Most shows that have people coming back from the dead make them brainless zombies that just amble along, grunting and looking to feed on flesh and brains. The new Norwegian series Post Mortem: No One Dies In Skarnes, takes another tack: One woman, who comes back to life, looks completely normal. But things have changed.
POST MORTEM: NO ONE DIES IN SKARNES: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: We see the fly- and dirt-covered face of a woman’s body, her eyes and mouth slightly open.
The Gist: The woman, Live Hallengen (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen), is found in a field outside the tiny Norwegian town of Skarnes. The cops called to the scene have no idea what happened to her or how she got there; there are no apparent marks on her body. The rookie, Reinert (André Sørum), wonders when the ambulance is going to get there. His more jaded partner, Judith (Kim Fairchild) says “Ambulances come when it’s a matter of life and death. This is just death.”
So they call the only funeral parlor in town, which just happens to be run by Live’s father Arvid (Terje Strømdahl) and brother Odd (Elias Holmen Sørensen). Business has been slow lately because, for some reason, no one dies in Skarnes anymore. They’re happy to get the work, but of course are horrified to find out that they’re picking up Live. They power through it, despite their obviously distraught state and get her to the coroner for an autopsy.
That’s when a surprise happens. Hours after being found dead, Live comes back to life, the ME’s scalpel stuck in her chest. She looks absolutely fine, and the only theory the doctor can give her and Odd is that hypothermia slowed her system down to the point where she seemed dead. Arvid stays away from the hospital; he’s seen this before.
When she gets home, she finds that things aren’t completely the same. She seems to have very sensitive hearing now, as he overhears a conversation between Odd and his wife Rose (Sara Khorami) about her. She also seems to get visions of being attacked and stuck with a needle in her neck, before she collapsed in that field. She goes to the police station and reports that to Reinert; he walks her home, suspicious of her story.
Arvid recalls his wife / Live’s mother’s death, where a similar darkness overtook her and she couldn’t curb her thirst for blood. So he knows what’s in store for Live. He attacks her in his office and knocks her out with chloroform. He puts her in a coffin and takes her to their crematorium; he knows that her body can’t exist, and says he’s doing this for her own good. With increased strength, she busts out of the coffin, somehow survives the temperature in the oven, and lifts the heavy brick exit door to get out. When Arvid tells him why he did it, he goes to grab her.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Post Mortem takes the sardonic nature of Six Feet Under and mixes it with the undead part of The Walking Dead. Of course, Live doesn’t have flesh rotting off her face, but she still has a thirst for blood.
Our Take: The first episode of Post Mortem: No One Dies In Skarnes takes a bit of time to set up the situation, which is supposed to have a wryness to go along with some scares and some family drama. We have no idea who attacked Live, what got injected in her neck, or how she came back to life. What we do know is that being undead runs in her family, and that may have something to do with who and why attacked her in the first place.
But the other part of the story is that, now that she is undead, Live will need to continue to quench her bloodthirst. That, of course, will help out the family business, as it feels like the strange lack of deaths in town has put the Hallengen Funeral Home on the brink of ruin. So as the bodies pile up and Odd gets new business (why just Odd? See below), it’ll be interesting to see if Live lets him in on her secret and why he’s all of a sudden awash in dead people.
The show’s writers have taken an interesting turn with Live and Johansen’s performance. Aside from her new abilities and thirst for blood, she’s otherwise normal. She has the same interests and memories as she had before she died, but just now has to contend with dealing with these new impulses. Odd seems to be amiably clueless, but he’s a good contrast to the lonely Live.
We’re also intrigued by the cops, Judith and Reinert. Judith seems to have a thought that something is up, in a way that her less experienced partner can’t contemplate.
If the world that is built around Live lives up to the glimpses we see in the first episode, Post Mortem should be a dark comedy that might actually dark and funny.
Sex and Skin: Live is naked when she’s on the table for her autopsy. Other than that, everyone is covered up.
Parting Shot: Odd gets a call that his father has been found dead, and he goes and tells Live, who hugs him. But she’s suspiciously not upset.
Sleeper Star: Kim Fairchild’s Judith is going to be a key role in the first season, as she’s the only one who wonders just what’s going on with Live. From the start, she doesn’t take her resurrection at face value.
Most Pilot-y Line: None we could find.
Our Call: STREAM IT. While Post Mortem: No One Dies In Skarnes gets off to a bit of a slow start, knowing where the show is going makes us think that it’s going to be sardonic fun instead of a gratuitous bloodbath.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
Stream Post Mortem: No One Dies In Skarnes On Netflix