4 out of 5

Created by: Kristoffer Metcalfe

covers season 1

Although pitched with the same affectations as a crime or noir series, the Norwegian ‘Twin’ is much more of a drama.  It has a crime and coverup as its prime motivator, yes, and touches the fringes of buried pasts to inform some of that, but there’s a reason this same stuff never seems to quite heat up into the focus: co-writer / creator Kristoffer Metcalfe is much more interested in studying the concept of duality, of ‘Sliding Doors’ type choices that are here physically reflected in relationship between estranged twin brothers Adam and Erik (Kristofer Hivju, both) and Adam’s wife, Ingrid (Rebekka Nystabakk).  This is suggested by leading in to the series with pastoral shots of the brothers as young adults, still friends, traveling together to a seaside town; we’re left with that as a question mark in the timeline when we meet again: Erik the surfer bum, living in a paycheck-to-paycheck fashion but with a close network of friends; Adam the businessman, with his daughter and adopted son, upstanding and respected.

When Erik’s sole means of transport is run off the road by his landlord – Erik is quite behind on rent – the landlord takes off at the site of the wreck, not seeing Erik stumble out and make the reluctant walk to his brother’s abode, begging for money.  At this point we see that the gap in time has caused an incredible splinter between the brothers: despite living in the same location, still, they haven’t spoken at length in a long time, and tension is in the air.  The noir roots present themselves as an escalated scuffle which leaves Adam mortally injured at Ingrid’s hands.  And in order to spare her family the effects of that?  …You got it, twin-swapping time.  Erik died in that crash; Adam survived.

This is, admittedly, cheeky, and arrived at rather quickly.  This is the show’s main weakness, and it should be a major one: that all of the planning required to pull this ruse off until Ingrid and “Adam” can announce marriage difficulties and part ways are not handled well, and not in a purposeful manner – what a noir story would usually employ, to keep twisting the knife – but rather just in a not thought out manner.  Some of this is refreshingly human, and not calculated in the way that sudden criminals in TV shows seem suddenly able to perform, but some of it is also because of what’s mentioned above, and what becomes clearer, episode by episode: the crime just ain’t the thing.  And because of amazing performances by Hivju – one character pretending to be another character – and Nystabakk, who’s relative control over her emotions makes more sense as the aforementioned focus continues to rear its head, these moderate flubs in the script really don’t seem to matter.  Of course, the show has to deal with the reality of the matter as best it can, so there’s a police investigation, and suspicions, and that gives ‘Twin’ a clever secondary layer for dealing with its reality that is vs. the reality we hoped for themes: there’s no grand machinations keeping Ingrid and Erik innocent, and yet, for the most part, things seem to settle fairly naturally.

It’s a difficult balance to maintain, and when the show tries to dig deeper into standard TV drama, it tip-toes dangerously close to “fish out of water” hijinks – Erik is a stoner; Adam was straight-laced, etc. – but because of the thoughtful scripting applied to all of the side characters, including Adam’s daughter, Karin (Mathilde Holtedahl Cuhra) and Erik’s friend, Frank (Gunnar Eiriksson) – and, again, the excellent acting supporting this – ‘Twin’ very much stays on the right side of things, veering back towards its themes at a measured, contemplative pace, leading to a very satisfying conclusion that takes these dual lives to places that make sense – and have much impact – given the journey we’re able to witness.