I just finished watching a Finnish-German TV series entitled Arctic Circle. Most of the series takes place in Lapland, the largest, northernmost and least densely populated region of Finland. Less than 4% of Finland’s 5.6 million people live in Lapland.
The crux of the story is the hunt for a deadly virus that has the potential to spread and kill many people. The heroine of the story is Lapland police officer Nina Kautsalo who is ably portrayed by the beautiful Iina Kuustonen. The hunt for the virus involves international crime figures and Finland’s neighbor Russia. There subplots include a love story, parental love and the complexities of modern marriage. It’s hard to describe more without spoilers. The dialogue is in Finnish, English, German and Russian. The subtitles are good and easy to follow.
You can read more about this fine series on The Euro TV Place, which is my primary source for great European television worth watching. The series is available exclusively on a new streaming service called Topic. Topic is also available as an Amazon channel, which is how I watched it.
There aren’t many TV shows I miss long after they end. The Americans is one of them. Even though the series ended almost two years ago, I still miss the anticipation of the next episode.
The Americans is an American television period drama series created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg. It premiered in the United States in 2013 on the FX network and concluded after six seasons and 75 wonderful episodes in 2018.
The Americans is about the marriage of two KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington D.C. shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected President. The series centers around the arranged marriage of Philip (Matthew Rhys1 and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), who have two children – 14-year-old Paige (Holly Taylor) and 12-year-old Henry (Keidrich Sellati). The children don’t know about their parents’ true identity. The spies live next door to Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. From there it gets complicated.
This is one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen. What makes it special is the interplay between the spying and what’s going in the family of the Russian spies and the family of the FBI agent next door. In the end, I am interested in the personal relationships more than I am the spying. The spy stuff added intrigue to what would otherwise be normal relationship issues. I can relate quite easily to the relationship issues. The spying is just plain fun to watch, partly because of the now dated technology of the the era (the 1980s) in which the series takes place. The relationship between the more practical Philip and the rule-following Elizabeth makes for some fascinating issues. Keri Russell’s beauty enters the plot in many different ways.
The New York Times said “The Americans” is “one of those rare series that actually has gotten better every season.”
If you want insider information about the show, Slate has a podcast about the show featuring cast, crew and creators.
Rhys is Welsh but plays a very convincing American — or more accurately plays a Russian pretending to be an American. ↩
Hugo Blick, is an English writer, producer, director and occasional actor. I’m familiar with his writing and directing of two TV series in which two different genocides figure prominently.
‘The Honourable Woman’
The principal character in The Honourable Woman is Nessa Stein an Anglo-Jewish businesswoman ably portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Stein’s mother died in childbirth. Her father was murdered in front of her eyes at a tender age by the PLO. She also lost most of her family in the Holocaust. The scars of these traumas show up in a series filled with intrigue.
I had to watch this eight-part series more than once to get all the details. I enjoyed every minute. And the sets and the atmosphere are wonderful. Although Gyllenhaal is an American, she manages a very convincing British accent.
Black Earth Rising tackles the Rwandan genocide, a mass slaughter of Tutsi, Twa, and moderate Hutu in Rwanda, which took place between April 7 and July 15, 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War. On the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said that the “failure to act to prevent [this] genocide extracted an enormous human toll, tearing apart families and entire communities.”
In Black Earth Rising, Michaela Coel portrays Kate Ashby, a Rwandan who, as a little girl, was rescued from the 1994 genocide by human rights lawyer Eve Ashby who adopted her and raised her in London. Blick again focuses on an orphan subjected to trauma.
NPR said that despite the flaws of this eight-part series “Coel plays Kate with such incandescent intensity that she keeps us riveted anyway. In fact, the whole series is superbly acted.”
The New York Times was less charitable calling the series an “illustrated lecture.” But I think Blick has accomplished far more than that with a challenging and important topic.
The series is available on Netflix in the United States.
I just started watching the second season of an excellent German television mini-series called Tannbach (or “Line of Separation” in English).
Tannbach is a fictional German village. Viewers see what happened to the village and its inhabitants after WWII. The first season opens in the final days of WWII as the Nazi regime collapses. The villagers face considerable hardships.
I loved the first season and the second season which consists of three 90-minute episodes is off to a good start. All episodes are now available so you can binge away if the spirit moves you.
The second season of the series starts in 1960, eight years after the events depicted in the finale of the first season. It follows events through the Prague Spring in 1968.
It’s interesting to see this period from a German perspective, including the differences between east and west Germany as well as the way Germans see their American and Russian occupiers.