Review: Quicksand, a Swedish drama series

Hanna Ardéhn in Quicksand

Quicksand opens with 5 gunshots, a bloody classroom, and a stunned young woman named Maja (Hanna Ardéhn) sitting speechless and uninjured amid the chaos. Minor spoilers ahead.

Maja is arrested for murder immediately on the spot. In the 6 tense episodes that follow, we look into her life as it lead up to that killing scene. Maja is taken to jail and not allowed to talk to anyone except her lawyer (David Dencik) and the guards.

From her jail cell, Maja tries to piece together the story. She doesn’t recall some of it. We see it in numerous flashbacks, but not in sequence and not in full. Only in the final seconds of the series do some of the biggest questions get answered.

Hanna Ardéhn carries the series, and very well. She is in every scene. Maja’s from a happy family with both mother (Anna Björk) and father (Christopher Wollter) at home. She has a younger sister, Lina (Iris Herngren).

The relationship and chemistry between sisters played by Iris Herngren and Hanna Ardéhn was lovely and genuine feeling. When I saw how wonderful Maja was with little Lina, it reminded me of where I’d seen Hanna Ardéhn before. She had a big part in 30° i februari (30 Degrees in February), where she also had a warm and beautiful relationship with a younger sister.

Felix Sandman and Hanna Ardéhn  in Quicksand
Sebastian and Maya in the first days of his courtship of her

In Quicksand, Maja begins dating a troubled boy from her high school, Sebastian (Felix Sandman). He’s rich, and charming at first. He makes impressive gestures and flashes his wealth.

As Maja gets to know Sebastian better, she sees into his unhappy relationship with his father, Claes (Reuben Sallmander). His mother is gone – missing perhaps – but no one is looking for her. He takes such excessive amounts of drugs he’s often unfunctional. His behavior becomes more and more erratic.

Ella Rappich, William Spetz, and Hanna Ardéhn in Quicksand
Amanda and Samir are concerned about what Maja is doing with Sebastian

Maja tries to separate from him. Her best friend Amanda (Ella Rappich) sees what’s happening and stands by her. Maja tells Sebastian it’s over.

Maja tries to establish a relationship with Samir (William Spetz). Having Samir in the story serves a dual purpose, because he’s an Iranian immigrant to Sweden. Sebastian is cruel to Samir because he’s an immigrant. I think the disdainful treatment reflects an ongoing problem in Swedish society.

When Maja tries to leave Sebastion, he attempts suicide. Maja is lost after that – drowning in the quicksand of a toxic relationship. She thinks she must save Sebastion. Everyone including his father has abandoned him.

As the episodes progress, we are often in the dark. We don’t hear what Maja tells the investigators, we don’t know the particulars of her case or her defense. We are teased with gaping holes in the story because of this. In some ways this adds to the tension. In other ways I found it annoying as a viewer. Everything is revealed in flashbacks, and the most significant ones are saved for the trial.

Maja’s trial begins in episode 5. Only then do the pieces come together. The judgement is rendered in episode 6. Very few moments come after that, but they are crucial in realizing fully what really happened.

Quicksand is an intriguing mystery. Excellent acting from the entire cast helps the story along. The storytelling choices to keep the viewers in the dark about almost everything were done in a somewhat different way than is usual in a mystery series, but ultimately it worked.

The series is on Netflix. It’s in Swedish with subtitles. If you watch it, I’d love to hear your reactions in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Quicksand, a Swedish drama series”

  1. Watched Quicksand. My opinion? Reminded me quite strongly of a Swedish 90210 (the long-running American series primarily geared to older teens). I should say like a 90210 “kicked up” to be more contemporary. Never hurts to throw some teenage angst and sexuality into the mix. Don’t forget to add some horrific and all to believable violence. Good acting but characters often unlikeable. Director aspires to craft a “meaningful” or “deep” series but I would term the series more shallow than deep.

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