There’s Nordic Noir, and then there’s Wisting.
Based on the best-selling crime novels by Jørn Lier Horst, the first season of Wisting was Norway’s biggest – and most expensive – drama series ever. Starring Sven Nordin as detective William Wisting, across eight episodes he tackled a serial killer, worked with an FBI agent (played by Carrie-Anne Moss), had his dark past dragged up on national television, and struggled with his crusading journalist daughter Line (Thea Green Lundberg) being threatened more than once by the killers he was tracking down.
With solid characterisation, plenty of twists and turns, a sharp eye for detail – Horst is a former detective himself, so he knows what he’s writing about – and plenty of extremely cinematic snowy scenery, it’s hardly surprising Wisting was a massive hit around the world.
Wisting himself was a big part of that: a dogged investigator and committed father, Nordin gave him a subtle warmth mixed with a steely square-jawed gravity that made him exactly the kind of cop you’d want on your side. But despite the acclaim and success of season 1, it’s been almost three years with no follow-up. What’s the hold up?
Like season 1, season 2 was originally set to be two four-episode stories, each based on one of Horst’s Wisting novels. But with filming interrupted by covid – it’s hard to film across Europe with borders closed – season 2 has been split in two, with part 2 (featuring the return of Moss’s FBI agent) held back until later in the year. (Audiences will have to wait a little longer for the adaptation of Horst’s The Night Man: that particular novel opens with a young girl’s head placed on a spike in a town’s city square, and the body count only rises from there.)
Based on The Inner Darkness, the four episodes that make up season 2 part 1 begin with an investigation into the past crimes of convicted rapist and serial killer Tom Kerr (Odin Waage). He’s already been convicted of a string of grisly murders, but the police suspect they’ve only scratched the surface. Kerr says he’s willing to help by revealing the location of his final victim, deep in the woods outside Larvik; the police – including Wisting – accept him at his word. Which proves to be a serious mistake when, during their crime scene reconstruction, a grenade goes off, allowing Kerr to escape and killing one of Wisting’s fellow officers. That’s right: this time, it’s personal.
It’s also a personal case for Line, who’s working on a documentary examining serial killers (and pestering her father for information). It’s her investigations that, in part, encouraged the police to look closer at Kerr, and if they hadn’t been looking closer he wouldn’t have escaped. Her knowledge about him could prove a vital asset to Wisting’s investigation; it could also make her a target, especially as she isn’t letting her father in on everything she knows.
With access to grenades being somewhat difficult inside prison, logically Kerr must have had an accomplice on the outside – someone who is swiftly, and somewhat creepily, named The Other. Worse, the police, and specifically special investigator Adrian Stiller (Kyrre Hellum), suspect The Other took on the role of a copycat killer after Kerr was caught, continuing his bloody work for years afterwards.
Having two killers on the loose only complicates the increasingly desperate manhunt. The more Wisting and his team – including newcomer Veronica (Evelyn Rasmussen Osazuwa) and the reliably shabby Nils (Mads Ousdal) – uncover about Kerr and The Other, the more they realise just how much they’ve underestimated the depths of the duo’s evil. That only makes it all the more important they find the pair fast, before Kerr and his deadly sidekick kill again.
Wisting is notorious for being more action-packed than the traditional Nordic Noir, and season 2 is no exception. There’s still plenty of stunning scenery to take in, and the mix of thoughtful psychological profiling and methodical police work from both Wisting and his team mean this is never going to be confused with a Hollywood run-and-gun thriller.
But season 2 is also all about a breathless manhunt for an escaped serial killer and his murderous partner; Wisting might take the time to show his softer side and express some genuine grief over a fallen comrade, but then he’s right back into the hunt. And audiences around the world wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wisting season 2 part 1 is now streaming at SBS On Demand. (Season 1 is also available for catch-up.)
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