It took me awhile to recognize my affliction for Nordic noir, which I used to refer to as Scandi-noir, which kinda sounds like an Instagram-friendly minimalist interior design trend that I imagine would look like this:
So what defines Nordic noir?
Most of the crime fiction tropes we know and love! These stories are typically told from the police point of view, preferably with an obsessive detective, and set in bleak landscapes, preferably with snow. The dialogue is stripped and straightforward, the mood is dark and dispassionate with hints of despair.
The genre depicts a tension between the apparently still and bland social surface in the Nordic countries, and the murder, misogyny, rape, and racism it depicts as lying underneath.Wikipedia
In other words: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Nordic noir is a pretty good umbrella term to encompasses my whole murder/Dead Girl Show predilection. However, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, and I’ve found my limit. As the Verge posits, “Nordic noir (and its non-Nordic fellow travelers) has become so prevalent that it’s impossible even for TV critics to keep up.” It me.
As someone who would love nothing more than to binge Netflix noir full-time, the hardest part of trying to keep pace with new releases is that at first glance, all these shows look the same.
That’s why my list looks like this:
Granted, it’s a genre, but at least Westerns might change up the plot line cliches once in awhile.
When I first started this blog, I had half a mind to plow through every vaguely Nordic noir show I could find. But once I started to compile the Netflix shows alone, this to-do list I’d crafted felt both surprisingly overwhelming and tragically dull. How many times did I really want to watch different versions of the same story? I even contemplated organizing the shows by language before I realized I was assigning myself a semester-long study of slog, and that was more Netflix bloat than I could bear.
As it turns out, consuming Nordic noir is a lot like trying to eat a well-balanced diet: some days you’re proud of your choices and some days you watch eight hours of a Swedish show that you’re not sure is even any good. Don’t you hate when that happens?
Of course, I’m not really one to moderate my murder intake, so these are the Netflix noirs where I’ve been getting my fix lately:
Just kidding, this one isn’t on Netflix! But I really loved watching Trapped, partly because I had just discovered the Viceland channel at the time and partly because the series had all the elements I love, before I had a name for its genre.
Technically Trapped wasn’t my first venture into Nordic noir, but it felt like my formal introduction to this distinct storytelling style. As you can imagine, the story follows a divorced single dad/police detective trying to solve the mystery of a disembodied torso that floats ashore in his small and snowy Iceland town.
In true Twin Peaks mimicry, there’s always a large-scale development project vying for land in the town in question. Remember Ben Horne and Leland Palmer’s pitch to the Norwegian businessmen at the Great Northern Lodge on the morning Laura’s body was found?
Speaking of which, I can’t imagine where Netflix got their premise for…
Peak Nordic noir courtesy of Netflix, and by knowing the definition of the genre, you probably already can tell what this show is about.
Judging by the characters’ sartorial style and the dates on video footage in evidence, I think this show is about two years old, but it’s giving me major winter style inspo for the current season. The lead detective has fantastically messy I-woke-up-like-this hair a la Amy Amazinglocks Adams in Sharp Objects, and she rocks a collection of fuzzy gray sweaters that just won’t quit. I might be Black Friday hunting for an oversized parka like hers, too — don’t judge.
I’m still working my way through this show and I’m on the fence about whether I truly recommend it or not. I think this reviewer summed it up best for me:
…at no point is Deadwind boring. But it is never truly intriguing. It exists in the mildly fashionable grey area between obsolescence and illuminating that we have come to accept as binge-worthy. An imaginative human being ought to be spending his time undertaking something else. But in case they aren’t, Deadwind isn’t a bad alternative. It is simply an offer you can refuse. But you won’t.Anupam Kant Verma for FirstPost.com
Of course I won’t! Because without a better show to mainline my murder fix, this is where I’ve ended up.
Also, coming off my Halloween horrorfest, can I just say that Scandinavian killers aren’t very scary? American interpretations of the genre tend to make the murderers more monstrous and somewhat larger than life, but in the Scandinavian renditions I think the banality of evil is the point. The people we should fear don’t look like monsters, they’re just horrifically normal men who walk among us. Isn’t that more frightening?
This original series is a very timely American interpretation of Nordic noir, with a compelling social justice angle.
Show creator Veena Sud has some very specific motifs and they were all present here, which means that if you enjoyed The Killing, this is for you. Because Seven Seconds is basically The Killing: East Side, except the victim is a boy instead of a girl, he’s obsessed with seagulls instead of butterflies, and we meet the killer in the first episode instead of at the season’s end.
Although the show wasn’t renewed for a second season, I enjoyed it in a masochistic way and I second Vox’s assessment that it’s a contrived, misery-riddled show I (too) can’t stop watching. It’s a flawed yet powerful story, and not gonna lie, the finale made me cry.
Need more noir?
(Un)fortunately, I don’t think my bender is quite over yet. Until then, I plan to tide myself over with some of these suggestions from Spin.
- For more Nordic noir specifically, check this list.
- This show looks pretty promising, too.
- Want to delve into noir classics? Check out this guide for streaming options.