It’s a cliché that all Nordic Noir is the same kind of bleak look at crime in a cold climate. In reality, its a genre that spans a wide range of moods, from cosy crime to darkly funny to lightweight procedurals. But within that wide range there are still series that focus on the dark side of crime – and Darkness: Those Who Kill is the leader of that sinister pack.
The original Those Who Kill series back in 2011 never quite took off, so the serial-killer crime franchise was rebooted as Darkness: Those Who Kill in 2019. A second series soon followed - clearly the extra dose of darkness was just what it needed – but this time around there’s been a few changes made.
Remember Jan from last season? Forget him; this season the focus is fully – at least early on – on his former partner, Denmark’s top profiler Louise Bergstein (Natalie Madueño). Her backstory in season one had her being so good at getting inside the minds of serial killers (never a good thing) she was head-hunted by UK police. The twist was, she’d then given up her police career and returned to Denmark to work at a women’s shelter as a counsellor for victims of violence and rape.
That season developed into a race against time. Louise found herself drawn back into her old line of work while the police realised there was more than one killer at large and that the killers’ most recent kidnap victim might still be alive. This season builds on that ticking clock idea - though not in the way you might expect, considering the series begins with Louise returning to her rural home town of Funen to check in with an old family friend.
But Alice (Solbjørg Højfeldt) has a favour to ask: she wants Louise to look into the unsolved murder of her teenage son, who was killed five years earlier. A single murder isn’t really Louise’s area of expertise, but it turns out there’s been (at least) two similar murders since then, with the local police making little progress in the case.
Alice has terminal cancer and she wants to live to see her son’s killer brought to justice, which doesn’t leave Louise with time to mess around. A quick check in with the local police (who initially aren’t thrilled to have an outsider snooping around, no matter what her credentials) soon has her spotting a few angles they missed and – in something of a relief considering the long tradition of grumpy cops ignoring any clues they didn’t find themselves – she’s asked to join the investigation by local chief Karina Hørup (Helle Fagralid).
Darkness: Those Who Kill has always been as much about the killers as the cops (there were times last season the bad guys threatened to take over the series). So while the crack crime-fighting duo of Karina and Louise are hard at work putting together a new profile of the killer, we already know who they’re looking for: the seemingly quiet and reserved Peter Vinge (Tobias Santelmann), a single father struggling to raise his young son after the collapse of his marriage.
Letting viewers know the identity of the killer up front can be a risky move in this kind of series, especially one built around the expertise of the lead character. If we already know who’s doing the killings, why can’t she figure it out? But Darkness: Those Who Kill uses that early gap between what we know and what Louise knows to explore Peter’s character, keeping Louise and Karina at a distance while we get to know what is driving him to kill.
Season one was focused on a couple who were straightforwardly evil; here (thanks in part to Santelmann’s excellent performance) there’s a bit more to what makes Peter tick. He’s driven by jealousy, an urge to take down those he sees as better than him. Even as Louise starts to nail down exactly what she’s looking for, Peter starts fraying at the edges. His kills are becoming messier, the time between them growing shorter. She already had a deadline with her dying friend’s final request, but now she has another reason to find the killer as quickly as possible.
He might still be able to put up a smooth and charming front, but his urge to kill is getting out of hand. Now every moment he’s free is a moment someone else is in danger – and if Louise can’t bring him in, the body count is only going to rise.
Darkness: Those Who Kill is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Jump straight to season 2 which released on 29 July 2021.
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