Netflix keeps pushing its international portfolio with new shows set in the less familiar parts of Europe. For many decades, when people thought of Europe in film and television they thought of France, England, Italy, and Germany. However, the European landscape is so much richer than those countries. There are entire cultures and societies worth exploring, and they are becoming more present in media.
This time, it is the turn of Sweden to make a splash in the Netflix calendar of releases, and the show does it with the miniseries Clark. A show based on the life of Clark Olofsson, Sweden most notorious criminal. Olofsson’s exploits even gave birth to the Stockholm Syndrome term. So, the show has one hell of a story to tell. Does the series makes Olofsson’s tale something worth watching?
The answer is a yes, at least in parts. The show executes on the idea of making a series out of this gangster life, but does it in ways that feel a bit problematic. Nevertheless, the show remains entertaining throughout its run of six episodes.
Clark is a miniseries produced by Netflix and starts Bill Skarsgard, Alicia Agneson, Vilhelm Blomgren, and Hanna Björn, among others. The show tells the live Clark Olofsson from the moment of his birth, as he becomes Sweden most famous criminal. Indeed, the life of Olofsson is one amazing tale, filled with twists and turns and lots of humor.
That might be one of the weirdest takes on the material that the show takes its inspiration from. The show very much romanticizes Clark as more than just a criminal. It often takes the point of view of seeing his exploits as a sort of big adventure, something that should be celebrated. It feels odd to have this take on the show even when it is evident that Olofsson is not only a criminal that has hurt people along his way but that he is also a very selfish and dangerous person.
The romanticization of the criminal is something that has been part of universal storytelling for a long time. The figure of Robin Hood is basically the staple of this sort of trope. However, in this show, Olofsson is not stealing from the rich to give to the poor, he is doing the things he does because they make him feel good as an individual.
The show tries to make the cheeky tone work as much as it can. But sometimes it goes too much into the playful territory, and some of the most important and serious scenes are undermined by this execution of the ideas. It sure makes the show feel fun, but it could be argued that this take on the material doesn’t really make it stronger.
Visually, the look of the show is mostly content with the washed out look that most of these Scandinavian TV series seem to think is the standard. This look makes everything seem cold and distant. It would have been a surprise if the show had decided to go for a brighter look. Maybe someday one TV series coming from this area of the world will dare going into that territory. Color isn’t a bad thing.
When it comes to acting, the show places a heavy toll on the shoulders of Bill Skarsgard. The actor is without a doubt the biggest asset of the show. Bill Skarsgard’s charisma is explosive and sells the character of Olefsson pretty well. In the hands of another actor, the character would have felt phony, but Skarsgard makes him feel genuine and believable as someone who could have done all these things in his life without even blinking an eye.
The show also delivers a lot of social commentary when it comes to how the penal system works in Sweden. The treatment of the prisoners, their rights and how normal civilians see these people are an important part of the show. The show never tries to demonize any sort of opinion, but it clearly has a take on what could be considered the right answer when facing these issues.
Regarding the infamous Stockholm Syndrome, the series develops the idea in episode three, which could be considered the best episode in the show. Because the content of this episode comes right in the middle of the story, it is not a lie that the episodes in the latter half of the show just don’t have the same punch. They are still entertaining, but the show finds its peak right in the middle of the season.
Clark is a fun show, it also boasts great production values and proves that Bill Skarsgard is able to lead any sort of story thanks to his range as an actor. From Pennywise to Clark, Bill Skarsgard is really a talent worth following. The series might have trouble finding its audiences amid the myriad of content Netflix releases every week, but please, if you want to watch something different, Clark is then the choice for you.
Sometimes the characters that are truly greater than life are easier to find in the real world, not in fiction.