4 out of 5
Created by: Johan Kindblom and Tomas Tivemark
‘Lynchian’ has become a rather ubiquitous term for describing weird movies, when their thematic or stylistic connections to any works of David Lynch are generally nil. It’s a hop and a skip from there to Twin Peaks comparisons for TV shows: have a small town, have some weirdos, and It’s a Lynchian Peaksy Nightmare all up in there! …Again, more often than not that’s not even close. So: I am with you in your hesitation to believe that the Swedish series Ängelby is like Twin Peaks. But I swears it to be so, with the show blending the mundane with the slightly sinister, and burbling a mythology thats always just beneath the surface of its (yeah) small town and its (yeah) occasionally off inhabitants. The most important similarity, though, is in the way that the show dodges series’ conventions by not really focusing on any of that weirdness and instead pushing it way, way into the background of the story of recently separated mom Vera (Mia Skäringer), who has to moved to the titular town to start afresh. And even this focus refuses to conform to TV standards, as Vera very humanly responds to everything around her (i.e. not causing unnecessary subplots via forced intrigue) and doesn’t fall in love with a bloke by the third episode. In fact, episode to episode, I’d be hard pressed to tell you what exactly the show’s aim is, except that there has been a murder that is piece by piece trying to get solved, and there is some mysterious rock in the forest that everyone has an opinion on, and Vera seems to be being guided toward one or the other of those things by her oddball benefactor / boss in town, Torsten (Göran Ragnerstam – just as awesome here as he is in Jordskott), but for real, don’t worry about any of that stuff and just watch Vera putter about town, from job to job. Because I did, in a massive binge watch where I didn’t care if any of those various pieces amounted to anything. (Though, gladly, they did, and in true Twin Peaks fashion, not in any predictable way, but in one inherently logical relative to the show.)
…I take a breath. So immersive is the experience, once the credits start, you’re just sort of wrapped up in the sleepy, slowburn pace of it all. Vera bikes from location to location. There are no special effects. You come to know every character’s name, and even have a vague sense of the layout of the town…
Skäringer is amazing in her role. She’s a big part of why this works: there are some huge emotional loop-de-loops to ride, and she manages them effortlessly, engendering our belief in accepting what’s going on. The writing is solid throughout – believable dialogue, a wonderfully deadpan humorous cop named Viveka (Michaela Thorsén), but there are some incredibly odd time jumps during which months pass without much indication, and it definitely takes you out of the show for a breath, thinking through whether or not you’d missed some visual clue as to the jump. And, perhaps inevitably, toward the end of the first season, when a lot of the bits and pieces are finally coming to a head, characters and plotlines start to drop in and out in a blink. But neither of these hiccups dispel the overall mystique the show casts, so they’re very easy to overlook in favor of getting wrapped up in Ängelby livin’.