🇸🇪 BLUE EYES 🇸🇪
(By Gina Meardon)
Blue Eyes (Blå ögon) is a Swedish drama-mystery-thriller on All4 Walter Presents UK; MHz Choice USA. 10 x 59-minute episodes. Rated 15, subtitles.
“A Swedish political drama set in the run-up to a general election. As the election approaches a series of shocking events disrupt the nation. Suspected terror attacks include the ruthless murder of an extreme right-wing party’s local representative, and the Justice Department’s chief of staff mysteriously disappears”.
Louise Peterhof as Elin Hammar
Sven Nordin as Gunnar Elvestad
Karin Franz Körlof as Sofia Nilsson
David Lindström as Simon Nilsson
Adam Lundgren as Mattias Cedergren
Erik Johansson as Gustav Åkerlund
Kjell Wilhelmsen as Olle Nordlöf
Daniel Larsson as Ludwig Biehlers
Anna Bjelkerud as Annika Nilsson
Niklas Hjulström as Statsminister
Malgorzata Pieczynska as Janina Hansson
Cecilia Frode as Rebecka Lundström
Marie Richardson as Veronika Strömstedt
Christoffer Nordenrot as Niklas
Kalled Mustonen as Andreas
Evin Ahmad as Jasmine
Sofia Ledarp as Pia Grandin Kimayo
Directors: Fredrik Edfeldt, Henrik Georgsson, Emiliano Gösarna
Creators/Writers: Robert Aschberg, Alex Haridi, Jörgen Hjerdt, Björn Paqualin, Zoula Pitsiava, Antonia Pyk, Petra Revenue, Mia Sohlman, Fredrik Morheden, Veronica Zacco (writer 1 episode)
Alex Haridi, co-creator of Blue Eyes, is also the head writer for Love & Anarchy and writer for Quicksand and The Lawyer.
The inspiration for Blue Eyes came from unexpected election gains made by the far-right Swedish Democrats as well as from series such as The Wire and Homeland.
The series was a ratings success in Sweden, attracting over 1 million viewers per episode (in a country with only 10 million people).
Critics complained that the fictional Security Party was too similar to the Swedish Democrats, leading to complaints to the broadcasting regulator.
Veritas – Definition “Truth is mighty and will prevail”.
Watch out for Evin Ahmad (Snabba Cash, The Rain, The Restaurant) in the opening episodes in an early TV role.
This was my second attempt at watching Blue Eyes. I tried early last year and I don’t think I got beyond the second episode, looking back I don’t know why. Whether it was because it was too soon after watching Before We Die and several actors from that show appear in Blue Eyes, or the subject matter, I’m not sure. But being a fan of both Adam Lundgren and Erik Johansson I decided this series deserved another try, and I am so glad I did.
Essentially this is a story about far-right politics and extremism in Sweden. It is a series with three separate story threads that are woven together over 10 episodes. First, the populist far-right party, the Security Party, who have a real chance for the first time in the National elections. It is the murder of one of their candidates that is the trigger for the main story.
Then you have the ruling party and the Ministry of Justice with Elin Hammar (Louise Peterhof) recalled to her job as the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff when her successor inexplicably disappears without a trace. Her enquiries as to her whereabouts are met with silence, stonewalling and deflection, but seeing as how the ‘fate’ of her predecessor Sarah Farzin appears to be shown to us, the viewer, in the opening moments of episode 1, we know that something very untoward has happened.
The third, and I have to say the singularly most interesting (and disturbing) thread is Veritas. You could say the Security Party play with, or ‘tip the toe in the water’ with far-right ideals whilst Veritas acts and acts viciously. It is a neo-fascist extremist organisation headed by ‘mild-mannered’ history teacher Gustav Åkerlund (Erik Johansson), who away from the ‘day job’ is consumed with hatred – for Jews or anyone of colour or ethnicity or sexuality which deviates from and does not match the Scandinavian “ideal” of blond hair and blue eyes.
Åkerlund’s fanaticism is matched, if not exceeded by, Mattias Cedergren, chillingly played by Adam Lundgren whose handsome looks and piercing blue eyes can charm, manipulate and radicalise anyone, especially vulnerable women. He is utterly ruthless, without conscience, empathy or mercy and enjoys the fear and suffering he inflicts, even upon children.
The goal of this organisation is to ignite fear in the population with random murders to ‘take out the trash of society’ (my words) starting with a newly-released paedophile. As their methods and punishments escalate so their activities catch the eye of young, single mother, Sofia, whose mother has been recently murdered after speaking at a political rally for the Security Party. Left with a baby and a teenage brother to care for (Simon – the failing voice of reason), she resorts to searching online for answers to her mother’s (unsolved) death and finds it in a chatroom with Mattias who immediately sees ‘potential’.
One strong message from this series is to never assume that extremism is the exclusive domain of Islamic terrorists. Home-grown populism is a very real and present threat, and the assumption that Sofia’s mother Annika was murdered by immigrants is a costly mistake that has far-reaching consequences.
As I said at the beginning of the review, there are 3 separate stories to this series. The political thread takes up the most airtime, and whilst at times it is tense, it is also frustratingly slow, confusing and in my view, distracts from the Veritas thread, which did provide tension and left me on the edge of my seat at times. So, if the series has any weakness, I would say it probably lies in the story involving the Ministry of Justice, politics, the Sarah Farzin mystery, and corruption. It is, in my view, too complex and long-winded and at times, a frustrating deflection.
There are only so many times Louise Peterhof’s Elin can look perplexed, something she pretty much managed to do for the entire series! To inject more pace into this particular storyline it probably would have been plausible to have shortened the drama to 8 episodes and not lost anything of worth.
Another observation is one of continuity and credibility. Characters who feature prominently in the extended family dynamic of Sofia and Simon in the early episodes just disappear from the storyline. Yet they would, and should, have been around to ask questions of the siblings by the end.
And it is the end that is probably the most disturbing feature of all. Without giving away spoilers, were the writers expecting a second season or was this only ever meant to be a one-season show? I did not expect an ending neatly wrapped and tied with a pretty bow, however, politics and Sweden’s judicial system combine to create an ending that left me feeling unsatisfied. It would have been interesting for a Season 2 to have moved the story forward to a final conclusion.
Phenomenally good acting from Adam Lundgren, nominated for a Kristallen Award for Best Actor for this in 2015, and Erik Johansson, in roles so different from anything I had ever seen either in before. They both totally owned their characters and were utterly terrifying!
Although Louise Peterhof was the lead actress it is, in my mind, Karin Franz Körlof (Sofia) who takes the female acting credits. She was frighteningly good! Frightening, because essentially she shared the same bigotry, fears and ideals of both her mother and Mattias (before he had even recruited her), and whilst she did appear to want to protect her child and brother, she put them into a highly dangerous situation. Ultimately the things she did whilst with Veritas did not seem to affect her in the same way they affected her younger brother, Simon. Simon who had never shared the same views as his mother and Sofia, and whose own moral compass ultimately saved him, his nephew and another child.
Can I recommend this series? Absolutely. It is different, it is extremely well-acted and you honestly do not know what to expect or how far anyone is prepared to go. It does make you realise though how easy it is for the vulnerable to be radicalised.
Kristallen Award Best Television Drama 2015
Kristallen Award Best Actor 2015 – Adam Lundgren
Blue Eyes Official Trailer: