'Fallet' Is Netflix's Whacked-Out Crime Spoof You Didn't Know You Needed
Seconds into Fallet, Netflix's new Swedish import series, it's pretty clear this is no average crime procedural. The episode starts with a man standing in a graveyard at night as rain pours and dramatic music swells. "Things just happened," he says. "And by God, I wish they never had. And you're dead. I'm going to put a stop to all of this now." It's a tense moment that's undercut when the scene cuts to the same man walking toward a bar, where he continues to speak in over-the-top clichés. Perceptions change. This isn't a dark murder mystery at all; it's a genre spoof with spunk, verve, and a lot of heart.
Fallet is a spin on the "Nordic noir" trend, a major cultural force that started in Europe and has coiled through most of Western entertainment. The trend was popularized by Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book series, and later spilled over into hit TV shows like The Killing and The Bridge (both of which were remade for American television). Fallet -- which translates to "The Case" -- has a familiar murder mystery at its core, but totally subverts audience expectations in every other way. It's not just the humor that makes it special; its boosted by an impressive cadre of characters who break the mold in new and hilarious ways.
The two leads are inversions on the classic "good cop" trope
The series follows a Stockholm homicide detective named Sophie Borg (Lisa Henni) and a British chief inspector named Tom Brown (Adam Godley) who are paired up to investigate the murder of an Englishman who was found in Norrbacka, a small Swedish village that Sophie describes as "a shitty little town with horrible restaurants and nothing much to do, and a population of 17,000 idiots." (Norrbacka is her hometown.) Sophie is impulsive, aggressive, and moody, and Tom is a single 50-something loner who has ghostly visions of his dead, nagging mother and who travels to Stockholm with his houseplants. Both of them are, to put it bluntly, losers who are bad at their jobs. So bad, they're both almost fired in the pilot's opening scenes before getting a last-chance assignment: the Norrbacka murder, which digs up old demons for Sophie and puts Tom through a psychological wringer.
In a genre where most detectives are preternaturally gifted when it comes to sniffing out clues and reading people's motives, Sophie and Tom are truly abysmal at it. They're constantly wandering into dangerous situations, misreading moments, and barking up the wrong trees. In Episode 3, they wander into what they think is the gathering of a religious sect responsible for their victim's murder, but that is actually rehearsal for Jesus Christ Superstar. Through it all, they bicker like mad -- in both English and Swedish, one of the show's other charms -- but strike up a chemistry that works despite itself. They may be failing detectives, but they're failing together.
They're surrounded by a supporting cast that really cements the show's madcap spirit. Police chief Klas Wall (Tomas von Bromssen) is a goofy near-retiree who is thrilled to finally be in charge of a high-profile murder case; Bill Wall (Christoffer Nordenrot) is a zany fellow detective; and Sonja Mustanaamio (Stina Rautelin) is a Finnish forensic scientist with a sharp tongue and a bad attitude. Together, the team has a hilariously familial dynamic: They talk over each other and squabble about details, but in times of trouble -- like Sophie's constant run-ins with the higher-ups -- they have each other's backs.
The series is also a sharp social commentary
Tom makes several offhand comments about the Nordic model and Sweden's successful welfare program, and the landscape of a socialist country like Sweden opens the door for more of a balanced scale when it comes to gender roles. Because of the country's decades-long focus on social issues, women and men are treated relatively equally, and toxic masculinity isn't tolerated the same way it is in the States or the UK.
After Tom receives a threatening message in his hotel room, he ponders why they might have targeted him instead of Sophie, who was in the same hotel. "It's because you're a man," she tells him. "It's not completely unusual to hate white middle-aged men in this country, and if you look at what white, middle-aged men are responsible for in the world, you kind of get the hate, don't you?"
Still, it's made clear that Sophie's gender is an insecurity of hers, particularly in the workforce, and particularly regarding middle-aged men. When she's temporarily demoted, she goes off on a tirade against her boss, Arne Arnesen (Björn Granath).
"You're a middle-aged man, I'm a young woman. My competence intimidates you, so you attack every little mistake I make. If I'd been a man, things would be different. There would've been pats on the back, golf rounds, and trips to Tallinn. That's called homosociality. You should brush up on your gender theory. You've come here to tell me off for one reason. Because I'm a woman!"
It's an impressive speech, but then Arnesen reminds her that no, it's not her gender, but the fact that she keeps impulsively shooting innocent people. And though he's not wrong -- Sophie's incompetence, not her gender, is her fault -- her insecurities prove that even in functioning socialist countries, sexism filters into systems of power and the common psyche, and still affects the way women perform in the workplace. That insecurity is what drives Sophie, and makes her more complex than satire trappings might otherwise allow.
Like the best Swedish series, it's about to get an American remake
Ultimately, Fallet elevates itself beyond just a noir spoof and into something truly special. The cast, the plot -- which zigs and zags, but is always having fun -- and its zany spirit make for an entertaining quick binge and nice antidote to the more grim and depressing crime offerings out there. But, because no foreign resource is unworthy of exploitation, Americans are going a step beyond and adapting Fallet into a new, States-based remake series.
According to Deadline, Showtime is developing a pilot based on Fallet, from former Shameless executive producer Etan Frankel. Shameless, one of Showtime's most popular series, is itself a remake of a long-running British series, and shares a lot of DNA with the Swedish Fallet: it's quick-paced, witty, kinetic, and gets by on the strength of its well-developed characters. Frankel seems like the ideal person to tap the vein and Americanize the story; we are, after all, as crime-obsessed as Scandinavians.
There's no word on when we might see the new Fallet, but until the announcement, all eight, 30-minute episodes of the original are currently available on Netflix.