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Jordskott: Seasons 1 and 2 – TV Series Review

Jordskott (poster)How far would you go to protect your child? Would you destroy a community? Commit genocide? Kill another’s child? On the Swedish urban fantasy crime drama Jordskott, the answer to these questions is often yes.

Jordskott could be described as The Killing meets Trollhunter. It begins when Eva Thörnblad (Moa Gammel), a troubled police detective, returns to the small town of Silverhold after her estranged father’s death. The local police have mounted a search for a missing boy, and Eva quickly becomes convinced the case is linked to her daughter Josephine’s disappearance seven years earlier. After she joins the hunt for the boy, a mute, severely ill girl resembling Josephine wanders out of the woods. At the hospital, Eva learns the girl is infected with the same deadly parasite—a jordskott—that killed Eva’s father. From this point on, Eva does everything she can to save Josephine.

The jordskott grows out of a seed that, when swallowed, turns its human host into a tree in a long, painful transformation. However, Eva discovers there is a certain potion that allows an infected person to not only survive, but thrive with enhanced strength and sensory abilities conferred by the jordskott. Her sleuthing also leads her to a secret organization that protects the non-human beings who live amongst us, taking any measures necessary to cover up supernatural events. Göran Wass (Göran Ragnerstam), an agent of this organization, and local police detective Tom Aronsson (Richard Forsgren) become Eva’s allies in the hunt for the person—or creature—who kidnapped Josephine and the missing boy.

Meanwhile, Tom’s daughter, a mute girl diagnosed with autism, draws prescient pictures that become clues. Environmentalists protest a mining operation undertaken by the company owned by Eva’s father, and corpses with nonhuman traits begin piling up in the morgue. The mining company board and a wise woman with a crow familiar know more than they’re telling, while a telepathic orphan and a mentally challenged young man don’t know enough to stay out of trouble.

In season two, the action expands outside Eva’s hometown to Stockholm, where Eva uncovers a human trafficking ring that sells people with supernatural abilities.

Göran Wass, Eva Thörnblad, and Tom Aronsson

The haunted female detective has become a modern staple of series like The Killing and The Bridge, but on the other hand, troubled male detectives have been a standard of detective fiction and dramas dating back to Sherlock Holmes. In any case, the supernatural aspects of Eva’s past and present enliven the trope and also put an ironic spin on “haunted,” which I relished. The performances are outstanding, the writing is smart and moving, and the visuals are beautifully shot and as affecting as they are effective.

Eva ThörnbladAs an American, I had to rely on the English subtitles, but I find subtitles far less distracting than overdubbing, which always makes my ears twitch and eyes squint, as my brain tries to reconcile the mismatch between sound and lip movements. A few of the flaws common to police dramas crop up here and there, such as the detective going to suspicious places without telling anyone, but I can’t remember any major plot holes or gaffes. Every thread is smoothly woven into the tapestry, and every end neatly tied off.

The best speculative fiction uses the fantastic to explore human nature, and what I loved most about Jordsott is how it uses the supernatural to examine family relationships. Blood—literally and figuratively—binds the characters together, but genetic heritage doesn’t necessarily define family. Changelings abound; false parents, false children, and secret and open adoptions are woven into the plot of both seasons. Eva’s relationship with her blood relatives is fraught. She is estranged from both her parents by choice and separated from her daughter by circumstance. The returned Josephine’s DNA doesn’t match Eva’s, but Eva knows this girl is her daughter, and acts accordingly, even to the point of endangering other children.

Like a lot of modern crime dramas, the show’s moral palette contains more gray than black and white. There are some clear-cut good and bad guys—ruthless assassins and human traffickers are balanced by virtuous law enforcement officers like Tom Aronson. Between these forces of “good” and “evil” live Eva and Gören, along with most of the other characters. Notably, nearly every action taken by everyone aims to either save a child or avenge one. The mining company’s board is out for profit, but the desire to secure legacies for their children, rather than mere greed, drives company officials. A defender of the forest is also driven by family obligations, as is the wise woman who tries to prevent all-out war between humans and nature in season one.

Jordskott II (poster)Season two reveals the source of the potion that keeps jordskott hosts alive, while the plot centers on human, and nonhuman, trafficking and exploitation. Eva and Tom’s daughter help a teenage migrant search for a missing girl who can talk to animals, while Eva’s colleagues on the Stockholm police force investigate the murder of a vagrant who turned to dust upon his death. As Eva pursues evidence of witchcraft and dark rituals, she discovers her mother, an irascible termagant with dementia, knew the vagrant and might be able to help unravel the mystery, if she could only remember her past. Göran’s secret organization shows its dark side, and the friendship between Eva, Göran, and Tom becomes strained as their goals put them at odds. Amid all the twists and turns of the plot, however, the theme of family as motivation remains at the core.

The end of season two hints that a season three plot might revolve around the secret organization and a centuries-old treaty between the Thörnblad family and the forces of nature. If season three is made (show creator Henrik Björn has suggested it will, but production hasn’t yet started, according to the Internet), I expect the clash between human civilization and the natural world will come to the forefront. So far, this conflict has been a steady undercurrent; both seasons included allusions to climate change and the dangers it poses to humankind as well as the creatures of nature. At this point in human history, climate change appears inevitable, and the challenge for humanity is no longer stopping it, but adapting to it, just as Eva’s forbearers made peace with dangerous elements of the natural world. I also expect the theme of family to remain strong as the show goes on. After all, why do we make peace with our enemies, except to save our children?

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One Comment

  1. Kara Copple says:

    Great review. I’ve recently just finished season one and found it to be a breath of fresh air. My mum who usually hates fantasy-based stories was the one who recommended it to me which was interesting. Loved the blending of real world concerns and themes (parenting, environmentalism) with the fantasy element.

    For those who liked Jordskott, I’d also recommend ‘Dark’ – a German Netflix show. It starts with missing kids/community tensions but with a sci-fi story line involving time travel.

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