Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Kieler Street, on MHz

It isn't witness protection, because nobody who avails themselves of Omega's shadowy "relocation" services ever talks about their past. Jonas Schulman (as he is now known) was once a hardened criminal, but he spent all of his big score to restart his life in the quiet Norwegian town of Slusvik. He never looked back until forced by a nosy neighbor. Consequently, "Schulman" starts to suspect he is not the only client they relocated to Slusvik and some of them might be rather dangerous. The paranoia brews slowly, Scandinavian-style in Kieler Street, a 10-part series created and written by Stig Frode Henriksen, Jesper Sundnes & Patrik Syversen, which premieres today on MHz.

Since moving to Slusvik, Schulman married Elin and developed a positive step-parenting relationship with her daughter Sophie, but neither knows anything about his true past. Nobody does, until his neighbor and AA-partner Geir confronts him with research exposing the gaps in his legal record. It isn’t just Schulman. Half the neighborhood is in Geir’s potential blackmail file. Although Geir offers to bring Schulman in on his scheme, the former criminal is not about to take any chances, so he resorts to his old ways to solve the problem.

Of course, that just raises further issues, like body disposal and the like. Unfortunately, Sophie’s beloved cat Kaspar will be lost (presumably fatally) during the chaotic, extemporized process, which leads to no end of headaches for Schulman. Frankly, most viewers will be even more annoyed by all the whining over poor dear Kaspar than he is. Ironically, just when he assumes his crime has been exposed, it turns out the police actually discovered another body—that of a fifteen-year-old girl, presumably in Slusvik for a summer concert. Schulman also assumes the killer is a former shady criminal type like himself, who bought a new life in the formerly peaceful village.

Kieler Street
is a slow-brooder, with a little too much emphasis on the “slow.” Arguably, the series could have benefited by being condensed to an eight- or even six-episode run. Nevertheless, it excels at creating a paranoid vibe and a general sense of unease. Schulman (and viewers) are keenly aware nobody might be whom they present themselves to be, because knows full well that he is not. The writer-creators consistently spring wicked new complications for Schulman, while skewering the provincialism of Slusvik (especially the busy-body denial of their mayor and the dark legacy of the turn-of-the-Century founder, Haakon Walter).

Thorbjørn Harr makes a bid for the world champion of brooding as Schulman. It is a low-key, but massively hardboiled performance. Viewers can also tell it is the same person in flashback, despite the vastly different circumstances, which is good for consistency, but also a little disturbing. Andrea Bræin Hovig is terrific as the oblivious Elin, but Ylva Fuglerud’s Sophie truly taxes audience patience. However, Sigurd Myhre is spectacularly sleazy as William Schmidtberger, a suspicious newcomer, who is definitely a bad influence om Schulman.

Kieler Street
gives a fresh new spin to the small-town noir genre, but it sometimes loses track of its various subplots. Yet, you have to give Henriksen, Sundnes & Syversen credit for closing out strong—episodes nine and ten are by far the tightest and tensest. Plus, they turn a nifty twist at the end. Its memorable, but it could have stronger of it were more concentrated. Recommended for fans of Nordic noir, Kieler Street starts streaming today (10/13) on MHz.