Swedish Series Before We Die Is Complicated and Compelling

Swedish Series “Before We Die” Is Complicated and Compelling

The Scandinavians do noir crime shows really well. 

Maybe it has something to do with the typically harsh weather that fits the genre so perfectly. I mean, most of the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish shows I’ve watched are filmed in the heart of a Scandinavian winter. Or maybe it’s related to national stereotypes, like the Swedes being used to spending most of their time in the cold and dark or being introverted and therefore mysterious. Or perhaps it simply boils down to quality writing and acting.

There are a lot–a lot–of intricacies in the Swedish series Before We Die, but basically it’s the story of a Stockholm-based Croatian crime family and drug trafficking and corruption at the highest law-enforcement and political levels in Sweden. Add to that complicated personal relationships, most notably the one between lead investigator Hanna Svensson (Marie Richardson) and her troubled son Christian (Adam Palsson), who takes on some of the scariest roles you could imagine as an infiltrator amid staggering crime and corruption, and you have the makings of a fine detective drama.

Photo courtesy of Before We Die

The show begins with the disappearance of Hanna’s colleague and lover, Sven, whom she later finds out has been in regular contact with the mysterious Inez. As she and her colleagues try to find Sven, she makes contact via text with Inez, who appears to have knowledge of things Hanna wants and needs in the search for her partner.

Meanwhile, the fearsome and fearless Mimica crime family begins to put ambitious drug-plan Operation Krajina into effect. The search for Sven by Hanna and her colleagues becomes, as a result, so much more complicated.

Unknown to Hanna at the time, her son Christian is already heavily involved inside the Mimica family, who are led by the incredibly violent Davor (Alexej Manvelov). Even Davor, though, may be upstaged in terms of pure ruthlessness and scariness by the matriarch of the family, Dubravka (Malgorzata Pieczynska). 

Mother-and-Son Reunion?

The mother-son relationship between Dubravka and Davor is mirrored throughout the two seasons by Hanna and Christian.

Because of the criminal and violent activity of the Mimicas, it is natural to want to root more for Hanna and Christian. As a result, it can be excruciating to see Christian’s involvement in almost impossible situations, along with his self-sabotage, usually accompanied by his mother’s pain at losing him so many times along the way. 

photo courtesy of Before We Die

So often Hanna seems to be close to repairing all the hurt that exists between them, only for Christian to spiral into self-destructive behavior that threatens everything. It is hard, but compelling, to see a mother in so much pain, especially one who is just trying to keep it all together while investigating some very serious crime and navigating her own intensely personal loss.

Closing the Circle

Season one ends with a bang, literally. Then we get introduced to the mysterious police-dominated “Circle” in season two, which, as the episodes progress, shows just how far up this corrupt organization goes.

And, of course, while Hanna is investigating all this alongside her inscrutable and tough but loyal colleague Bjorn (Magnus Krepper), Christian becomes even more heavily involved. That he apparently falls for one of the leading members of the Circle doesn’t help him, but it sure ups the ante.

Then there is Christian’s pregnant ex-girlfriend Blanka (Sandra Redlaff), who happens to be Davor’s sister. As I said, Christian gets himself into very dangerous situations all the time. No wonder he admits to suffering nightmares and hallucinations.

Don’t miss our 50 at 50 series: one current or former prisoner published a day until New Year’s Day 2022.

The subplots can get a little complicated at times, but the acting is consistently strong, by both leading characters like Hanna and Davor and supporting figures like Blanka and Bjorn.

As for Christian and Hanna eventually reconciling? We may have to wait for season three for that. It gets close at times, but him driving off in one direction at the end of season two to a new identity and life, while she looks on forlornly from a distant Stockholm bridge, leaves us all hanging.

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