What I'm Watching: Bordertown, Freaks

  • Bordertown: The best of the grim Scandinavian crime dramas. Kari Sorjonen (the Finnish title is just his name), is a borderline autistic, Sherlock Holmes with a memory palace technique, and partner Lena, a Russian ex-FSB cop/thug/defector. There's a wife and a kid, and Lena has a daughter, sometimes, and there are a few too many household drama stories early on, but it mostly lowers that to a background level later.

But most of the series is Kari pursuing really crafty serial killers, including a repeat nemesis, supergenius high school chemistry teacher, not named Walter or Moriarty but oughta be.

Emotionally the show could not be more Finnish. Everyone is stoic and awkward, frosty to their friends, completely closed off to anyone else, until they have a giant emotional meltdown and kill each other. Secrets and actual intentions are rarely revealed and when they are, everyone's glum but takes it. The distance between Kari's emotional flatness and everyone else's emotional bunkers isn't far.

Finland has a harsh and beautiful wilderness, and the cities are the grimmest of industrial shitholes, and then the interiors are mostly sterile black and white unadorned furniture, like Jony Ive set designed it; when you see a warm set it's just jarring. The cinematography and music are great; I'm unamused at the pretense the daughter sings the title song, tho, and in this last season she got way too much screen time doing so. Apparently the actress is a wannabe Miley Cyrus.

I read subtitles fast, and can usually rely on being able to pick up some spoken words, but Finnish is annoying; English lets me pick up enough Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedish to recognize many words, my bad French lets me get a lot of Flemish and Belgian, and so on… but Finnish sounds like gibberish, and these people talk fast; I usually complain about slow-talkers, but here it's a little stressful. So good thing this is on Netflix where rewinding for a complex scene is easy. It'd be unwatchable on 'zon's terrible video player.

S3 switches from overlapping almost-season-long stories to more episodic 2-parters, but there is a continuing story.

Picking on some of the non-plot elements aside, this is just a perfect crime drama, watch it.


  • Freaks (2018): It's Firestarter; this Charlie ^W Chloe is a different kind of little girl freak, but the "psychic powers make your eyes bleed" thing, the father, the low-rent treachery, the government murderers are straight out of Stephen King. The Shop ^W ADF is funded like post-9/11 counterterrorism, not a CIA hobby project.

I'm both amused and horrified by a trick used to get the ADF to kill innocent people, the writer's not original but able to embellish well.

Once you realize the scope of Chloe's, and her family's, and the missing mommy's powers, the question of "is this overreaction" changes to "what would you do for species survival"; altho Dallas probably had it coming. Little Chloe also learns to kill like a teenage boy playing Call of Duty, way faster than a supposed 7-year-old (actress was 9) should. No way she should see this movie or the evil shit her character does.

★★★★☆ — despite the near-plagiarism, this is well done.