrigue and some good acting on show. That’s not to say that it isn’t generic, because it really is – strong but vulnerable lead female lead, taciturn partner, trouble with the kids at home etc etc. Yes, we’ve seen all of this before.

But on these cold winter nights, and new wrinkles on familiar themes, The Valhalla Murders continues to be enjoyable.

Yes, enjoyable.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.



REVIEW The Valhalla Murders (S1 E&2/8)

Ah, it’s good to have Saturday nights back on BBC Four.

It’s been a mixed bag on the channel this year, but recently – thanks to Danish series DNA and now the advent of a trip back to Iceland for The Valhalla Murders – things are looking up.

Not least because it’s also good to head back to Iceland. We haven’t seen an Icelandic crime drama since The Flatey Enigma, so the chance to head back to the island, and more specifically Reykjavik itself, feels like a real treat. And, with snow all around and the imposing Mount Esja looming to the north of the city, it really feels like the perfect winter treat.

I’m a big believer in showing a series at the right time (for example, you wouldn’t broadcast Mystery Road in the middle of winter in the UK), and The Valhalla Murders feels so right for these dark and chilly winter nights.

However, there’s no time to ponder these little morsels because we’re straight into the action. We see a middle-aged couple in a bar. They have sex in the toilets (classy) and then prepare for more drinks at the bar. When the man, Þor, receives a phone call from his ex-wife, he angrily ends the evening with his, ahem, drinking buddy. And, while he takes a leak outside on the quayside, an assailant brutally attacks him. Not just attacks him but kills him and scratches his eyes out.

Enter stage left Katrin ‘Kata’ Gunnarsdottir (Trapped alumnus Nína Dögg Filippusdottir) a wry, likeable single mother who also happens to be a detective in the Reykjavik police force. She’s no-nonsense, funny, and really doesn’t mess around. However, the case she’s working on (trying to identify the human bones found buried north of the capital) has to be put aside when the murder hits.

And this is an interesting wrinkle – we’re often told that there isn’t huge amounts of serious crime in Iceland, and you can tell that Kata’s team is a small one, already stretched to its limit. So when they have to investigate a high-profile murder (you also get a great sense of what a small city Reykjavik is, especially with how close the press get to cases) and she’s passed up for promotion, it’s hardly a strong base from which to start the investigation.

But investigate she does. We go from one suspect to the next, and then another murder with the same modus operandi – this time an elderly man is cruelly summarily extracted from his apartment and slayed.

With the pressure ratcheting up on Kata’s small team, her interim boss Magnus informs her that they’ve called an Icelandic profiler called Arnar (Björn Thors) back from Norway to give some much-needed help. Kata isn’t thrilled about this, but here Arnar comes and it seems he’s not thrilled to be back either. His father is ill in a nursing home, a touchy subject, it seems (“Nei” has never been spoken with so much venom when Kata asks him whether he wants to talk about his family), but slowly-slowly these two begin to form a relationship.

And, of course, we know that investigative pairings make or break crime dramas.

This one, thankfully, is a good one. Where Arnar broods and is watchful, Kata is straightforward and without social airs and graces.

Soon, the investigation leads to an old children’s home north of Borganes (which, in turn, is north of Reykjavik) and soon another body is found there. The name of this children’s home? Valhalla.

It seems the victims were staff there some 20 or so years ago. Do we have a vengeful serial killer on the prowl?

As starts go, it was a good one. There isn’t anything flash about The Valhalla Murders, and many tropes and characters traits it presents we’ve seen before. So to call the series generic is fair, but what’s enjoyable about this is the pace, the perfect balance between investigation and personal lives (Kata’s having problems at home with her teenage son), the acting and the direction, and the atmospheric soundtrack. And, of course, the snowy, otherworldly landscapes of Iceland.

It’s perfect in the lead-up to Christmas.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.