Is it possible to mix a great thriller with a great message about climate change? The Swedish drama Thin Ice, debuting on Earth Day on Sundance Now, comes pretty darn close. An oil ship is hijacked during an Arctic climate conference where a treaty is about to be signed. Was the hijacking a result of the treaty or for some other reason? Read on for more.
THIN ICE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: As the camera pans over scenes of Arctic glaciers, we hear a woman giving a speech about how humans are burning enough fossil fuels to raise world temperatures by more than 1.5 degrees C.
The Gist: The woman reading the speech is Elsa Engström (Lena Endre), an environmentalist who is currently the Swedish foreign minister. She’s going over the speech she’s going to make at the meeting of the Arctic Council, where a treaty she wrote up is about to be passed. After landing in Greenland, she was to helicopter from the airport to a ship owned by oil magnate Ville Berger (Reine Brynolfsson), but sends her top advisor, Viktor Baker (Alexander Karim), instead. She catches a ride to the small town of Tasiilaq, where the meeting is to be held, with the Russian foreign minister Anton Ivanov (Juhan Ulfsak), in order to persuade him to sign.
While on the ship, Baker gets a call from his wife Liv Hermanson (Bianca Kronlöf), a member of the Swedish Security Police. She’s pregnant, and she’s about to tell him what the sex of their child is, when all of a sudden the ship is invaded by hijackers with guns. Shots are fired. Baker tries to hide, but they’re looking for him — which means they were looking for Elsa, who was supposed to be on the ship.
Liv immediately reports the hijacking to her bosses, who aren’t getting help from the Danish police. And her boss won’t send her for a few obvious reasons. So she catches up with Berger as he leaves for Greenland to monitor the situation, and asks if she can fly over with him. He agrees, and she pumps him for information on who might want to hijack the ship and if it has anything to do with the treaty, which he was against.
At the conference, after Elsa gets the news about Viktor and the ship, Elsa and the other foreign ministers decide to go on with the meeting. Meanwhile, local police chief Enok Lynge (Angunnguaq Larsen) has to deal with his wife Ina (Nukâka) getting drunk when she vowed that she had stopped drinking. He also has to deal with Katrina Iversen (Iben Dorner), the chief of police for Greenland, taking over the investigation. As a naval search party finds the ship and boards it, though, they find out that everyone on board has been taken off the ship.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Take the various documentaries about Greta Thunberg, take the teenager out and replace her with a Captain Phillips-style thriller, and you have Thin Ice.
Our Take: The most compelling part of Thin Ice, which was developed by Jóhann Ævar Grímsson from an idea from Endre and Søren Stærmose, is that it’s a thriller that has to do with climate change, but it doesn’t overemphasize the climate change part in favor of the thriller aspect. In fact, the writers of the series have done a nice job of balancing the thriller aspect of the show with the fact that it might even be tied into Elsa’s efforts to get this treaty signed.
At the very least, we can see that Elsa’s previous life as a climatologist and environmental activist will likely have something to do with this hijacking. And there are other layers, too, like the fact that the indigenous people in towns like Tasiilaq, two of whom protested the opening ceremony of the summit after gaining entrance dressed as native performers, feel like they’re being cut out of this process. Finally, there’s the matter of Liv, who looks like she’s going to go out on her own to try to find her husband, perhaps with the assistance of Enok, who has been cut out of the investigation and isn’t exactly missing life at home.
It’s our long way of saying that the first episode sets up the story for the next five episodes very well. The diplomats will be trapped in Tasiilaq as the search for Viktor and the ship’s crew continues, the treaty will be in danger, and Elsa will need to figure out how to deal with all of this. It’s definitely an intriguing mix of personalities and stories, and the performances of Endre, Kronlöf and Larsen will go a long way to keeping things on this show intense.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: As the search party reports that no one is on board the ship, meaning that Viktor and the crew have been taken off, Liv starts getting angry and distraught all at once. She’s also wearing a sweater she found in VIktor’s suitcase when she arrived at his hotel room.
Sleeper Star: Nicolas Bro plays Martin Overgaard, the Danish foreign minister, which means he’s the foreign minister of Greenland, too. He’s big and boisterous, and he seems like he’ll play a bigger role in finding the ship’s crew and Viktor going forward.
Most Pilot-y Line: Viktor advises Elsa to simplify her speech to just the same dire proclamations that made Thunberg famous but obscured the facts. Why does she need to simply her message in a meeting full of diplomats?
Our Call: STREAM IT. The story of Thin Ice effectively mixes a standard kidnapping thriller with climate change issues, which means it’s an entertaining series with a serious message, and those kinds of shows are rare.
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, , , Fast Company and elsewhere.
Stream Thin Ice On Sundance Now