Acquitted keeps you in suspense

TV review

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

AcquittedThe Norwegian TV series Frikjent debuted in March 2015 in its home country and was a resounding success. It then became very popular worldwide, including in the United States, with the English title Acquitted. The actors are outstanding, the plot gripping, and the scenery is, of course, breathtaking.

The series, which consists of two seasons with 18 total episodes, is set in the county of Sogn og Fjordane with its majestic mountains and stunning fjords. Most of the action was filmed in the municipality of Årdalstangen, which represents the fictional village of Lifjord.

The protagonist is Aksel Borgen (played by Nicolai Cleve Broch) who many years ago was accused of murdering his 18-year-old high-school girlfriend Karine Hansteen but was acquitted. Not everyone, however, believed that he was innocent. The victim’s mother, Eva (played by the celebrated Swedish actress Lena Endre), in particular held Aksel responsible. But enough villagers shared her suspicion that Aksel felt forced to leave, as his life had become unbearable. He departed for a far-off location, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, where he became a successful businessman, married a beautiful local woman (Elaine Tan), and settled down with a new identity and relative peace of mind.

(Fans of Nordic TV and film may find some of the faces familiar. Broch played Norwegian Resistance fighter Gregers Gran in the notable Norwegian film Max Magnus, and Endre played Erika Berger, editor-in-chief of Millennium and Blomkvist’s lover, in the three Swedish films of the popular Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson.)

But then, 20 years later, his life is turned upside down again. He receives a call from William Hansteen (Ingar Helge Gimle), who happens to be the father of the murdered young woman. He begs Aksel to return to Lifjord to save the town from financial disaster. He and Eva own Solar Tech, an energy firm that employs a large share of the local population. If Solar Tech goes under, so will the village. Aksel at first refuses, unwilling to return to a place with such unpleasant memories. But he relents, feeling that he is in the position to help the dire financial situation and at the same time recover his good reputation.

When he returns, he is not welcomed as a hero. Resentment is still festering. Many hate him, especially Eva, whose husband invited Aksel back unbeknownst to her. Even Aksel’s own mother, Mai-Britt (Anne Marit Jacobsen), does not want to have anything to do with him, and his brother Erik (Tobias Santelmann) is ambivalent about having him back in his life.

Aksel meets strong local resistance as he tries to turn the fortunes of Solar Tech around through deals with his associates in Malaysia. He also finds himself under fire again for the murder of Karine. He decides to leave, but, as pressure and accusations against him mount, he finds leads as to who might be guilty. He feels that he cannot leave Norway again until he solves the murder and clears his name. But he immediately finds his own life in danger as he begins to investigate the cold case.

The viewer is constantly surprised at the appearance of new suspects and new evidence, and wonders, “Is it someone who has always been in the village or is Aksel really the guilty one?” The suspense remains until the very end of the last episode.

Acquitted is an exciting example of Nordic Noir with minimal violence.

Acquitted can be viewed in the United States with a subscription to MHz Choice or as an add-on to an Amazon Prime Video subscription or an Xfinity X1 account.

This article originally appeared in the April 5, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.