Original Title: Sorjonen
English Title: Bordertown
Rating: 4/7 Samurai
How many times have you found yourself thinking, Sherlock is good, but wouldn’t he better if he was Finnish? At least a dozen right? Fair enough, nobody has ever thought that, but the Fins deserve their own Sherlock don’t they? Well, that’s what they get in Bordertown, a show that takes the uber-brilliant detective trope that so many American shows from Columbo to House MD have relied on and puts it in the middle of usually more subtle Nordic Noir genre. The results are mixed, but depending on what you’re looking for it could be right up your alley.
Bordertown’s genius detective is Kari Sorjonen, who at first works with what I assume is the Finnish version of the FBI in Helsinki, in the very first scene we see him solve a complicated crime for them but just thinking really hard. He then leaves this job to lead the Serious Crime Unit in Lappeenranta, a small city on the border with Russia. He thinks this is going to give him more time to spend with his wife and daughter, but that would’ve made for a really boring TV show. Kari’s genius comes from his ability to use a “memory palace,” technique to remember everything and use the smallest details to solve his cases. Of course, while he can remember all he needs about a crime scene he often has trouble remembering to eat dinner with his family.
If Kari is the brains of Bordertown then his partner Lena Jaakkola is the brawn. Lena is a former member of Russia’s FSB (again I think their FBI?) who is no longer welcome in Russia and is convinced by Kari to join his unit on the Finnish side of the border. Lena is tough and solves problems by punching them, a trait that is useful because her partner is usually too busy doing some serious ruminating. Also on the team is a younger guy who looks up to Kari, but isn’t quite sure about his unorthodox methods and a boss who is constantly frustrated by Kari’s refusal to listen to orders, but who also can’t argue with his results.
The thing that makes Bordertown worth watching is in the title. Being set on the border of Finland and Russia adds a level of political intrigue that unless you’re from that area of the world you may never have considered. Most of the crimes that are solved seem to somehow involve Russians crossing into Finland and causing trouble, that combined with the Russian money that is corrupting local politics, makes for an environment rife with interesting transgressions to dig into.
Bordertown is part of Netflix’s original programming (it airs on TV in Finland and is on the streaming platform in the rest of the world.) which makes sense because though it surely fits into the Nordic Noir category, it has more American influences than most similar shows. Beyond the Kari and his super-intellect, there’s also a lot of big computer screens and intense interrogation scenes that feel a little more Criminal Minds than Wallander. The show does stay with the more European convention of having each case span two episodes, allowing for more story development which is a big plus.
It’s hard to say if I recommend Bordertown or not. If you’re a fan of American police procedurals, you might find it a bit slow and plodding, but on the other hand, if you like the long drawn out storytelling and simplicity of other Scandanavian crime shows Bordertown might seem over the top for you. Personally, I enjoy both and found Bordertown an easy enough watch.
Where to watch: Bordertown is available on Netflix worldwide.
Subs & Dubs: Netflix had provided both English subtitles and an English audio track. There’s nothing too profound here so if you don’t feel like reading for a while the dub might not be a bad idea.