It’s been a long while since I started a new Scandi thriller. I’ve been struggling with some pretty serious health problems. Turns out concentrating on anything when you’re really ill is extremely bloody difficult. I guess it’s why mindless daytime tv does so well. And concentrating on high-quality drama with subtitles is completely out of the question. My top tip for sickies is fairly short YouTube content, but avoid ones that make you laugh too hard, so you don’t bust any stitches, or ones about eating nasty things, so you don’t start puking again.
But the wonderful Walter Presents peaked my interest in Norwegian drama series Acquitted. Aksel Nilsen is a very successful Kuala Lumpur based businessman who returns home to little Lifjord after 20 years away to finally confront his unhappy past. Aksel is pouty and good looking, extremely well-groomed and manicured to a shine. In his beautiful bespoke suits he looks like a Ken doll crossed with a perfume advert (pour homme, pour femme, pour Norway). He’s done alright for himself in KL, with a corner office, a beautiful successful wife and a bolshy teenage son. His colleagues all have perfect English spoken in English accents; Nicolai Cleve Broch as Aksel does very well, but it’s his swearing that lets him down. He gets a call for help from Lifjord’s major employer, drops everything and chases off to the other side of the globe to try and save the town.
Turns out though, that the town wants nothing to do with him, however much money he has to splash around. The local factory is Solar Tech, run by the long-suffering Hansteen family. It’s in serious trouble and about to declare bankruptcy when Aksel encourages his company to save them.
He flies in like Superman (if Superman needed a helicopter to get around) to a ridiculously bright and beautiful town nestled in the mouth of a fjord. “Fucking hobbit land” says his distinctly unimpressed college.
He’s kept everyone, including his lovely wife in the dark about his past – writing it off simply and quickly as a unhappy childhood. It’s no where near that straightforward. Decades on the small town is still in mourning for a teenager called Karine. 20 years ago Aksel was her boyfriend convicted for her murder and then acquitted on appeal after a year in prison. And yes, of course Karine was the daughter of the Eva Hansteen, the CEO he’ll have to work with.
Again we see a wife kept in the dark – this time it’s Eva (played by Lena Endre), set up by her husband William who tells her a mysterious benefactor from KL wants to invest in their technology. He knows she would never accept the offer if she knew the saviour was Aksel. She loathes him and blames him for her daughter’s death, whatever the court decided. It seems about 90% of the town agrees with her.
How exactly did Aksel expect his homecoming to turn out? I’m surprised he doesn’t get punched in the mouth immediately he steps out of the helicopter. His actions are disrespectful says Eva, and she might have a point. Why exactly is he back? What is he trying to prove? And to who? How will he butt up against Eva’s pride – she has to sack her workforce and destroy the economy of the town, or take money from Aksel’s bloody hands. Despite getting punched (finally) and made to feel completely ostracised, he still wants to invest. Is this proof of his goodness or a way for him to punish himself because the courts couldn’t? Was a year in jail not enough?
The vicious outburst at the end of the episode sees Aksel’s calm professional exterior finally crack. This boy has a temper. We can’t help but wonder about what really happened to Karine. Did he do it?
Thanks to Walter Presents you can watch both Series 1 and 2 online right now – see catch-up on All4 for what looks like fairly decent drama and could be your next Scandi binge while we wait for more news on The Bridge.