If you need some ice-cold crime fiction to go with an ice-cold January here in the Northern Hemisphere, then watch out for Arctic Circle, season two, which will arrive on Channel 4’s overseas crime streaming service, Walter Presents, from 26 January 2024. Although it’s not quite as atmospheric or outright weird as True Detective: Night Country, for example, it has murders to solve, long nights and the crunch of snow underfoot just the same. And if you haven’t got HBO or Sky, it could be a good alternative.
Arctic Circle stars Iina Kuustonen as Nina Kautsalo, a detective based in Rovaniemi, a tiny city in Finnish Lapland, just inside the Arctic Circle. She’s moved there from the hinterland so that her daughter Venla (Venla Ronkainen), who has Down’s Syndrome, can attend a special school. Day to day, Nina deals with petty crime and domestic violence, which is how series two begins. A drunken man who has assaulted his pregnant girlfriend is given like treatment by Nina.
Meanwhile, down in Helsinki, Jaako Stenius (Kari Ketonen) heads a unit investigating organised crime. Just as a former Russian gangster is about to provide Stenius with evidence, the man is gunned down. Cross-border criminal activity – as seen in the first series – is on the rise and Stenius wants to recruit Nina Kautsalo to his team. She wants the quiet life, so she can look after her daughter, her dying mother and her sister, who was the victim of a deadly virus in season one.
That’s not all. A cold case has heated up in Nina’s jurisdiction. Years ago, Finland’s women’s judo champion, married to the country’s greatest ice hockey player, died in suspicious circumstances when their northland cottage burned down. Now, the hockey player’s former mistress has blown his alibi for that night and the hockey player himself has disappeared. Weirdly, it seems he’s been kidnapped by an organised crime group…
While Nina is searching for him, she’s contacted by one of the witnesses in the human trafficking case she helped crack in season one. The young Russian woman is scared someone’s following her and gets on a train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi to see Nina. What happens next sends Nina back to Stenius to join the hunt for the violent Russian gangsters.
As you can tell from this description, Arctic Circle season two has a fast-moving and convoluted plot. There were a lot of loose ends after season one and even more complexity arrives with the new cases Nina faces here. Although there is the draw of the cold, dark and remote setting, it’s not a textured or atmospheric programme. Instead, Arctic Circle is more a police procedural, with some family drama added in. As well as caring for a disabled daughter and a sister who is a recovering addict, one of Nina’s new cases involves contacts of her father – a man she’s never met.
Having said that, the investigation does take Nina and her Russian taskforce partner Viktor (Maxim Busel) into the forests of the far north, where illegal hunting is taking place. The scenery is stunning and some very sinister themes begin to emerge.
Originally broadcast as Ivalo in Finland, season two aired in 2021 and 2022 in its homeland. It consists of six one-hour episodes – the first of which will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 11:30pm on Sunday 28 January 2024. A third season went out in Finland last year. Rovaniemi is also known as the home town of Santa Claus.
If you enjoyed the Swedish series Rebecka Martinsson, based on the books by Åsa Larsson, then you’ll feel right at home with Arctic Circle. It has a similar feel but with different, more far-reaching cases.