Outlier (2020) is a Norwegian crime drama/thriller miniseries available on All4 Walter Presents U.K.; Acorn USA & Can; SBS On Demand Aus. 8 x 42-45 mins. In Norwegian and Saami with English subtitles. Guidance re: content.
“A young girl is found killed at a camping resort and criminal psychologist Maja Angell believes that the police have arrested the wrong man. She’s not able to convince the police of that. Can she find the murderer before he strikes again?” IMDb
Hanne Mathisen Haga as Maja Angell
Erik Smith-Meyer as Anders Angell
Stein Bjørn as Johan
Jonas Delerud as Erik
Kim-Runar Klodiussen as Dan Robin
Eila Ballovara Varsi as Elle
Marius Lien as Trond
Guri Johnson as Katherine Angell
Benjamin Noble as Edward
Jørn Bjørn Fuller Gee as Eivind
Writers: Kristine Berg, Arne Berggren
Directors: Kristine Berg, Arne Berggren, Ken Are Bongo
Composer: Raymond Enoksen
Cinematographers: Hans Jacob Brun Frost, Benjamin Mosli, Sondre Sandbakken, Ken Are Bongo
Editors: Magnus Berggren, Hans Jacob Brun Frost
Costume: Nina Erdahl
Writers Kristine Berg and Arne Berggren also created and wrote The River.
This was mostly filmed above the Arctic Circle mainly in Målselv and Kautokeino in the Norwegian part of Sápmi.
Outlier is the first offering from Walter Presents U.K. for 2020 and despite its rather poor IMDb rating (5.9/10 at time of posting) and no award nominations or wins, it appealed due to its premise and the fact that it has Saami being spoken, a relatively rare feature. What did I make of this Norwegian series?
To give this review a degree of balance I will first delve into those aspects of the show that I liked, aside from performances themselves. The locations and landscapes are stunning. The cinematography is good with a mixture of camerawork from drone aerials to some shaky-cam. I did like the music score which generally set the tone and helped increase tension to a degree (the series needed this).
If a TV drama show was only about the visuals and music this would not come out too badly, unfortunately, it needs more than that. If I just want beautiful northern Norwegian settings then I can watch a documentary, a scripted drama needs substantially more. More tension, more drama, deeper characters, pacing all creating a desire (a NEED) to know what happens next. Essentially there is a coldness, lack of passion and emotional impact for much of this series.
I do not mind a slow burn, in fact, I rather enjoy slow-burn series and films. However, a fundamental aspect is that the slow approach should bring those aspects I just mentioned, above all tension and depth. The final thing about a slow burn (even one that builds in pace towards the end) is that the payoff has to be worth it. In this respect Outlier, for me, failed. Parts – too many parts – were like wading through wet sand (or deep snow).
The long stares with no dialogue in Outlier – and I do get that this is a Norwegian “thing” (and Finnish, and Swedish!) as I watch a lot of Nordic shows, but… it is the lack of dramatic tension within those stares and silences that are a major issue.
Introducing a protagonist who is giving a lecture where it seems as if they were told. To. Slow. Down. When. Doing. A. Presentation. Is not great. I fully appreciate that the character is not speaking in their mother tongue but this was just so clunky. The unnatural pacing then continues when we are introduced to her boyfriend and they have a stilted conversation with zero chemistry. I suspect that playing off someone speaking at an unnatural pace (one which weirdly was rectified in later episodes when if anything swapping from Norwegian to English would be more, not less, demanding) is not ideal.
I found the lead character written with so little charm, humour and apparently little empathy either, very hard to warm to. The dialogue is so aggressive a lot of the time that I was often willing people to just not talk to her. Once we (finally) get to know of her hidden backstory it is hard to empathise with her. The decision she makes to turn away Elle whilst wallowing in self-pity and aiming for the bottom of a wine box totally undermines her final argument with the “old” police chief. Was the point of this to make us question that it is, in fact, not just men who ignore what women? Honestly, I have not got a clue! I was left baffled by the writing decision to even do this (aside from solving a storyline requirement to get a character in a certain place…)
I’m going to pick out a couple of performances for praise in this though. Firstly, I thought the young Saami actress, Eila Ballovara Varsi, playing Elle was very good, especially swapping too and fro from Saami to Norwegian. Secondly, Jonas Delerud who was really good as Erik, an interesting character even though we know not much more about him by the end of the show than we did at the start.
It is actually quite hard to assess most of the other performances and I think that ultimately this all comes down to the writing. I do think that the English boyfriend role was written poorly and that did not help what was an unconvincing performance. The majority of other characters are written as cyphers or stereotypes.
This is a slow burn show with 8 episodes in which characters can be given depth but sadly this just did not happen here. Instead, we had sections where the pace drops right off and the story does not really progress but this “space” is not used to go deeper. Rather what we get is dialogue that is over explanatory (the audience is not that stupid) or repetitious. There are also plot holes and what I found extremely frustrating is that we learned so little about the perpetrator outside of the cliches found in a myriad of similar shows.
For me, Outlier had an initial premise that had great promise: to take the “outsider” of the herd, one which has been directly affected and to explore that, however ultimately I was left very disappointed by this series. I had hoped that the Saami/Indigenous specific aspects (especially the vulnerability) would have been given even greater focus. It did pick up a few episodes in and I was hoping that it would continue to do that… but… Looking past the beautiful landscapes and woolly sweaters we have a drama/thriller that is just not very dramatic or thrilling and a slow burn where the ultimate payoff (almost a “What payoff?”) is just not worth it.
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