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Friday, 18 September 2015

JORDSKOTT (TV 2014) // 'The root of all evil is hiding in the wood..' // A strong contender for the title of greatest (and strangest) TV sci-fi/ horror/ cop show hybrid EVER!

RATING: ******
THE CHAT AT THE BACK:  "Unmissable genre TV with a deep green agenda . . "

Many plot spoilers lurk in the ancient woodland lichen below - please watch before reading! 

Swedish police investigator Eva Thörnblad (Moa Gammel) is recovering from a serious injury sustained in the course of duty - a gunshot wound to the chest that should have killed her. To recuperate, she makes what could turn out to be the best/ worst decision of her life ever and heads back home to the tranquil (yeah - right!) town of Silverhöjd to inherit the family business (a sinister timber felling and processing company called 'Thörnblad Cellulosa') and move in to the ancestral home (a weird and gothic place, full of secrets) on the edge of the deep dark wood. This house of dread now belongs to Eva following the unnatural death of her mysterious father (an obligatory mad scientist type with a preference for studying forestry things that go rustle and bump in the night). What could possibly go wrong?
Being back home brings all kinds of bad memories rushing back for Eva as this is where her own daughter - Josefine (Stina Sundlöf) was snatched (or maybe drowned) on a day out by the river; never to be seen again. Now the child abductions are starting up once more and a new mysterious investigator - Göran Wass (played by namesake Göran Ragnerstam) has been drafted in to help out local police inspector Tom Aronsson (Richard Forsgren) who has been in charge of the case up until now. Tom, like Eva, has his own personal issues - a messy divorce and a young daughter to look after at the weekends (in-between investigating all those brutal throat slashings taking place around town).

Then Eva gets the shock of her life when a young, and vaguely recognisable, wounded girl steps out of the woodland - looking something like a mossy child zombie from the deepest muddy pit. The simple multiple child abduction case is all set to go from bad to weird, to a whole lot of crazy . .


Set in rich, lush, ancient Swedish woodland (Sala and Ragunda standing in for the fictional location of Silverhöjd) this exciting and elegantly oddball thriller and Nordic nightmare (created and partly directed by quirky newcomer Henrik
Björn) is a must-see for fans of defiantly off-kilter sci-fi/ horror hybrid cop shows - of which there aren't that many! It's a series that feels, in the green mossy woodland locations within, unnervingly twisted in intent; full of dark surprises both realistic (despite the fantasy horror overtones) and awful.

The woodland locations (and small town petty jealousies) provide a compulsive backdrop, but this is also a drama that focuses on human behaviour and does so with fine detail. Eva is a wounded, still distraught, unpredictable loose canon in her personal life, still grieving her wayward father who himself veers in reputation (thanks to information gathered from a stack of old video diaries that Eva finds in the house) from sinister ghoul and woodchopper - to environmental saviour and mystic.

Eva develops a working relationship with local police investigator Tom Aronsson (who is initially mistrustful of Eva's returning prodigal daughter status) when she gets assigned to help out on the murder case. Like Eva, Tom's a devoted single parent too and there's some real chemistry between them. With the arrival of the spookily spectacled Göran Wass to the crime team, a battle of wits starts up as all three investigators have their own agenda for solving the case - whatever the cost.
Jordskott reaches a rough and earthy climax in a bad dream-inducing finale that leaves a few loose ends left to explore for a sequel that it so richly deserves. This is a series that has, as its central premise, the idea that environmental carnage doesn't just have official repercussions, or the ability to inspire protest or human brutality, but has an overriding mythological impact as well.

Not since Professor Quatermass went investigating human mutations infected by space seed or ancient aliens caught up in the London Underground has the natural world, human frailty, the unknown and the deeply superstitious, been so expertly blended together.


Rather like the work of early David Lynch (especially his short The Grandmother and feature length Eraserhead), Jordskott is a decadent, addictive watch and a huge hit back home in Sweden - a reputation that has now spread worldwide; like a fast-acting root system.

The performances of the three main leads are outstanding. Eva is haggard, tortured, fated and tough while colleague Tom is frustrated, resigned, fearless and (later) deeply affected by circumstance - together they are the modern era's Mulder and Scully. But the show is perhaps stolen by newcomer-with-a-secret - Göran Wass; teasingly whispery, tight-lipped and sinister before eventually opening up (in a teasingly whispery, tight-lipped and sinister way!) and coming into his own. He's the kind of man that you could either trust with your life, or avoid at all costs (and not just in the dark - more often in the light). There is no black or white with Göran - only ever shades of grey.


The series is also boosted by a perfectly realised supporting cast that includes local police chief Martina Sigvardsson (a sublime performance from Ann Petrén; her face crumpled up with stress, but with a kindness in her eyes and a determination to remain optimistic - you suspect that even an invasion of zombie hoards would be just another task in the working day for Martina) and the magnificently creepy old bag lady Ylva (Vanja Blomkvist - her character oozing inscrutable wisdom and hidden secrets throughout) with a herbal potion for every occasion and a fondness for keeping nasty things in baths!

The violence is stark and shocking - throats are slit with wild abandon. My favourite character on the run and always under suspicion is a telekinetic goth girl called Esmeralda with the prize unearthly ability to either seduce her enemies, send them mad - or kill them. This pivotal, later role is played with grungy relish by Happy Jankell - a woodland version of Stephen King's Carrie White, but with a lot more mascara.


Another fabulously realised character is the sinister Harry Storm (played by cult favourite Ville Virtanen) - a bearded local oddball with a heavy backpack and a taste for rummaging through all the ancient woodland and thick moss (when not hiding out in abandoned sheds at processing plants). This lonely character, as the series weaves through increasingly subversive and stylish plot twists, takes centre stage - we struggle to guess whether he is actually a local forest-dwelling hippy and mystic, or the root of all evil. It's to the series credit that the same could be said for most of the rest of the cast at times!

There's also a brilliantly haunted and sickly performance from young actress Stina Sundlöf as pivotal character Josefine that'll have the fingers of all parents out there twitching for the bottle of Calpol in sympathy! The sweet traditional lullaby sung to the girl by her mother, is a highlight of the series and lingers hauntingly in the mind for days after hearing. Even now, as I write this review - I can hear it being sung.

Jordskott is unmissable genre TV with a deep green agenda. From the secretive hush of the lush green woods, to the moss-blanketed underground caves and urban sprawl of a local town full of increasingly paranoid residents - everything about this unique series feels perfect. Exceptional casting (thanks to Tusse Lande) enables us to suspend any doubt about the crazy things going on around these characters: often ugly, often beautiful, often unthinkable things. Above all else, Jordskott is about the bond between a mother and a daughter that TV drama has never captured perhaps quite as magically, or intently, before.

All the music featured in the series, alongside the central lullaby, is dark, lush and unforgettable -from the haunting main theme full of sorrowful piano, cello and whispered sighs to the closing credits sound-rush of 16-year-old Swedish singer Ofelia (best known for cover versions uploaded to YouTube) whose track 'I Will Meet You There' was a big hit in Sweden.

It's also worth mentioning the conviction that ITV launched this series with in the UK, even setting up a fictional website about the town of  Silverhöjd itself with news reports and job ads for tree surgeons or even a local taxi driver (if you've seen the series yet, you'll know why the taxi driver ad is so funny!). Visit the 'official' Silverhöjd website HERE!


After a deliberate red herring of a start, Jordskott's deep and winding roots slowly started to wind their way inside my already fragile grasp on reality and have still to let go of their mythical grip. Encompassing themes ranging from child abduction, loss and grief, nature and the environment, myth and legend, bullying and paternity, spirituality and isolation (of the ancient forest dwellers) and startling body transformation - there's never been anything quite like this on TV screens before.

Words: Mark Gordon Palmer


. . a PALLADIUM FICTION production
Twitter: @Jordskott
Instagram: @Jordskott

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  1. Just finished watching this. Yep, I agree on the performances.
    The only thing I thought was a bit pat was the rescue. But a great ending. I have just discovered is that I'm a bit confused by a few things. But overall 8/10

  2. Just finished watching. Although my wife gave up after the second episode - she thought it a bit "gone" - I persevered and was incredibly moved by the blending of mythology and the real world, the quality of the acting and the quality of the production as a whole. Also very much a story of different kinds of loss and connection. Once the viewer "buys in" to the "real mythology" - after all, set in the land of the trolls! - it's an incredibly rewarding viewing experience!