Happy Friday! There’s tons of TV out there from across the globe. Here are titles from Australia, China, and Finland to consider for your weekend viewing.
Welcome to the first of what I intend to be a weekly article on Fridays to kick off your weekend viewing. (Except when it’s preempted by the monthly “premieres” article, as will happen in two weeks, or when a missed article couldn’t be helped.)
Whether we’ve hit the pinnacle of the “peak TV” era or beginning to experience its decline matters not, because there is and will continue to be more TV programming than there are hours to consume it all. And because there are so many titles out there, the “global TV to watch” article series is meant to introduce you to programs from across the globe and from various genres that might interest you. Each week I’ll let you know about three titles, mostly TV series but also movies and one-offs, that are available for streaming in the US (and possibly in other countries). So without any further ado, here are my picks for this weekend.
Helsinki Syndrome (Finland)
Created and written by Miikko Oikkonen, the writer-creator of Bordertown, this crime thriller revolves around a man, Elias Karo (Peter Franzén, Vikings, The Wheel of Time), who takes a group of journalists hostage. What he wants is for them to investigate and find the truth about how Finland’s banks, courts, and government were complicit in destroying his family — from stealing everything his parents owned, to causing his father’s suicide — as well as many other families during the country’s banking crisis in the 1990s. Then when he lost his own business due to the covid-19 pandemic, but received no help from the government as others did, this situation became the straw that broke Elias’s back.
As one of the journalists uncovers incriminating information, and hundreds of stories from other Finns, similar to that of what Elias’s family experienced, are made known, Elias’s claims are proven true, gaining him support from the public and even from his hostages. (Ergo the title Helsinki Syndrome, an appropriate riff on Stockholm Syndrome.) But then details about the real reason behind the hostage situation are discovered, putting Elias’s plan to avenge his family and gain justice for them and other families in jeopardy.
Mystery Road: Origin (Australia)
This Outback noir crime drama is a prequel to the Mystery Road series, a spinoff of the feature films Mystery Road and Goldstone — all of which revolve around Indigenous detective Jay Swan, played in the films and spinoff by Aaron Pedersen (Jack Irish, City Homicide) and in this prequel by Mark Coles Smith (Halifax: Retribution, Picnic at Hanging Rock).
As the title indicates, Mystery Road: Origin tells the origin story of Jay Swan. Set in 1999, it follows young Police Constable Swan as he returns to Jardine, his hometown in the Outback, to start his new job as a bona fide detective. Jay still has family here, but his is not an arms-wide-open kind of reunion. And before he’s even made it to the police station, Jay has a tense run-in with a marauding band of masked robbers, followed by one with an overzealous cop. In relatively short order, Jay experiences two events that help shape the man he will become: meeting the woman who will change his life, and finding the dead body of someone known to him. Between his burgeoning romance and deep grief, Jay must find a killer and thwart the real goal of that criminal gang.
If the title sounds familiar, it could be because you’ve read Cixin Liu’s best-selling, highly-acclaimed science fiction novel The Three-Body Problem — the first Asian novel to win the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novel. (If you have Kindle Unlimited, the book is included as a no-charge title.) Or maybe you’ve heard about Netflix’s English-language adaptation of the novel, which is due on the streaming service later this year. Or neither. Regardless, what’s available for streaming right now is the Chinese adaptation, a 30-episode series of the 35-chapter book that many viewers have raved about it.
Three-Body opens in June 2007 with the death of a young physicist, the latest in a long string of suicides in the global scientific community. Investigating these deaths is Shi Qiang (Hewei Yu, Three Kingdoms), a rather boorish police captain with expertise in counter-terrorism. Interestingly, the military are involved as well, as Wang Miao (Luyi “Edward” Zhang, New World), an upright academic and nanomaterials expert, discovers firsthand. Army General Chang Weisi (Yongjian Lin, Ordinary Hero) wants Wang to infiltrate an organization called the Frontiers of Science for a couple of reasons: its connection to many of the deceased scientists… and the impending invasion of Earth by aliens and the resultant end of humanity — unless Wang can help stop it.
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