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Valkyrien

This is a review of the first two episodes and contains spoilers. 

Valkyrien is a dystopian drama series that follows a doctor who establishes an underground clinic to provide his thought-to-be-dead wife with an experimental treatment to cure her terminal illness. The first episode provides the premise for the series, somewhat predictable, and the second episode starts to create this world the doctor has created underground, creating an intriguing premise that will hook you for the rest of the series.

The series is about the doctor Ravn, who left his job after the hospital refused to let his wife Vilma use her own experimental treatment on her illness due to fact that the treatment had never been tested on humans. Fed up with the bureaucracy of the medical profession, Ravn heads underground to an abandoned subway station in Oslo’s metro and begins to treat those who are unable to receive treatment elsewhere, such as a criminal shot in the kidney during a bank robbery. The first episode tells us that his wife has since passed away, but by the end of the episode we learn that that is not the case, and his wife is now receiving the experimental treatment in this subway station. Whether or not it is working is currently unknown, and surely something the series will resolve by the last episode.

Ravn works alongside the oddball Leif, who is a member of Norway’s Civil Defence Unit, which risk assesses and assists in emergency situations. This line of work has allowed for Leif to know for a fact that no one goes to the subway station anymore, so he has set it up as his own little doomsday centre because, in his spare time, he is a prolific doomsday blogger, warning his fellow nationals of the imminent possibility of society collapsing through terrorism, overpopulation, climate change, or energy shortages.

During the first two episodes, we come to learn what drove these characters to be who they are and their motivations for the underground clinic. A particular standout is Leif, played masterfully by Pål Sverre Hagen. Immediately, his character hooks you in, and he becomes the most interesting person on screen as he manages his blog, the prisoner patient in the clinic, and his above-ground job. He stands out compared to Ravn, who is very ‘vanilla’ compared to Leif’s eccentricity. The story of the experimental cure for Vilma’s disease is not thoroughly explored, and it is uncertain how central it is to the story over Leif’s very out-there believes.

While Valkyrien does feel a lot like Breaking Bad, and it can be a little out there sometimes, it is thoroughly enjoyable and a breath of fresh air on television. By the end of the second episode, it’s hard to pinpoint where the conclusion lies, so Valkyrien is well-worth starting. Indeed, it’s nice to see Nordic television creating stories that are a little out there from the Nordic crime series that made the region a front-runner in quality television. The rights to an English-language, London-set version of Valkyrien was reported to have been sold, so it’d be interesting if this premise can work abroad.

This review is in the March issue of Cinema Scandinavia. 

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Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.