Deadwind, Season 1, Episode 1: 'The Widow' - Review

DEADWIND (2018) – Netflix Original Series Season 1, Episode 1: ‘The Widow’

A Nordic Noir television series in the same vein as Danish TV’s The Killing and The Bridge, the Finnish crime drama Deadwind follows the story of a gruesome crime and a troubled police officer who is put in charge of solving it.

Just months after the tragic loss of her husband, Detective Sofia Karppi returns to work in the Helsinki Police Department. On her first day back, she is assigned a new partner, Sakari Nurmi, who specialises in financial crimes. It’s not exactly a match made in heaven. Their first case begins as a routine disappearance. Following the discovery of women’s clothes near a lake, Sakari assumes the woman had simply gone for a swim and drowned, and suggests they call in the divers. Karppi is convinced there is something else at play and calls in the police dog team. Her hunch leads them to a body buried in a shallow grave with flowers in her hands. From there the case quickly escalates into a puzzling homicide.

Holding firmly to the principles of Nordic Noir, Deadwind is a character- and setting-driven story, in which we participate in the slow piecing together of a bigger picture. It’s a realistically grim portrayal of investigators trying to bring some semblance of order to a chaotic world. The subject matter is depressing, but the storytelling is good.

Much like her predecessors in the Nordic Noir genre, the main protagonist is a strong female character. Like Lund in The Killing and Saga in The Bridge, Sophia Karppi is portrayed as a smart detective with an obsessiveness in the cases she investigates. We are also introduced to Karppi’s complicated homelife, where she is struggling to cope with two children in her hours off. However, while there is enough intrigue to move the story forward, there were several inconsistencies within the episode that left me wondering how the police knew where they were meant to go.

One of the main weaknesses of the episode for me was the lack of sufficient attention to the procedures of the investigation. Unlike The Bridge, in which the detectives’ thought processes and the investigative connections they make are clearly shown, the narrative within Deadwind skips along without supplying sufficient procedural detail to support the actions the detectives are making. Which threatens to undermine the story’s plausibility and the procedural nature of the series.

Although the pilot episode of Deadwind closely resembles other crime dramas in the genre and the emphasis is upon the chase, rather than the protagonist’s emotional journey, I think there is plenty of potential in the story to justify greenlighting the full series.

Fitting into the writers room

I have always enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with other people on creative projects. Whether as a drama teacher working with students on devised and scripted plays, as a theatre director, or as part of a camera crew on a TV drama, it has been an exhilarating experience. Collaboration for me has always been about the process of bringing an idea to fruition with a group of like-minded people.

I think one of my main strengths lies in my ability to remain flexible and open-minded, to be able to improvise and adapt my way throughout a project rather than become stuck rigid on an idea that may or may not be working. It's important to embrace all the ideas that come our way within a group - the more people, the bigger the brain. Another strength is my commitment. I'm always prepared to go above and beyond to complete a project. Once I'm onboard with something, I won't let go.

My weakness lies in my confidence. My self-doubt can undermine me at times.

Writing for television was not something I had considered before starting this module, and I have to admit to feeling a little out of my depth with this. While it is a challenge that I am very much looking forward to, it is a mode of storytelling that is outside my comfort zone.

Rebooting the X-Files

The simplicity of The X-Files format has to be its greatest strength. The FBI investigative procedural gives a credibility to the story world that adds a sense of realism to the paranormal stories. Other strengths include the dual-protagonist dynamic between skeptic and believer in their search for the truth, the element of surprise built into each episode, and the string of intriguing, sometimes enigmatic characters we encounter throughout the series.

I would find it difficult to discard any of these elements as they are so central to the success of the storytelling. The change might be less in terms of components and more in terms of refreshing the narrative structure of the series to suit today’s tv viewing habits. It might be possible to balance the ‘monster-of-the-week’ with an extended seasonal narrative.

In terms of what audiences would be looking for in an X-Files reboot, I think they would be looking for the same thrilling encounters with paranormal phenomena, character-focused storylines, and probably a nostalgic nod to the original series while being relevant to today’s world.

How I watch television

If it’s a good story and the characters grab me, then I’m easy about how I watch a show. Both season-binging and watching weekly episodes work for me. I rarely watch terrestrial TV anymore, so I will often binge watch two or three dramas at a time, watching several episodes of each, rather than an entire season in one sitting. I still like to spread the viewing experience out over a period of time.

I don’t have a preferred streaming platform. I dip into Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple and NowTV in equal measure. Though I do gravitate towards MUBI for films. With platforms offering their own original content, I tend to flick between platforms in the same way I used to flick channels on TV. So, what I watch and the way in which I consume it has changed significantly over the past few years.

I don’t see a great difference between shows distributed seasonally or weekly. They both embrace similar long-form narrative models structured around an overall season arc. And they both feel more like 6 to 10 hour movies. The main difference seems to be in the method of distribution. What strikes me about today’s television dramas is that, for me, these extended narratives are far more satisfying than single, self-contained episodes. As such, they offer an exciting storytelling opportunity for screenwriters looking to explore deeper themes and ideas and challenge the viewers’ perception of both TV and the world in which we live.

Exciting stuff! I can’t wait to start exploring this aspect of screen storytelling.