Arctic Circle – TV Series Review
The first season of Finnish crime procedural “Arctic Circle” (original title: “Ivalo”) has been airing in the United States for a while, but I just watched it now to prepare the cover for season two. It is a chance. Year One introduced us to a beautiful small-town cop protagonist, Nina (Lina Kuustonen), who finds the remains of a prostitute in her snowy region of Lapland, near the Russian border with Finland. The murder victim’s body leads to the discovery of a sex trafficking ring, further complicated by a deadly sexually transmitted virus that threatens to spread to pandemic level. Plenty of plot elements flow back and forth over 10 episodes, embracing a number of issues that will feel even more relevant post-Covid than when they originally aired in 2018, including an all-too-analogous conflict between government and medical priorities.
The execution of this first year, alas, is not as convincing as this summary says. The entire plot, including all the necessary personal relationship arcs, could have made for a tense, suspenseful frenzy, if scaled down to six or seven installments. Although Nina evokes all the empathy one hopes to develop with any protagonist, it felt like a chore to follow her through the 10. But as a number of the cast and story arcs continue in the vastly superior second season, the weather turned out to be justified. The first season was helpful, though perhaps not essential, for full engagement in Nina’s new second round. This season is shortened to six more tightly scripted episodes for a much better viewing experience.
Again, the season covers a major crime. Nina has been promoted to a higher level police unit, which is more suited to her previously underutilized skills. This one begins with an old, high-profile murder that resurfaces in the public eye, leading to a much larger criminal enterprise, once again spanning both sides of the Finnish-Russian border. This premise allows for a lot more action and suspense than the first. Over the course of both seasons, Nina’s complicated relationships with her mother, daughter, and sister (along with a few others) deepen viewers’ emotional connection to the proceedings. Surprisingly and commendably, they manage to deliver more depth with these characters – especially his daughter (Venla Ronkainen) – in fewer episodes, while featuring a more intense main plot.
Those who have already seen Season 1 and found it equally boring should assume no more of the same lies ahead. Your patience will be rewarded with this tighter, more satisfying journey with Officer Nina which bodes well for the possibility of more outings to come.
“Arctic Circle”, mostly in Finnish with English subtitles, is available to stream on Topic from March 17.
RATING: 3 out of 4 stars