Netflix heads to the land of ABBA for a series about a school shooting and its aftermath. A quick review with very few spoilers.
Netflix has released a lot of new content in the past few months. Some may see it as a bulwark against Disney Plus ready to be rolled out later this year. A lot of the new content on Netflix comes from other countries besides the USA. Quicksand (Störst av allt) is a recent Netflix original from Sweden. (Almost spoiler free)
Quicksand tries to bring an event all too common to American viewers to a country known more for wooden clogs and ABBA than gun violence. In county that had less than 50 gun related deaths in 2017 and school shootings are almost unheard of the events depicted would be nothing more than shocking.
Quicksand starts immediately after the school shooting. The camera, with a tight focus, scans the classroom floor pooled in blood. Maja, the main character at the center of the story, is sitting on the floor clearly in shock and covered in blood. From there Maja is whisked away to jail where the series really starts. Quicksand tries to be slick, but it doesn’t have the shock or the punch of a movie like We Need to Talk About Kevin, a movie also about a school shooting.
The actual trial in Quicksand is softball lob of a case on par with trials seen on more basic American TV fare like Bull or any of the many Law and Order series. You don’t need to know much, if anything, about Swedish law to know the outcome of the verdict. It’s a foregone conclusion from the very first scenes of Maja in jail. However, this may have been the intent of Malin Persson Giolito who wrote the book.
If we already know the outcome of the trial before the trial actually occurs than the directors Per-Olav Sorensen and Lisa Farzeneh, can concentrate on the build up to the crime leading to the trial. Right? Well not exactly. Much of the story is told in flashbacks while Maja is in jail awaiting trial. Some American viewers may find the prison system in Sweden quite odd, but it provides ample opportunity for Maja to reflect on what occurred at the school and events leading up to the shooting.
However, the flashbacks don’t reveal as much as we would like or even deserve as a viewer. What is made clear is how Maja is lured into the world of the rich and elite when she starts to date Sebastian. Sebastian’s father is rich, very rich, which is made painfully clear by the super yacht he owns, the large mansion, and the amounts of money he tosses Sebastian to do pretty much whatever he wants to do while ignoring him for much of the series.
The series also does a good job of showing how Maja goes from being a straight A student before meeting Sebastian to skipping school and not caring if she attends classes. We also see Sebastian’s slide into drug and alcohol abuse and his change in behavior. Felix Sandman who plays Sebastian may be the nicest person you would ever care to meet. On screen, he pulls off being a self-centered rich kid to absolute perfection.
The intent of these flashbacks is to try and show if Maja was responsible for the crime she is accused of committing. On this account, the series fails miserably. We’re never really sure how a girl, who for all intents and purposes, seems to be a good person is drawn into committing a violent crime. The one moment of redemption for the series is during the trial. At this point everything Maja said could have been called into question. It could have been a moment of “was she lying or was she telling the truth?” This moment never materialized and we were left with the expected conclusion.
Quicksand isn’t a total loss. The acting and cinematic quality of the show is its saving grace. If you were wanting to be shocked and awed you’ll have to try something else or watch until the final scene of the series. It’s a moment not expected, but it does little to save a series that doesn’t feel original or fresh.