You probably know Kristofer Hivju as fierce warrior Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones. Or maybe you recognize him from his scene-stealing supporting turn in Force Majeure and, for Eurocrime television fans, his recent tenure on the long-running Scandinavian detective show Beck. In any case, the big, burly redhead (with wild beard to match) has been making an impression both in his homeland and in North America, also showing up as a memorable baddie in the last Fast & Furious movie, as an actor who uses his commanding presence to mask a goofy sense of humour within.
With Twin, the new 8-episode limited series from Norway, Hivju gets a meaty showcase, playing an irresponsible surfer layabout as well as the straight-laced identical twin brother that he is suddenly forced into impersonating after a tragic accident. Apparently, this has been a passion project for Hivju and creator/director Kristoffer Metcalfe (who’s only other notable credit is the awkwardly named coming-of-age comedy Cupid’s Balls), one that they’ve been developing together over the last 15 years. And while there’s clearly been a lot of thought put in to the look and feel of this miniseries, beautifully shot in the Northern tourist spot of Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the potentially fertile psychological complexity of this idea feels pretty half-baked.
Erik is the broke bum, owing money all over town while half-committing to his girlfriend and his surfing business. Adam is the responsible adult, running a successful boating-tourism company with his wife, Ingrid (Rebekka Nystabakk), that has kept their small island of Sakrisøy afloat for years. When Erik is involved in an accident which sees his mobile home go off a cliff into the sea, he swims to shore and treks to his brother’s house for help. They haven’t seen or spoken to each other in over a decade, however, going back to a lingering issue from the past, so Adam’s initial welcome turns into a nighttime brawl between the two. Enter Ingrid, who tries to split up the fight by whacking her own husband over the head with an oar, accidentally killing him with the force.
This is just the first in a series of incredulous plot points that set the trajectory of Twin’s narrative arc. So, in an attempt to boat Adam to the nearest hospital, Erik ends up accidentally dropping him overseas, killing him even more just for good measure. And then instead of reporting it to the police, Ingrid persuades Erik to take on Adam’s identity when the cops find his body and assume that it’s Erik’s from the previous mobile home crash. What a crazy coincidence for this all action to happen over a few hours, huh?!?!
Despite this hilariously unbelievable setup, Twin still had the potential to dig into the weighty idea of taking someone’s identity. But Metcalfe seems largely uninterested with these aspects, instead relying on an endless series of sequences where Erik has to awkwardly interact with yet another person from Adam’s life that he should know. Ingrid prepares him for none of this, including an important interview with reporters from The Guardian about their business, and basically just throws him to the wolves, even though this was her idea in the first place. I mean, I get that she’s grieving the loss of her husband that she killed but still, you’d think they would have had a sit-down for a couple of hours to plan out how this was actually going to work. Instead, it just plays like a ploy for cheap suspense that gets old real quick.
Meanwhile, Metcalfe still wants to lean in to the procedural elements of Scandinavian crime, focusing on Erik’s old cop friend who senses that something’s not quite right. But the fact that nobody on the police force can even fathom to think that Adam might just be Erik, even when it’s painfully obvious because of how bizarre he’s acting, tends to kill any real tension that could have been generated. Hivju, at least, gets plenty of room to shine, selling us on the existential dread of Erik watching everything he knows slip away while morphing into a fabrication. He’s really the only reason we keep caring somewhat about this ridiculous story.
Some twists and turns do eventually eke their way out of this dour affair but none of them are significant enough to plug the giant gaps in logic throughout. Even when the ending finally rolls around, all it leaves is a resounding shrug. At a generous 8 episodes, Twin is too thematically hollow to be so leisurely paced – can’t we just do this in an hour and a half next time?
- Release Date: 2/4/2020