DVD Review: Rebecka Martinsson Series 1

by Rachel Bellwoar

It’s probably only easy to forget the weather when you’ve grown up in an area where it doesn’t interfere much, but of all the unpredictable factors that can impede a criminal investigation, weather feels like the low man on the list.
Whether or not that’s ever true, watching movies like Wind River and TV shows like Acorn TV’s Rebecka Martinsson make you realize how lucky it is to be able to think that. On Rebecka Martinsson specifically, being the subject of this review, nature hasn’t relinquished its hold on Kiruna, Sweden one bit. Temperatures are low and require dressing warmly. Snow means always having to consider how you’re getting around. People are isolated from one another but leave their doors unlocked (you also never see any cops being asked to confirm who they are or presenting their badges for id). Fog, ice, and bears can be life threatening at short notice, while darkness raises the chances of depression.

All of these are examples of extreme ways setting makes itself known on this series. Divided into four two-parters, and based on the books by Asa Larssons, each case is given two hours, and it’s a length that pairs well with the environmental factors. Rebecka Martinsson isn’t in a rush and when you’re dealing with the elements, it’s difficult to hurry anyway.
There’s also the more familiar ways setting plays a role in Rebecka’s personal life. Brought to Kiruna for the funeral of an old friend, Rebecka (Ida Engvoll) hasn’t been back in her home town for years and has a successful career in Stockholm as a lawyer (though Rebecka sometimes acts like a cop, it’s a nice change to see a show like this revolve around a character who’s not on the force).
Rebecka knows her worth. Recently promoted to partner, she doesn’t ask for a vacation but takes one, which is a fairly accurate description for how she approaches work in general. While her actions can leave her straddling the line of what’s legal (at her most brazen she steals a laptop after being caught snooping), Rebecka gets what she needs. Her behavior run close to maverick territory, but without the workplace chatter. In this way her rashness is allowed to be a personality trait rather than a need to attract attention.

Pulled between returning to her life in the city or staying on as a prosecutor in Kiruna, one of the things I love about this show is it never portrays the Kiruna police as incompetent or “small town.” Given how Rebecka lands her first case, that’s not set in stone. Had she stayed out of it, her friend’s death would’ve been ruled an accident, but where the police are usually portrayed as irritable when somebody questions their verdict, that’s not the response Rebecka gets to her interest. Ella Mellander is completely believable as Rebecka’s old police friend, Mella. She wants the truth, too, and again, because you have two episodes to tell each story, you get to see more of the work her team puts into solving their cases.
A trauma from the first case bleeds into the second and ensures that none of the two-parters take place in a bubble. The most baffling storyline is Rebecka’s love life. Her city boyfriend’s a drag yet they continue to take the next steps in their relationship, without convincing anyone they care. Hopefully that gets sorted out if there’s a second series because Rebecka has better things to do, and the cases are of the kind you can only find in Kiruna, Sweden.
Rebecka Martinsson Series 1 is currently streaming on Acorn TV. A DVD release went on sale February 27th, 2018.

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