Title: Stella Blómkvist
Rating: 5/7 Samurai
Is Iceland part of Scandinavia? Is it at least Nordic? Can I add Stella Blómkvist to my growing list of Nordic Noir favorites? Why do we insist on putting everything into a genre? Am I going to answer any of these questions? Probably not.
What is it?
Stella Blómkvist is a six-part Icelandic show about a stunningly beautiful lawyer who has enough confidence and bravado to almost bring down a small Northern European country. If I’m gonna get down to the nitty-gritty I’d have to say it’s Nordic Noir adjacent. Yes, Iceland is Nordic, and it has the structure and some of the darkness you’d expect from the genre, but it also has a lot more style and humor than one might expect from a similar show.
What’s it about?
Set in a sort of alternative timeline where young right-wing goons have taken over the government of Iceland and are in the process of trying to sell the country out to China, Stella, takes on a client who’s been accused of murdering an aide to Iceland’s Prime Minister. From there, things quickly spiral out of control with Stella becoming more and more entwined in a conspiracy that could topple the whole government.
What’s to like?
A lot. First, it’s very easy to digest, there’s only six episodes and they are broken up into three separate but connected stories. Second, and more importantly, is Stella Blómkvist herself. Played by Heida Reed, she is so smart, confident, and attractive that it pushes the bounds of believability just enough to make it extra fun. Her performance also goes a long way in taking away the brooding hopelessness we get from a lot of other Nordic Noir protagonists. Third, is how the cases the Stella works are all tangled up in the China/Iceland relationship which gives everything much higher stakes. Lastly, the show is shot in a pretty stylized way, with lots of flashbacks and interesting style choices that give it a unique feel.
What’s not to like?
The most glaring aspect people could be upset by is the portrayal of the Chinese, they are very clearly pegged as the bad guys in the show, and with a couple exceptions painted with a broad brush as evil. The only defense of this is that a lot of the Icelanders are also pretty big assholes and in league with the evil Chinese, though that’s not too much of justification. Also, It would be understandable if someone who was looking for a gritty Scandinavian mystery show was a little turned off by the less than somber tone and the exaggerated style. Also, it could be fair to say that the whole, Iceland being taken over by China and then being stopped by a 28-year-old lawyer plot is a bit dubious. However, it could also be said that all of those things (besides the shitty portrayal of the Chinese) give Stella Blómkvist a charm that most mystery shows don’t have.
It’s hard to say if there’s anything in here that gives a lot of insight into Icelandic culture. With the show taking place entirely in the Reykjavik we mostly just see life in a medium-sized European city. The only thing that at first seems does seem odd, is how easily Stella is able to get access to so many high-level government officials. She’s able to pretty much walk right into the Icelandic version of the Capitol Building and chat with anybody she wants. Once you realize though, that the entire population of Iceland is smaller than the population of Cleveland, it makes much more sense.
Yes! If you read my review of Rebecka Martinson, you may be realizing that I have a bit of a soft spot for beautiful Nordic lawyers, but even beyond that Stella Blómkvist is
Subs & Dubs
It’s only be available with subtitles. As God intended.
How to watch
This is tricky. It was shown on Sundance in the US, so the best place to watch it seems to be through them. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can get a free 30 day Sundance trial though, and while you’re there watch the amazing Australian comedy Rosehaven.