"The Valhalla Murders" (Netflix series in Icelandic with English subtitles); Cast: Nina Dogg Filippusdottir, Bjorn Thors; Created by: Thordur Palsson; Rating: * * * and 1/2 (three and a half stars)
By Vinayak Chakravorty
Twisted Nordic noir gets a wry edge of humour in this Icelandic whodunit series that should satiate your binging urges if you love your mysteries served dark, but without too many complex subtexts. Thordur Palsson's eight-episode series is fairly simple in storytelling, but smart enough to leave you guessing with the right twists at the apt moments.
You would be following the thriller via subtitles of course but you don't miss its element of universality, which lies in the fact that this story could be imagined in any part of the world. Like many classic murder mysteries, the series starts off on a languid note, before a slowburn narrative takes you to a point where it literally gives a wild spin to the tale.
Scandinavian thrillers have a quaint quality that makes them irresistible. They narrate cold, often brutal, stories that delve into the darkest recesses of the criminal mind, and are ironically set against the backdrop of hypnotic landscapes you find nowhere else on the planet. Series creator Palsson collaborates with half a dozen credited co-writers to set up this adventure that takes off with a grisly murder which has occurred in the harbour area of Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. The victim has been stabbed multiple times, and his eyes cut out.
When an exact similar body is recovered soon afterwards, investigating officer Kata Eligsson (Nina Dogg Filippusdottir) suspects a serial killer is on the prowl. Joining Kata to probe the crime is Detective Arnar (Bjorn Thors), who arrives all the way from the Norwegian capital of Oslo. When a third killing happens, the detectives begin to find a link that points towards an abandoned boys' home named Valhalla.
Using a few predictable plot pushers, the narrative moves back to a past wrought with child abuse scandal, setting up what would seem like a familiar motive for vengeance. The success of the script lies in how it uses this element of predictability to take the viewers by surprise, before giving the story an intelligent closure. The execution is compelling enough to keep you hooked right till the end.
Like most mainstream suspense flicks, the series does not offer any pathbreaking scope for acting, but the cast puts up an adequate show. Splendidly shot across sprawling Icelandic terrain, "The Valhalla Murders" has in the right atmospherics to keep the suspense going. The series has its flaws, but the well-executed mystery element about the story makes it a bingeworthy experience.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)