If you love crime dramas, I think I just found your new obsession on Netflix. Bordertown premiered on the streaming platform on Friday, March 31, and there's definitely more to this series than meets the eye. One viewing of this acclaimed Finnish TV show, and I have a feeling you'll be wondering if Bordertown is based on a true story too, just like the many crime dramas that have come before it.
Bordertown doesn't appear to be rooted in any real-life events. The website of its Finnish production company, Fisher King Production (it was also produced by the Paris-based Federation Entertainment), describes the series s a "Scandinavian crime fiction" that "combines family drama with police procedural in a uniquely exotic setting." So it would appear that there's not too much that's founded in fact in Bordertown.
But Bordertown is certainly no fantasy. This dark and gritty series follows a respected chief investigator, Kari Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen) as he moves from Helsinki to a small town on the border of Finland and Russia. He's hoping to enjoy a simpler, slower pace of life with his wife and teenage daughter, but he soon finds that he has to investigate a string of murders that are not only connected to one another but also to his family. So yeah, let's just say that Kari finds himself living the exact life he tried to escape.
The small border town that serves as the setting of the series is called Lappeenranta, and it does really exist. Fisher King producer Matti Halonen told Drama Quarterly that they chose that town because of the interaction between the Finnish residents and the Russian tourists that come across Finland's eastern border. "It felt for us that when we started to create the show, it was a natural place for it to be set,” he explained. “It’s the border of the Western world and Europe with Russia and the East – two different cultures, two different economies. It’s full of drama!”
And "full of drama" Bordertown will be as the latest in a long line of movies, TV shows, and books that fall under what's come to be known as the Scandinavian noir or Nordic noir genre. So if you enjoy Bordertown, you might want to check out some of its famous predecessors, including Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy of books and films (there are Swedish and American versions) and The Killing, which is based on the Danish series Forbrydelsen. Like Bordertown, both the Millennium trilogy and The Killing deal with murder investigations and family drama. Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander detective book series is another example of Scandinavian noir that has been adapted for the screen in the form of a Swedish and a British TV series, both of which are available to stream on Netflix.
But to Pascal Breton, the founder and CEO of Federation Entertainment, Bordertown gives off some American-made noir vibes. “'Bordertown' reminds me of Twin Peaks,'" he told Variety, referencing David Lynch's iconic TV series. "Every scene is real but a little weird; Every character is real but a little weird."
What all of this sounds like to me is that Bordertown is just something you're going to have to experience for yourself.