The protagonist is a good cop going through tough times
■ By Jim Hitt / Media Columnist
When I first spied this title, I thought it another show along the lines of American Horror Story, which only goes to show titles can be deceiving. Deadwind is Nordic noir.
The term film noir refers to a certain kind of American movies released after World War II that involved flawed protagonists and crime. Films such as Double Indemnity and Murder, My Sweet were dark in mood and tone. A modern breed of film noir has arisen both here and abroad.
Nordic noir first came to this country in the 1960s in a series of novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö featuring detective Martin Beck. More recently, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the novels that completed the trilogy made this particular subgenre a worldwide phenomenon. Movies and television saw the value in the stories, and as a result, most streaming services have a number of Nordic noir mysteries of merit.
To this point, my favorite is Deadwind, which debuted on Finnish TV in March of this year and on Netflix in August. Since the episodes total over 10 hours, the writers had plenty of time to develop characters, all of whom are fleshed out and three-dimensional.
The show follows Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala), a Helsinki detective. She is in her 30s, recently widowed, and left with two children. She returns to police work, and on her first case back, is paired with rookie detective Nurmi (Lauri Tilkanen). Their first assignment is a case of a murdered woman whose body is discovered on the site of an impending housing development.
The flawed protagonist is a staple of noir, and this holds true in Deadwind. When her new partner is foisted on her, Sofia initially resents him, and their relationship is adversarial. At the same time, she has trouble on the homefront. She mourns her husband who recently died, and her teenage stepdaughter blames her for the death. In addition, the police administration appears leagued against her. All this is in addition to a very complicated and dangerous case.
Unlike many American female detectives, Sofia doesn’t run around the city chasing her suspects in four-inch heels. She is dressed in practical jeans, sweaters and heavy coats. She is a beautiful woman who wears almost no makeup, but from the first, she convinces us she is a good cop going through a rough period.
American cop shows often highlight fights and car chases. European cop shows concentrate more on characters and plot. Still, Deadwind has its share of dangers for the two detectives. On more than one occasion, they face death at the hands of villains, yet the overriding tone is more deliberate. It is also more involving, both with the protagonists and secondary characters, many of whom we dislike when we first meet them, but as the story unfolds, we come to understand and even admire them. Others whom we thought were decent weren’t so decent after all.
A non-human character influences this story—the Finnish weather. The cold seeps right out of the television to envelope the viewer.
Since this production is in Finnish, the viewer must make do with subtitles. This may be a turn-off for some. Personally, I would rather read them than suffer through a dubbed version where words seldom match lip movements.
A second season is in preparation.
Wrap-up—If you don’t mind subtitles, this is a great noir mystery.
Series: Season 1, 12 episodes
About the author: Jim Hitt is a multi-degreed local author who wrote The American West, From Fiction into Film (McFarland, 1991) and Words and Shadows (Citadel, 1993), an examination of American literature’s role in film. He has published numerous novels, and his awards include “best fantasy story,” OnceWritten.com, and “grand prize, fiction,” Next Generation Indie Book Awards. His latest novel, Bodie, was released Sept. 1 published by Black Horse Press. Jim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.