Modus, a Swedish creep of a crime drama now available on SBS On Demand, follows both the investigators and the killer, and its first episode sneaks up on you without warning. By the closing credits you’ll be breaking down doors to know what happens next.
It doesn’t scream, "Look I’m a show about a serial killer!"
Serialised modern mystery dramas that follow a murder investigation are usually set in the perfect place for a serialised modern mystery drama that follows a murder investigation. The bleak beaches of Broadchurch and Bloodline, the eerie forests of Forbedylson, the stark landscapes of True Detective and the dank, wet dangerous streets of Seattle in The Killing. All of these shows prepare you for the worst from the opening frame.
Modus doesn’t scream eerie from the outset. Audiences are placed within a modern locale not unlike an Aussie metropolis (apart from the snow, of course). The setting and mood isn’t intentionally foreboding, and feels part of the everyday – easing us in like any other non-disturbing drama.
Not your typical protagonist
Inger Johanne Vik is a mother-of-two and the author of a book on female psychology. She sees the world with rational, theoretical and sometimes philosophical eyes – and is always the smartest person in the room. She also happens to be one of the FBI’s most renowned former criminal psychologists/profilers, which you can probably guess, is no superfluous backstory.
Not your typical sidekick
Of course, Inger has her fair share of adult humans who are begging for her input into a string of gruesome murders of women, but if she decided to join the investigation, there’s only one person who could offer the help she needs – her autistic teenage daughter, Stina.
Stina is believed to have witnessed one of the murders and clocked the killer’s face. Unfortunately, it seems as if the killer noticed the young girl and clocked her face. Coupled with the fact that the girl talks mostly in cryptic phrases, her input is as problematic as it is vital.
Not your typical serial killer
Like The Fall, Modus lets us spend time with both the good and bad guys – which means that the audience often knows more than the characters. When this works, it works, as we’re constantly filled with a sense of dread, wishing our heroes knew what we know.
And what we do know is that this killer is not working alone. The only spoiler I’ll give away, as it’s in the opening scene, is that the killer’s actions are dictated by a box of mobile phones. Each one ending up an "order" or "instruction" of who to target next.
Whether he’s at the top of the evil pyramid or merely somewhere down the slope of power, is anyone’s guess.
There’s also a considerable religious aspect, with Inger, her daughters and the killer frequenting the same church
Don’t worry, it will all make sense eventually.
Watch Modus on SBS On Demand. Start with the first episode right here: