As tv shows go I'm easily pleased. Give me a Nordic Noir style crime drama and I'm glued. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, they tend to be better crafted crime shows than the normal stuff churned out over 22 episodes.
Secondly, I have to read the subtitles so it forces me to put my phone down! So imagine how happy I was when The Valhalla Murders made its way into my Netflix stream.
Filmed in Iceland, the series initially follows a Reykjavik based homicide detective called Kata (Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir). Anticipating a promotion, all is going well until she is passed over in favour of somebody who plays the political game a bit better.
To add insult to injury, as she is in the middle of investigating two connected murders, the powers that be decide to bring in an external investigator to help. That is Arnar Böðvarsson, an Icelandic expatriate living in Oslo, Norway.
But it soon becomes clear that they need the help as a third person is murdered. With a serial killer at work, the connection is made that all three victims worked in a remote boys home known as Valhalla, 30 years earlier.
As the police investigation continues, all the detectives have to connect the three victims is a photograph sent to each of them in the weeks leading up to their death.
As the detectives dig further into all the boys homes, the truth about the brutal conditions they faced come to the surface. Physical, mental, and sexual abuse was rife in the home and now somebody is out to reveal dark secrets and get revenge.
New evidence sheds light on one boy being the central figure in the story. Tommi, a resident at the Valhalla home, ran away from the home but was never seen or heard from again. But is he hiding in plain sight or was he murdered?
Over eight episodes of the Icelandic series the plot unfolds, bringing in elements of the detective's private lives that threaten to derail the investigation as a painful past returns.
The subplots, while not necessarily connected to the case, add more layers to the intriguing story. As each layer is peeled back the conspiracy of the Valhalla boys homes goes deeper and higher up the political food chain, keeping you hooked.
Is The Valhalla Murders Worth Watching?
The Valhalla Murders is a really, really good Icelandic crime drama but it's not perfect. One aspect of these types of crime shows is that they are almost permanently set in darkness. I mean that literally. People live in houses and barely turn the lights on.
That may make for heightened tension but it does get annoying. It also has some of the usual tropes found in crime dramas. Does every female/male police partnership have to have a ‘will-they-wont-they' element??
Is The Valhalla Murders A True Story?
Technically yes, The Valhalla Murders is based on a real life incident. However, as happens with most crime dramas, licence has been taken with the way the story is told.
Back in the late 1940s, an almost similar event took place in remote Iceland. A state-run institution housed troubled, young boys, aged between seven and 14, where they were beaten and abused by the staff.
Although in reality there was no murder or serial killer, per se, as shown in the series, it caused quite a noise and the boys were eventually compensated in monetary terms.
Is There Season 2 Of Valhalla Murders?
Contrary to what fans believe, the series is originally an Icelandic production. It aired there in 2019 on RUV, before being released worldwide in 2020 on Netflix and airing for free on BBC Four in the UK.
To date, there is no indication that it has been renewed for a second season. That could be because the entire story had a single focus and was wrapped up with no cliffhanger.
That said, it would be quite easy to create a second season with a brand new interesting plot so that Kata and Arnar could work together again and investigate a new set of characters and crimes.
Valhalla Murders Cast
Like all Nordic Noir style dramas, the cast is top-notch. Characters are well fleshed out and believable, creating a solid mystery to delve into.
So who exactly plays our favourite characters in Valhalla Murders?
Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir as Kata, lead Detective solving the murders
Bjorn Thors as Arnar, an Oslo Detective drafted in to help Kata
Sigurður Skúlason as Magnus, the Borgarnes Police Chief
Sigurður Sigurjónsson as Pétur Alfreðsson, the state prosecutor
Bergur Ebbi Benediktsson as Erlingur, the police tech expert
Tinna Hrafnsdóttir as Helga, a resentful colleague of Kata's
Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir as Selma, reporter and Kata's friend