History repeats itself, and storytelling trends go in cycles. Three-quarters of a century ago, as demagogues fueled hatred of immigrants, Americans sought distraction from pulp magazines. Today, racist agitators are having a field day, and streaming services are providing so much crime fiction, viewers have trouble keeping track of it all.
A few favorites at the Sublett house come to mind. The Nordic noir wave has hit us hard. I can’t say how many times we watched Wallander (the Swedish miniseries on Netflix and the British version with Kenneth Branagh on Amazon), but it might help to know that I’ve got the Wallander ringtone on my iPhone.
Some of our favorites hail from the smallest country, Iceland. Trapped (Netflix) seized our attention immediately with its super forbidding location: a tiny port town where nature always has the last laugh. The landscape is vast, towering, and other-worldly, and there’s something really screwy going on – either a frozen prehistoric monster coming back to life or human beings at their most venal. Directed by Icelandic superstar director Baltasar Kormaku (Everest), Season 1 starred the very bearlike Olafur Darri Olafsson as the police chief who endures more trouble per capita than his counterpart in Los Angeles, but almost never loses his cool. We are overjoyed that Season 2, with all surviving cast members, is slated for this fall.
Another Icelandic favorite is Lava Field (Netflix), which stars Trapped cast member Björn Hlynur Haraldsson as the detective in a different bleak, strangely beautiful outpost, where the bloody murder of a despicable tycoon is made to look like suicide, but isn’t, and as usual, the detective’s own spectral past hovers over everything, like a vengeful demon.
We were overjoyed that Season 3 of The Tunnel (PBS) dropped, with its setting on the international tunnel crossing between Britain and France, all those sweeping vistas of the Normandy coastline and the angrily churning waters of the English Channel, macabre international crime plots, and the oddest and most compelling of all odd couples in the streaming world, British detective Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) and his French counterpart, Elise Wassermann (Clémence Poésy). If there’s a Season 4, these two will have to finally hook up.
Will there be a fourth season of Witnesses (Netflix)? We sure hope so. Detective Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), polices a small village on the coast of northern France, is haunted, a little twitchy, and totally badass – plus, her cases are so macabre, they’re practically Scandinavian! In January, Dompnier announced that Season 4 is likely going to happen.
We loved Season 1 of Goliath (Amazon), Billy Bob Thornton’s turn as a jaded, disillusioned lawyer living in a cheap motel in Santa Monica, finally deciding to do the heroic thing. The show has a great cast, dialogue, music, and cinematography. Season 2 was good for a couple of episodes, but after that I watched with one eye and read a book.
Other favorites recently streamed on Netflix: • Very Secret Service • River • Secret City • Borderliner • Collateral • Babylon Berlin (cameo by Bryan Ferry!) • Evil Genius • Case
Elsewhere, we enjoyed the Angels Flight metaphors in the latest Bosch series (Amazon), and we just started Sharp Objects (HBO), and all I can say at this point is Amy Adams’ character drinks way too much and Patricia Clarkson, as her mom, is a Southern Gothic hoot.
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