Over the past couple of years, Channel 4’s overseas crime drama unit Walter Presents has discovered an array of hit shows from around the world and brought them to English-speaking audiences with subtitles. Walter’s latest must-watch Nordic noir programme that’ll have you hooked is Valkyrien, which airs from Sunday 13 August at 9pm.
When a bank robbery goes wrong and one of the criminals is shot, he’s rescued from a bloody death or police custody by a tall, thin man who seems to have almost known it was going to happen. Leif, played by Pål Sverre Hagen, takes the wounded man to a secret underground location where his life is saved in a makeshift surgery. Gradually, you’ll be drawn into the strange and tragic world of Ravn (Sven Nordin, above), the doctor who runs the underground hospital.
Leif’s constant paranoia gives the show some of its urgency and pace, but he’s nothing if not resourceful and points out that the bank robber’s bag of euros could help them fund the facility. The show has a hard, subversive edge to it, and can be quite bloody.
A tragic secret
The eight-episode drama takes its name from the Valkyrien metro stop, underneath which Ravn’s surgery is concealed. It turns out there’s a lot more to it than dispensing treatment to patients who want to stay off grid. Ravn’s life has been turned upside down by the illness that took his wife. Friends and family believe the woman is dead, and Ravn is estranged from his adoptive daughter, never goes home, and is up to something bordering on subversion beneath the subway station.
Early in the series, a key point of tension comes as Leif’s erratic behaviour gets the better of him. He decides to kidnap Unn (Ellen Birgitte Winther), one of Ravn’s former medical colleagues. It’s a move that could blow open the entire enterprise. Which would not be good news for Ravn, who is in fact keeping his comatose wife alive on life support down there in the catacombs, trying to find a cure.
Like the best Scandinavian crime shows, Valkyrien explores some important social issues. Here it looks at the tough choices a public health system has to make, and how people respond to them. Similar to stories in the news recently, Ravn’s wife has been denied experimental treatment for her degenerative disorder, driving him to do what he’s done. How far will they go to keep it all a secret, though?
Unlike some of the programmes Walter Presents brings us, Valkyrien is brand new. It aired this year in Norway and drew 49 per cent of the local audience, winning a series of major awards in the country. After the first episode has aired, the entire series will be available to view on Walter Presents and All4.