It’s been a while since we’ve seen a foreign TV series from Norway. With shows like Nobel and Occupied, two of our all-time favorites, Norway sets high expectations. The Borderliner TV series (Grenseland in Norwegian), an eight-episode thriller, delivers crime, crooked cops, a complex case, and the real life-type characters we expect from Scandinavian TV shows. As good as all that is, Borderliner does not quite meet the level of its standard-bearing predecessors.
Nicolai (Tobias Santelmann) is a cop in Oslo. After implicating another cop in a high profile case that earns him kudos, he’s told to leave town for a few weeks until things cool down. Back home, in a smaller town close to the Swedish border, his brother Lars (Benjamin Helstad) is a single dad and a cop. Their father, the former sheriff, is now an on-and-off-again drinker, a trait that runs in the family. When Lars is too hungover to drive after an early morning call, Nicolai takes him to the scene of an apparent suicide – someone Lars knows. Nicolai quickly realizes it’s homicide, not suicide, and gets drawn in to help on the case.
Nicolai teams with Anniken (Ellen Dorrit Peterson, right), sent in as a more experienced investigator from the State Police. She’s serious and focused, never smiling, and her approach makes Nicolai wary of her. The feeling is mutual. Some of the local cops eagerly assist, but there is also resistance. As you will have guessed, there is much more to the murder case. It’s tied into the police and the community.
Nikolai makes an unconvincing choice at the end of Borderliner’s first episode. Some viewers will buy it; we didn’t. It’s central to the story and “has” to happen, but it colored our perception for an episode or so. By midway through Borderliner, we were fully on board again.
Anniken continues to investigate while Nicolai plays both sides of the case. Events move at a steady pace, but by episode six, as more layers are peeled away, the complexity deepens, the tension builds, and we forget our earlier complaint. Suffice to say, there are twists along the way. Some are telegraphed in advance, others not. As regular crime drama watchers, we assume there must be a connection between the current investigation and the arrest that caused Nicolai to leave Oslo.
As part of the reveal, Borderliner makes use of flashbacks, going back three or six weeks as episodes begin. We’ve seen the technique used more effectively, but it serves as a nice reset and reminder for each chapter.
Multiple writers and directors share credit for the Borderliner TV series. The show aired on Norway’s TV2 late in 2017. As of March 6, 2018, all eight episodes, about 45 minutes each, are on Netflix in the US. For nordic noir fans, it’s a must-see.
Borderliner TV series trailer
In Norwegian, without subtitles, so as not to reveal too much!