Different people have different callings. Yet others simply get used to their profession, chosen or not. A family-run funeral director in a small town, where nobody hardly ever dies, brings both blood and boredom. Patriarch Arvid Hallangen and his son Odd need work, but a much needed call to pick up a body is soured when it turns out to be Live Hallangen, Arvid's daughter/Odd's sister. Cause of death? Well, it's hard to say considering Live sits bolt upright on the autopsy table hours later…
Post Mortem is a Norwegian Netflix Original full of life. Ordinary, everyday, ‘I have this annoying thing to deal with’ life. Shaking off her apparent ‘death’ as a stasis-like hyperthermia, Live tries to get back to normal; the care home where she works is full of elderly patients who need her to draw blood and soothe souls. Yet her father Arvid is avoiding her. Her senses are unusually acute. And there is this hunger she can’t explain. The show isn’t much of a mystery because even if the characters are baffled, the audience quickly catches on to the rules at play.
Live has gained extra strength, but has been filled with a thirst. This is problematic, and Live (Kathrine Johansen) goes about her day trying to keep it a secret. Yet this is a small town. Reinert (André Sørum), Live’s long time admirer and one of two local cops, suspects something is off. Post Mortem treats its supernatural elements as almost interchangeable with normal dramatic mundanity. Don’t go in expecting gory splatter; think more Six Feet Under with some bloodlust.
Post Mortem starts slow but come the second or third episode picks up speed, as small lies compound into bigger ones. Live’s dogged determination to just keep going as normal is solid plotting, and further funereal fun is provided by her brother Odd (Elias Sørensen). Facing financial pressure in a town with no death, Odd suddenly has to make the best money possible once a welcome body or two comes his way. Odd is such an endearingly sweet character that his brief highs and unjust lows make for hugely enjoyable watching.
The two main plot threads (Live’s condition & Odd’s business problems) are stitched together into a chimaera where you can’t see the joins, even if the resultant creature is a weird looking unholiness. The show sticks its weirdly constructed body in an open casket and invites you to come gawk. What’s good for business for Odd is bad for Live’s freedom, after all. And let’s not forget that someone left Live ‘for dead’ in a field, so there must be somebody in Skarnes hiding in the plentiful shadows.
Post Mortem digs into small-town mentality and sprinkles a little of the night into a land where the sun struggles to break through at the best of times. It’s drama as normal when we see Reinert’s desire for action subdued by his superior (Judith, played with wonderful knowing eyes by Kim Fairchild) unwilling to give in to the local whisper machine.
Through its relatively short run time, Post Mortem is funny without straining to be ‘fun’. And it’s bloody without lurching into horror. It’s a strange, mostly effective, mixture of the two just waiting for you to unearth it, even if it is slow to rise up from the autopsy slab. Most Scandinavian shows revel in glorious cinematography to wow with the natural selling point of distinctive scenery. Skarnes is, I suspect, more like the real Norwegian experience: a small town population that treats the oncoming darkness as little more than an irritation to be kept at bay long enough to survive.
Words by Mike Record