Reviews of movies and TV focused on women

Review: Bordertown (Sorjonen), season 1

Ville Virtanen in Bordertown (Sorjonen)

Bordertown (Sorjonen) comes from Finland. It’s a mystery series featuring a genius detective named Kari Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen). He has a new job as head of a Special Crimes Unit.

In Finnish, the series is named for the lead detective Sorjonen. In English, the name Bordertown comes from the location of the town Lappeenranta in Finland. It’s very close to the Russian border. Another import I reviewed from Finland, Deadwind (Karppi), did the same trick with the title character’s name.

There are two seasons of this intriguing series on Netflix with a third season in the works. This review is only about season 1.

Ville Virtanen and Anu Sinisalo in Bordertown (Sorjonen)

Ville Virtanen plays Sorjonen as odd and full of strange mannerisms. My personal feeling was that he was mildly autistic. He had an unusual way of thinking, which made him great at solving crimes but difficult for the people in his family and his coworkers to understand and communicate with.

Sorjonen’s Family

Matleena Kuusniemi in Bordertown (Sorjonen)

Sorjonen’s wife Pauliina (Matleena Kuusniemi) and daughter Janina (Olivia Ainali) moved from Helsinki to this smaller town with him. The plan was that he would have more time for them in a smaller police department.

Pauliina was recovering from a brain tumor. Even so, she wanted to find a job and be productive again.

Ville Virtanen and Olivia Ainali in Bordertown (Sorjonen)

Janina was a good teenager. She wanted more attention from her father, and she worried about her mother’s health, but wasn’t disruptive in the family the way some teens are.

The Bordertown Police

Anu Sinisalo in Bordertown (Sorjonen)

The most important of the cops, at least to me, was kickass Lena Jaakkola (Anu Sinisalo). She was new in the area, like the Sorjonen family. She’d worked in Russia. She was tough. She knew how to go undercover, and she understood Sorjonen. They were frequently partners when crimes were investigated.

Lena had a daughter, Katia (Lenita Susi), who was the same age as Janina. The two became friends. These two have interesting subplots throughout, one of which ends with the climactic final crime.

Others in the police department included the boss Taina (Kristiina Halttu) and another investigator Niko (Ilkka Villi). Niko did his best to learn from his new colleague, but couldn’t master Sorjonen’s way of thinking. Coroners, politicians, doctors, other cops, and a plethora of bad guys filled out the cast.

Each crime took multiple episodes. There were 11 episodes in season 1. The characters I’ve mentioned evolved and grew through the episodes, but the bad guys changed. “The Doll’s House” episodes dealt with abused and kidnapped young women. “Dragonflies” was about imported designer drugs from Russia. “The Fury” was about fighting dogs and abused women. (There are abused women and abused dogs everywhere!) “The Lady in the Lake” was about a woman found in – guess where – a lake. “The End Game” starts with a murdered man (finally, a man). The last crime grew suspenseful because Janina was accused of the murder.

Even though each crime had more than one episode to work through, I sometimes felt bits were left out. There were gaps in the action – not often, but in a mystery where everything is a factor you notice things like that.

I liked the subtle foreshadowing. Even very early in the season, hints and clues about things that might happen several episodes later were planted.

The series is in Finnish with some Russian and English in the mix. There was some nudity, especially the many corpses in this noir drama. The settings and cinematography were outstanding.

Season 1 takes place in summer, but according to this article (in Finnish) season 3 will be set in winter. That should be equally interesting in terms of cinematography.

There were a couple of cliffhangers and surprises at the end of season 1, but Netflix has season 2 already lined up, so you can forge ahead with your binge.

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Have you watched season 1 of Bordertown (Sorjonen)? What did you think of it?

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26 responses to “Review: Bordertown (Sorjonen), season 1”

  1. About Bordertown, season 1 episode 7 The Fury, I didn’t get to see the climax, the fight between Lena and the rabid dog(s). Was it edited out? Lena’s about to fight the dog(s) with her daughter forced to watch. Suddenly Kari and the cops arrive and we see Lena punching the boxing club guy in the face. This is after the fight with the dogs, the climax really, that I didn’t get to see, and Lena and her daughter are rescued. What happened between Lena and the dogs? How was she able to defeat them? How was she able to defeat the boxing club owner? The denouement was unsatisfying and ambiguous, which kind of ruined things for me. Help.

    • I had exactly the same experience. I’ve been with this show, I appreciate its unconventional ways of telling the stories and developing the characters But I had to watch the dog fight sequence 3 times to see I didn’t miss a clue as to what happened. They just skipped over the climax to the whole story! I can PRESUME she beat the dog, but how did the extremely hard to get to bald fight promoter guy end up within arms reach of Lena? Feels like a total cop-out on the part of the showrunners. Plus: there’s only one place within miles that has any limestone at all? Kari finds limestone on a shoe and the next scene they’re arriving at this tunnel in the middle of nowhere? Cut to Kari arriving home and a big family hug worthy of an episode of The Facts of Life. I feel so cheated and let down.I may not be able to continue watching. This show has gone fro a solid 8.5 to a 4 for me thanks to this BS.

    • Yep, skipped right over the fight w/the rabid dogs. Next thing u know she’s wailing on the boxing club owner, & the cavalry has arrived. Quite a letdown.

  2. I’m late to this series. I’m enjoying season 1 — except for Kari’s wife, Pauliina. I find her character uninteresting and generally unlikeable.

  3. My wife and I are so confused. Was there different timelines in Season 3 Episode 1? At the end of the episode, the scene with the dead child and her mom hidden in a secret room was played out in the very first episode. Did the victim who took her life by stepping in front of a train happen in the earlier timeline? I’ve searched the web for hours and found nothing. Thank you!

  4. I guess we’re the odd ones again. We gave up. The characters of Kari and Lena can’t support the first season by themselves. As others have noted, there are mystifying gaps that never get filled in, e.g., the killer dog was apparently an extra. Throw in some suspend-disbelief plots (Survive three days underwater breathing through a plastic hose–really?) and the Star Trek Energizer begins to look like a possibility.

    The Finns seem to have a fixation with sex-imbued scenes. Nothing wrong with nudity, but seen one naked corpse, seen ’em all. Then there’s the rape scene with the politician and her husband. What the hell?

    All that aside, the dialogue is stilted and creaky. Maybe it’s a translation issue, but there are an awful lot of “she didn’t really say that, did she?” moments.

    • Totally there with you. The series brings nothing to the table. The detective once again is an autistic guy with clairvoyant skills. Sex in its most unappealing forms is everywhere. But what makes it weak is the dialogues, there’s no life, no dynamics in these dialogs, characters just trading trite and cliched phrases with the main guy inevitably piecing it all together again. I’d rather get back to The Bridge or The Killing.

  5. I really like the serie. My husband and i watch 1 episode pr evening. We like Kari very much. The actor plays it so well.
    We have an autistic son, we reconnice Kari’s behavior. Even when there is never said Kari has autisme.

  6. Could anyone explain the connections in S1 Part 2 The lady in the lake – I am totally confused and couldn’t understand what happened.

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