The Box (2021, Swedish)

1 out of 5

Created by: Adi Hasak

covers season 1

I, too, was very impressed by Anna Friel’s performance in Marcella. Based on how convincing (within the context of the show) was her portrayal of someone completely unnerved by an event in their life, I can definitely understand the appeal of wanting to repeat that casting and concept, to the extent of maintaining the Swedish noir vibe of the whole affair.

…So, that’s enough for a show, right? Just, like, Friel, acting weird, and call it a day?

I’d almost say yes, given that Friel gets to bounce off of actors Alexander Karim and Peter Stormare, the former an absorbing presence and the latter chewing dialogue with gleeful gusto, but such interactions are ultimately a small chink in a 7-episode runtime of the show, which otherwise amounts to Anna’s character, a detective Sharon Pici, having bug-out dreams about a suspect she allowed to die while they were being interviewed in the interrogation room, aka “the box”; such dreams involve Anna seeing red spiders, and fixating on nail polish and a broken clock, and multiple suicide attempts, and waking up over and over again from daymares, all in the hopes of trying to solve that which remained unresolved from that aborted interview. And look – that doesn’t sound all that bad. I even dig a conceptual bit here which has the show never leaving the police station, unsubtly trapping Pici in a box herself. There’s the working of an offbeat mystery there, especially with the show pushing very hard on a reality vs. dreams vibe.

Unfortunately, the promise of that approach never comes to fruition. The procedural aspects fall into that camp where it feels like its been written solely off of watching other cop shows, and with no basis in believable practices whatsoever – find yourself constantly questioning how these cops manage to solve anything, and how Pici’s continually fractured actions still allow for her to hang around the precinct without much consequence, save occasional finger-wagging harangues from Stormare that fit the generic mold of “the mayor’s on my ass!” or whichever vague reprimand you choose. This certainly sinks the immersiveness significantly, but as long as the central story still works, the show could still function. Alas, all of the dream stuff is delivered with high school poetry heavy-handedness, and just stalls, with the writers assuming that just because something is kooky that it’s interesting, and thus not giving us much information that justifies this needing to be more than a 90-minute thriller, if that. (And by the time we get to the information, it is woefully generic as well, boiling down to lots of cliches to toss on top of the cop-talk boilerplate.)

The first episode has some good shock value as it transitions from before-mentally disturbed Pici to after, but once that’s out of the way, there’s very little reason to watch, and drops below baseline distractability by rehashing the same moves again and again, with nearly no payoff.