Borderliner: Netflix ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of scenes from the Netflix show Borderliner. Central image is the theatrical poster for the show

🇳🇴 BORDERLINER 🇳🇴

BORDERLINER aka Grenseland (2017-) is a Norwegian crime-drama, thriller. Netflix. 8 x 43-45 min. 15 Cert U.K. Available with English subtitles. Languages spoken are Norwegian, Swedish and English. 

Premise:  

“To protect his family, police detective Nikolai covers up a murder case. But when his co-investigator Anniken suspects foul play, he is trapped in a dangerous game on duty, blurring the line between right and wrong.” IMDb

Cast: 

Tobias Santelmann as Nikolai 

Ellen Dorrit Petersen as Anniken 

Benjamin Helstad as Lars 

Eivind Sander as Josef 

Bjørn Skagestad as Hans Olav 

Thelma Farnes Ottersen as Milla

Todd Bishop Monrad Vistven as Erik

Frode Winther as Bengt 

Morten Svartveit as Kristoffer

Theatrical poster for the show Borderliner

Crew: 

Director: Bård Fjulsrud, Gunnar Vikene & Rune Denstad Langlo 

Creator: Megan Gallagher

Writers: Megan Gallagher, Björn Ekeberg & Melike Leblebicioglu

Cinematographers: John-Erling H. Fredriksen, Håvar Karslen, Jakob Ingason 

Music: Stein Johan Grieg Halvorsen & Eyvind Andreas Skeie

Editors: Silje Nordseth, Morten Rørvig, Perry Eriksen & Martin Stoltz

Theatrical poster for the show Borderliner

Notes: 

Borderliner is a joint production between Sky Deutschland and Monster Scripted, TV2 and Nice Drama. 

The show was filmed in and around Holden in southeast Norway which is now in Viken county which borders Sweden. 

Theatrical poster for the show Borderliner in Norwegian (Grenseland)

Review: 

The Norwegian title of Grenseland (Borderland) works well on several levels and is, I feel, a better title than Borderliner. Firstly, the geographical area in which the majority of the action is set is on the border with Sweden and this is an important feature of the plot. Secondly, there are all sorts of borders crossed as this story plays out: moral, ethical, social… 

Scene from Borderliner with Tobias Santelmann as Nikolai.

The main character, Nikolai, is established at the very start as a good cop who is willing to give evidence against a colleague for their involvement in the death of a young woman. This is somewhat complicated by his being in a relationship with the woman’s brother, who is also a lawyer. It was good to see a story with a gay lead character where this is not the driving factor of the story and that seems realistic (if “it’s complicated). 

Tobias Santelmann (left) as Nikolai and Benjamin Helstad (right) as Lars in Borderliner

Families eh! Revolving around Nikolai is his widowed single-parent brother Lars and his two children, and his father, Hans Olav. Everyone seems to have an issue of some sort whether it be alcohol, drugs, being saddled with debt or unresolved grief. 

Bjørn Skagestad as Hans Olaf in a scene from Borderliner

One of the main complications in the story is that neither the main character nor the viewers are ever really sure whether there is corruption or an undercover operation. The lines are blurred and we struggle to work out who the “good” guys and the “bad” guys are, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. There is a whole web of lies, deceit, greed and corruption that entraps very many “flies”. 

Frode Winter as Bengt in a scene from Borderliner

They say that people never change but this storyline shows that given the right (or the wrong) circumstances people do. And that people who want to change, and do their best to do so, often fail miserably because of things beyond their control. In some ways, Borderliner reminded me of Fargo where one poor initial decision snowballs until, despite best efforts, everything runs downhill out of control destroying people en route. 

Ellen Dorrit Pedersen as Anniken (left) with Tobias Santelmann as Nikolai (right) in a scene from Borderliner

One of the most interesting aspects of Borderliner is that once family, or those very close to you, are involved you really cannot see the wood from the trees. And I think that is, perhaps, the reason Anniken does not suspect Nikolai more (I will say that this aspect did not really convince me). I almost wish that we knew near the start what had happened in full and then seen how enmeshed Nikolai becomes in it all.

Gosh, there is a lot of sloppy forensic work in this show although they seem to get there in the end. 

I found Borderliner an interesting watch although the pacing is a bit hit and miss. The central performances by Tobias Santelmann and the supporting cast, especially Benjamin Helstad as Lars, are compelling. The cinematography is impressive and atmospheric with some truly beautiful overhead shots, close-ups and locations (even though this area of Norway is not renowned for its scenery). The flashbacks are well done albeit frustrating at times. 

My main issue with Borderliner, despite enjoying most of it, is that the final episode. The denouement seems very rushed and finally is a bit of a damp squib. Had there been a season 2 then I would have hoped that aspects could have been explored and expanded upon, as it is, with not a sniff of a second series, I would warn viewers that the conclusion is unsatisfying. 

Awards:

Win: 

Gulruten (2018) Best Director ~ Gunnar Vikene 

Nominations: 

Gulruten (2018) Fagprisen, Best Editing TV Drama ~ Morten Røvig & Monster Scripted AS 

Golden Screen, Norway (2018) Best Actor, Tobias Santelmann 

Trailer: 

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