This is a series about one of the most respected detectives in the country. When his wife has been released from the hospital after barely surviving brain cancer, he decides to take his family to a small town near the border. To move far from the grind of the big city, and to live, while still working as a police homicide detective, he hoped would lead to a quieter and peaceful life. But life is not very peaceful on this particular border. Murders, rapes, kidnappings, prostitution, drug trafficking and dog fighting are among the crimes that this detectives will find after leaving the big city.
And you thought living at a distance from a large urban setting would lead to a quiet and peaceful existence, with crime appearing once in a while, as opposed to continuously.
As far as a border town, were you thinking of El Paso, Texas and its Mexican counterpart across the river known as Juarez? Or maybe you thought of the border town with a triple frontier. That would be Ciudad del Este which sits at the confluence of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentine. Both would be good guesses.
No, this Bordentown is called Lappeenranta. My guess is that you don’t really know where Lappeenranta is. Full disclosure – I didn’t know either and I’ve never been there. Lappeenranta is a two and half hours train ride heading Northeast out of Helsinki, which means we will watch this series which mostly shot in Finland.
It isn’t all in Finland as Lappenranta is about three hours by a combo of bus and train traveling Southeast to the Venice of the North, which as we all know, is St. Petersburg, Russia. In this part of the world, Finland and Russia share a land border – hence this series, airing on Netflix is called Bordertown.
Our lead detective is called Kari Sorjonen. The actor who is that role is Ville Virtanen. He’s in his mid 50’s and here he’s been tasked with the portrayal of Sorjonen, a man who is both driven, intense, quirky, and brilliant. This brilliance often gets him in trouble with his boss Taina who is this head of this special investigative unit. which is a new department and is currently operating on a trial basis. You know why don’t you? It’s the same all over – they call it funding.
Taina is charged with both solving the cases which are in the hands of her staff of detectives as well as controlling expenses.
As part of moving out of Helsinki for a less hectic home in the country, Sorjonen has promised to not bring his work home with him. But crime doesn’t punch a clock which means our detectives get far less down time then they’d hoped for. Sorjonen’s wife (above) has to constantly urge him to answer his phone.
His daughter (above) has to adjust to a new home in a town she doesn’t know. And as we were once teenagers ourselves, we know that this isn’t always easy.
Detective Sorjonen has his own adjustments to make. His case solving techniques or methods are a bit strange , and more often than not, Sorjonen is seen holding his head in his hands, as if in deep pain. The reality is that he’s in another place mentally, and this is just a part of his focusing or concentration techniques. Personally, I thought it was more of an actor’s gambit, and so I didn’t buy into it.
Also prominent in the series is the mysterious Lena. Now Lena is in fact not a Finn. She’s actually Russian and had worked for years as an undercover for Russia’s FSB.
But she’s quite skilled in both martial arts, and as an undercover, and is rather physically someone who should not to be taken lightly.
There’s your set up. I found the female characters far more interesting than the males in this series. I enjoyed a look at Finland (I’ve never been there), and while many exteriors may have been shot in St. Petersburg, I think most of the scenes set there, were actually shot elsewhere. I found this to be the case as I had recently watched the film version of John LeCarre‘s novel, The Russia House, with Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, as the leads.
Bordertown may not have captured the glories of St. Petersburg, but the stories in the series were well written, well acted, and involving.
The series is currently airing on the Netflix streaming service, and I liked it well enough to recommend it. Check out the English subtitled trailer –