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If you’re a fan of what has become known as “Nordic noir,” you expect a lack of action in thrillers that come from Scandinavian countries. There tends to be a lot of talking and looking at screens and pin-and-string boards. But a new series from Norway, based on a true story, seems to be nothing but talking and staring.
Opening Shot: In a darkened house, a woman answers the phone, as two masked men enter through the front door in broad daylight.
The Gist: The intruders grab the woman, who screams. They knock her out, put her in a body bag, and leave a note. Supervising this kidnapping is someone wearing a police ID around her neck. Apparently this is a test run to see how long the whole thing might have taken.
On October 31, 2018, Tom Hagen (Terje Strømdahl), one of Norway’s richest people, calls in an emergency: His wife, Anne-Elisabeth, has been abducted. A ransom note is left on a red chair, telling him not to get the police or media involved. Detective Jorunn Lakke (Yngvild Støen Grotmol), the cop we saw making the test run, is put in charge of the case. With her partner, Micael Delvir (Kidane Gjølme Dalva), they try to canvass neighbors and friends without letting on that they’re looking to Anne-Elisabeth’s abduction, so as not to tip off the kidnappers.
But they’re getting nowhere. The kidnappers have demanded their payment in an obscure cryptocurrency that will take months to mine, but they do communicate via fractional Bitcoin transactions; they just don’t know that law enforcement is on the other end of that communication. Weeks go by and it seems that if the kidnappers were really motivated by money, they’d be more eager to get the transaction done. And because the authorities have been keeping the kidnapping out of the media, it’s been very difficult for them to move forward.
Then Anne-Elisabeth’s cell number — forwarded to the police — is leaked to the press. Jorunn and her boss plead with reporters to let them investigate, but further news about the Hagens makes both Jorunn and Micael wonder if this isn’t a kidnapping case.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The Lørenskog Disappearance fits right in with Netflix’s many Nordic noir series, like Lilyhammer, Trapped, Entrapped, Bordertown and others.
Our Take: One of the things we expect from Nordic noir is that there isn’t a ton of action; it’s more of an intellectual exercise than anything else. But the first episode of The Lørenskog Disappearance, which is based on a true story, tried our patience in that regard.
Because the show starts with a flash-forward scene, we spent the first half of the episode thinking that Jorunn was being put in charge of a kidnapping that she had orchestrated. We don’t think that we’re particularly unobservant viewers — we wouldn’t be able to do this job if we were like that — so it felt particularly frustrating to have to go back to that flash-forward scene more than once to confirm who was in it and why.
To be honest, having Jorunn investigate a kidnapping she orchestrated would have made for a much more compelling drama than what it turned out to be, and it turns out that that that flash-forward scene wasn’t compelling enough to make the mark it intended. At some point, you realize that they did that practice run out of sheer desperation as leads run dry and other forensic evidence leads nowhere. But none of that is particularly obvious at that point, so you spend precious minutes puzzling about it instead of actually following the story.
by Jon O'Brien (@JonOBrien81)
But what really tried our patience is that there’s a lot of talking and a lot of staring at screens, but not a whole lot else. The writers try to break up the go-nowhere storyline with a B-story about Jorunn dealing with his father, who probably is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s but doesn’t want to get tested. She also has to contend with memories of an accident that killed her mother 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, we may see more of that, even as we change perspectives from Jorunn to reporter Erlend Moe Riise (Christian Rubeck), to the attorneys to the informants. Lots of talking and lots of staring at screens. If they follow the timeline of the actual story, there is likely to be a resolution that won’t satisfy viewers. It’s only a 5-episode limited series, so the time invested won’t be that egregious, and the shifting perspectives will help freshen the story. But, lord, this show has a whole lot of nothing going on, and that’s not good.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: After realizing that Anne-Elisabeth was looking to divorce her husband Tom and she had an airtight prenup, Jorunn decides to open the case up to the media after weeks of getting nowhere.
Sleeper Star: To be honest, no one really stands out.
Most Pilot-y Line: As Jorunn enters a task force meeting after learning about the Hagens’ prenup, we hear someone in there talk about using “IKEA gingerbread dough,” saying the kids won’t know the difference. Seems like a weird aside for what is a pretty serious show.
Our Call: SKIP IT. It’s not like The Lørenskog Disappearance is poorly done. It’s just boring, even by the standards of Nordic noir.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
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