Today marks the arrival of the Scandinavian noir mystery series “Jordskott” on Shudder. At first glance, it’s a simple story about children being kidnapped and a town’s inability to locate them. However, as the episodes progress and as the plot thickens, supernatural elements and folklore tales begin bubbling up to the surface in haunting, poetic, beautiful, and terrifying ways.
I got the chance to watch the first three episodes of “Jordskott” about a week ago and I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I saw. To put it shortly, I’m 100% hooked. It’s the kind of series that draws you in with wonderfully real characters, absolutely gorgeous cinematography, and enough mysterious occurrences to keep the viewer engaged.
Police negotiator Eva, played by Moa Gammel, returns to Silverhojd after the passing of her father so that she can deal with his will and tend to his estate. Alas, the misplacement of the will means that she has to stick around longer than she wanted, forced to suffer endless condolences that clearly begin grating on her nerves. The truth is, Eva and her father clearly didn’t have a good relationship and being back in Silverhojd, where she not only has to deal with memories of him but also of the disappearance of her daughter, Josefine, is hard on her. But when another boy disappears without a trace, Eva sees too many similarities to her daughter’s case for it to be a coincidence. And so she joins police officers Goran Wäss (Göran Ragnerstam) and Tom Aronsson (Richard Forsgren) to offer her assistance.
Meanwhile, the rest of the town has their own set of interesting characters that all seemingly have ties to one another, much like in “Twin Peaks” (the similarities cannot be denied). There’s Gerda Gunnerson (Lia Boysen), the secretary at the timber processing facility that was owned by Eva’s father and is now being run by Gustaf Borén (Peter Andersson). Gerda is apparently responsible for Eva’s parents getting divorced several years prior, creating an air of tension and near hostility between the two. Then there’s Gerda’s son Nicklas (Henrik Knutsson), who is a mentally retarded young man that is both sweet-natured but can become quite heated, which makes his large appearance all the more intimidating. We’re also introduced to Olof Gran (Hans Mosesson), a man who worked on the case of Josefine’s disappearance and has his own theories that have essentially ostracized him from the police. Also present in Silverhojd is Ylva (Vanja Blomkvist) a vagrant who clearly knows more than she’s letting on.
There are obviously more characters throughout the series, each one given depth and attention to make sure they feel real and rounded, and they all have a certain charm about them that makes watching their actions a delight. And as the episodes progress, we being to realize that our first impressions cannot be trusted and there is clearly more going on with each character than we are led to believe. Every twist adds another thread to the web of intrigue that is being spun and it’s exciting to be witness to it all.
In the first three episodes, we experience Eva thinking she’s found Josefine after seven years, except the identity of this mysterious girl cannot be figured out. There’s also a great deal of intrigue and tension amongst the board members of Thörnblad Cellulosa, the company that Eva’s father owned before his passing. We also witness a dangerous and secretive man stalks the streets and surrounding areas of Silverhojd. Meanwhile, is Goran Wäss a friend…or foe?
These are but a few of the storylines that appear in the first three episodes of “Jordskott”, each one tackled without holding the hand of the viewer. In the beginning, it’s obvious that the goal is to plant the seed of these arcs. The explanation will come later, leaving us all the time we need to speculate endlessly.
What sets “Jordskott” apart from shows like “The X-Files” or other supernatural mystery series is that Scandinavian folklore is not something many people outside of the region (or even potentially in it) know all that much about. Unless you have a burning passion for such tales, the supernatural elements present in “Jordskott” feel fresh and new, making them far more fascinating than if it were about vampires, werewolves, or something else that’s universally understood and recognized. I was rapt with attention because I had no idea what was happening and that was such a delight. Not only was I watching a fantastically crafted series, I was watching something that challenged and subverted my expectations. I came into the series with little to no knowledge of what I would be seeing and that gave the mystery all the more power to enchant me with.
I’m used to seeing ghosts. I know how to slay vampires. At this point, I’m pretty sure I could help assist in an exorcism. But when it comes to regional folklore, I feel helpless. For that reason alone, “Jordskott” earned my love.
As mentioned before, the show is stunningly beautiful. The location makes wonderful use of the thick, verdant forests that are coated in moss and lichen. They fly over beautiful creeks, rivers, and lakes and take us into twisting caves and tunnels that seemingly appear out of nowhere. I felt like we, the viewer, become an inhabitant of Silverhojd, a town that feels small yet constantly provides something new and unexpected. It is both welcoming and hiding a secret at the same time, keeping you within arm’s reach yet incredibly hesitant to hold you close.
For those going into “Jordskott” expecting it to be fast-paced and snappy, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. While there are certainly momentous events occurring in every episode, they’re presented almost poetically, electing to choose impact over immediacy. Plus, every side story that is brought up ends up becoming a thread in the tapestry that is the full mystery. Even events that are seemingly inconsequential come back and reveal themselves to be of such importance that we, the viewer, learn not to discount or leave anything to the side.
“Jordskott” is the kind of mystery show that I wish were made more often. Once it begins, it’s impossible to turn it off. Now all I have to do is wait – rather impatiently, I might add – for the full season to be added to Shudder.