Outlier, Nordic noir catches a serial killer

Hanne Mathisen Haga in Outlier

Outlier contains all the characteristics of Nordic noir. It’s slow moving, features stoic characters who display little emotion, and involves twisted plot lines. In this series, the main character, Maja (Hanne Mathisen Haga), is a Ph.D. student in London studying serial killers. She learns of a murder in her home town and recognizes the signs of a serial killer. She heads home to Norway hoping the case will be the basis of her dissertation.

Outlier as a concept applies to Maja in her home town. She wasn’t accepted by her family. The local police didn’t think she had anything to offer them as an expert in serial killers. And the killer himself was an outlier – someone known to everyone who had hidden in plain sight for many years. The useless police chief, Johan (Stein Bjørn), wants her to shut up and go away. Instead she points out the flaws in their case, which annoys the chief even further.

Maja frequently pointed out to everyone in her vicinity that nobody listens to women, including to her. That’s why vulnerable girls and women are such easy targets for serial killers. Nobody believes them, nobody misses them when they disappear.

Erik (Jonas Delerud) is the one police officer who can understand what Maja is talking about. Despite the instructions of the police chief, Erik helps Maja gather information on old cases and put together the clues on the new case they are investigating.

We see echoes to Maja’s past. Her father, Anders (Erik Smith-Meyer), is a journalist who should help her but won’t. Her mother, Katherine (Guri Johnson), is in a care facility because she’s been classified as having dementia ever since Maja’s older brother died when Maja was 10 years old. Those details are revealed very slowly.

An 18 year old Sami woman named Elle (Eila Ballovara Varsi) found the telephone belonging to the dead girl they are investigating. But, as Maja often observed, nobody would listen to her when she tried to help the police with that information.

Elle even went to Maja in hopes of someone listening. Maja was drunk and didn’t listen. The surprising thing to me about this incident was that Maja displayed no guilt over what happened to Elle after she left Maja’s house.

Eila Ballovara Varsi and Marius Lien in Outlier

The identity of the killer is shown to the audience early on. He’s Trond (Marius Lien), a security camera installer. He grabbed Elle after she left Maja’s and kept her hidden in the forest for several days. Would she even be missed?

The noose tightened around the search for the killer, but slowly, slowly. Did that increase the suspense in the series or merely make me want things to move faster? I felt both sensations as the episodes passed. There were many complications and subplots to deal with while the hunt for the killer continued.

The series was filmed in midsummer north of the Arctic Circle, for full daylight almost all the time. It was beautiful in Norway at that time of the year.

I rate this series as slightly above average, but not the best example of Nordic noir I’ve ever seen.

Outlier was written and directed by Kristine Berg and Arne Berggren. The series was on HBO, back when it was still called HBO. Now it’s on Acorn TV. There’s some English, but it’s mostly Norwegian spoken.

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