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Bizarre to brilliant, these European crime dramas on Netflix will keep you hooked

If dark settings and gruesome murders are your thing, plan your weekend binges with these eight shows on Netflix

Chandreyee Chatterjee | Published 22.02.22, 02:01 PM
Trapped

Trapped

Netflix

If dark and gritty makes you tick, if gruesome and claustrophobic is your jam, if you are as on board with the bizarre as you are with the brilliant, then Netflix has an exhaustive list of European crime thrillers/dramas that will tick all your boxes, sometimes all in one show. A fair warning for all those who like a little eye candy with your crime (no need to lie, we’ve all appreciated Joel Kinnaman in The Killing, David Tennant in Broadchurch and Gillian Anderson in The Fall) that’s not gonna happen. The men are often plain and the women often statuesque (I am a woman, hence envious, hence it falls in the negative category, and no, Gillian Anderson is eye-candy for anyone) but it doesn’t matter when you are watching the white bar fill up for the next episode despite the clock saying it’s two in the morning.

Here’s a list of some European shows that you can binge on weekends. It is advisable to watch them in the original language with subtitles because the English dubbing can sometimes be very wooden and disconcerting.

Trapped (Icelandic)

Trapped

Trapped

Netflix

If slow-burn is your thing, prepare to be trapped in a 10-episode binge, because there is no way you are going to be able to stop at one, or two, and definitely not at three. The first season of the show is set in a small, bleak town in a fjord in Iceland. Nothing ever happens there… till the torso of a man is pulled out of the sea by fishermen. And when I say torso, I mean a body without limbs and a head. Yes, that. 

And the show’s grumpy protagonist, police chief Andri Olafsson, is not happy about it. Especially after a snowstorm cuts the town off from the rest of the country and, therefore, help from the police in Reykjavik. Then the power goes out and the townspeople, and the audience, become trapped in the dark with a killer on the loose. 

The show is visually stunning, extremely intense, very claustrophobic and absolutely brilliant. If you are worried that the second season of the show can’t live up to the first, you needn’t be. The third season has already aired but is yet to release in India.

The Chestnut Man (Danish)

The Chestnut Man

The Chestnut Man

Netflix

Based on the book of the same name by Soren Sveistrup, the show follows two detectives, Naia Thulin and Mark Hess, who investigate a string of grisly murders with victims missing certain body parts. What connects each murder is a figurine made of chestnuts found on the scene. What makes it even more complicated is the fingerprint found on one of the chestnuts – that of the daughter of a politician who has been missing and presumed dead.

Gripping and grisly and seriously twisted, the six-episode season will keep you hooked, even when you are frustrated by what’s unfolding on screen.

Bordertown (Finnish)

Bordertown

Bordertown

Netflix

Small town setting? Check. Gifted but flawed detective? Check. Gruesome crimes set amidst beautiful scenery? Check. This three-season show has all the elements of a good police procedural, where plots are developed and wrapped up over two or three-episode arcs. The best part is the show is not just about the crimes but also pays attention in developing the central and other key characters. In each season, the characters introduced in the first crime becomes a part of the rest of the season keeping the audience invested in their stories. 

At the heart of the show is gifted detective Kari Sorjonen, a high-functioning autist, much like Sherlock in the hit BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, who has odd methods of solving cases. A celebrated cop, Sorjonen moves to the small town of Lappeenranta near the Finnish-Russian border to spend more time with his family. But….

The Valhalla Murders (Icelandic)

The Valhalla Murders

The Valhalla Murders

Netflix

Based on a true story about a state-run institution in Iceland for young boys who were beaten and abused by the staff in the 1940s, the show adds drama to it by adding a series of murders. The murders are being investigated by Reykjavik-based detective Kata, who, as the bodies start piling up, is assisted by Arnar, an Icelandic expat from Oslo. The only thing connecting the three murders is a photograph. 

Beautifully shot with majestic views of Iceland, the eight-episode show is chilling, both in its scenery and in its content. Despite the drawn-out pacing, the show stands out for the attention paid to each character. If you like a slow burn, then this is going to be right up your alley. If not, stick with it because the ending is quite satisfying.

Black Spot (French)

Black Spot

Black Spot

Netflix

If you are a fan of German sci-fi thriller Dark, then this is a good choice for you. If you are a fan of Twin Peaks, then also this is a good choice for you. The French-Belgian series, which has two seasons, is set in a small town called Villefranche, possibly the most miserable place on the planet, surrounded by gorgeous and somewhat supernatural forests. It is a town where cellphones don’t work and even the microwave can be a bit dicey. 

The protagonist is the captain of the small police force, Laurene Weiss. She is tough, fearless and has a past that led to two missing fingers (sawed off herself to escape shackles) but no memory of who had held her captive or why. Also central is the new DA Franck Siriani, who comes visiting to find out why the body count in the grim little town is so high. 

The show deftly weaves police procedural with a lot of folklore, a side of supernatural and a dash of sardonic humour. There is no glamour, no gleam but as the “birds go crazy and the trees start bleeding” I dare you to not click on the ‘watch next episode’ button after the first episode is over.

Perfume (German)

Perfume

Perfume

Netflix

Based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Suskind and the 2006 film adaptation called Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Tom Tykwer, the show is set in the modern-day Lower Rhine region where a woman is found murdered, her hair shaved and her armpits and vaginal areas mutilated and scent glands removed. Assigned to the case are investigators Nadja Simon and Matthias Kohler and prosecutor Grunberg who discover an old missing person’s case of a young boy from the time that the victim and a close circle of her friends were in boarding school. 

The show is lavishly shot and it seduces as much as it disgusts. It is sexy too, sometimes a little too much, and often with a pervy, dark side. Meticulously made, the show keeps you hooked and dazed enough to ignore plot loopholes and the very meandering storytelling that often forgets the main case and lingers instead on the deeply disturbing characters of the circle of friends.

Deadwind (Finnish)

Deadwind

Deadwind

Netflix

Yet another crime drama from Finland that is a perfect watch for fans of The Killing. What can I say, the Scandinavians know their crime dramas. Just like in The Killing, Deadwind has as its protagonist a strong female character, Sophia Karppi, a detective who is back at work for the first time since the death of her husband. Her first case happens to be the murder of Anna Bergdahl, whose body is found buried with flowers in her hand. Sophia has as her partner a transferee, Sakari Numi, and she is not happy about it. Visibly grieving for her husband, Sophia obsesses about her cases to the neglect of her children.

While it might be the usual plotline, the show has enough subplots and twists to keep the audience hooked and happy. And the second season delivers much of the same.

Fallet (Swedish)

Fallet

Fallet

Netflix

It starts with a man standing in a graveyard at night in pouring rain. It is as dramatic as you can expect from a Nordic Noir, but as the scene progresses and the man talks in over-the-top cliches you are quickly clued into the fact this is not like any of the shows above. A spoof of the Nordic Noir genre which has taken the world by storm, this is a show you didn’t think you needed. But you do. It is zany, hilarious and satirical with two of the world’s worst detectives – Stockholm homicide detective Sophie Borg and British chief inspector Tom Brown – assigned to a murder case of an Englishman in the small town of Norrbacka in Sweden. They are so bad at their jobs that they are almost fired before they are assigned to this case as a last chance to prove themselves. While there is a grisly murder at its heart, these detectives are often bumbling their way around situations and making them worse. What makes the show even more watchable are the side characters by way of the team who help on the case as they bicker and badger over almost everything.

 

If you, like me, are happy to have dinner while detectives on screen examine a dead body, then there is no dearth of options on Netflix. Start watching a couple and Netflix will give you a plethora of shows to choose from. Erm, happy watching.

Last updated on 22.02.22, 02:05 PM
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