Series review: Cold Courage
by Marta Bałaga
- It takes a while to warm up to Agneta Fagerström-Olsson and Kadir Balci’s new series, and not just because of its Nordic roots
Based on Pekka Hiltunen’s first novel in the so-called “Studio” series, the London-centred Cold Courage, directed by Agneta Fagerström-Olsson and Kadir Balci, could easily be mistaken for something produced a good ten years ago, looking and feeling akin to the likes of The Bridge or The Killing when they premiered some time around 2011, although with the acting chemistry not quite reaching those heights. Having premiered exclusively on the Viaplay video streaming service in Finland and Scandinavia at the beginning of May, despite the merry mix of accents, it still remains in the firm clutches of Nordic noir, with all its recognisable gloominess, troubling backstories and a tendency to sacrifice the odd sex worker in order to get the story rolling. It has an added treat in the form of a nationalistic politician (John Simm) promising to “put the ‘great’ back in Great Britain”, which they always seem to be doing these days.
It’s easy to see why the main concept would be appealing for a proper TV treatment, with its central duo of strong women (Pihla Viitala, from Maria’s Paradise [+see also:
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film profile], and Sofia Pekkari) who prefer to keep themselves to themselves yet decide to join forces when faced with mystery and murder, all within the realms of a secret organisation run by Viitala’s Mari – designed to help those who are ignored and usually left out in the cold. “We fix things,” goes the brief description of their day-to-day activities, and none of its other members is any chattier. “I am whoever you want me to be,” says one when introductions are in order after Pekkari’s Lia – a graphic designer with a past that literally just came knocking and asking for help – finally decides to show up. Predictably, she soon finds herself in way over her head, jogging her worries away just like Mireille Enos used to in Seattle. The world might be full of dark secrets, it seems, but one still needs to stay fit.
Despite keeping the visuals to sartorially safe greys and unflattering lighting, as if to underline the show’s supposed grittiness, there is still a bit of a “Euro pudding” feel to the whole thing, with some clunky dialogue going the whole hog with lines like “and I want a blowjob from Marilyn Monroe”. But here’s hoping that some of the series’ more interesting elements will be given a chance to be properly fleshed out as time and the episodes go by: like Mari’s cursed gift of knowing pretty much everything about people just by staring at them for a while, childhood traumas and difficult coming-out stories rising up to the surface as fast as the bubbles in the Prosecco that the unsuspecting are sipping. “I see people’s motives,” she says, and has been doing so since she was a child. This possibly opens up a way for Cold Courage to ultimately establish an identity of its own: one that would allow it to stand out in today’s increasingly flooded VoD market and elevate it beyond similar offerings.
This review was based on the first three episodes.
Cold Courage was produced by Markku Flink and Pauli Pentti for Finland’s Luminoir. It was co-produced by Cormac Fox, of Ireland’s Vico Films, Kjartan Thor Thordarsson, of Iceland’s Sagafilm Nordic, and Peter de Maegdand and Tom Hameeuw, of Belgium’s Potemkino. It is being distributed on the Viaplay streaming service, with Lionsgate handling the distribution outside of the Nordic countries.
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