Iceland. Land of lava, glaciers, volcanos and bubbling geysers. This remote but beautiful country has given us a few excellent crime dramas over the years; ‘Trapped’ starring the fabulous Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, and ‘The Valhalla Murders’ to name but two. Purely on the strength of the opening episode of ‘Sisterhood’, I’m confident you can add that name to the list, too.
If you want to avoid all spoilers, please stop reading this article now.
Sisterhood is based upon the relationship between three teenage girls in the late 90s; and the repercussions of their actions some 25 years later when they’ve become grown women. Still living in the same small town in the west of Iceland, the women’s normal lives are shattered by the news of the discovery of a skeleton in an old mining shaft outside of town. Although the remains are yet to be identified, they believe they know whose body it is – and believe they were responsible for it being there.
The three women are Elisabet (Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir), who has found her calling as a priest. She has a husband and two children and lives a very comfortable and secure life; Karlotta (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir) is currently single, a nurse and reformed alcoholic; and Anna Sigga (Jóhanna Friðrika Sæmundsdóttir) is a chef who works for a sexist and creepy restaurant owner (played superbly by Joi Johannsson, who was in another Walter Presents show, ‘Rig 45’).
Hoping to solve the case – although we only see them fleetingly in the opening episode – are Vera and Einar (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir and Jónmundur Grétarsson).
This is one of those shows where details are peeled away gradually – like an onion – to reveal more and more of the backstory. So, after just one episode (there are six in total), we only have a taste of what secrets and mysteries might be revealed later. But that tiny taste is enough to get me wanting the full six courses.
The acting is excellent throughout, but it’s the script writing, storyline and – in particular – characterisation that really grabs you. Each of these women are flawed, at times hopelessly so; but they’re also occasionally brilliant, warm and funny. Essentially, they’re completely and utterly real and believable people – as are the supporting cast. Despite them having apparently done something truly awful 25 years ago, we’re rooting for them – because they’re like you or me.
The Icelandic tourism authority won’t be inundated with enquiries once this show is aired, because we see little of the magnificent landscapes that make this country what it is; instead, we see functional and drab interiors, basic housing and a clapped-out Toyota Yaris. But curiously, that’s also part of its charm. It doesn’t rely on pretty pictures – it’s top drawer, character-driven drama .
Icelandic drama has always punched above its weight, and this is another heavyweight drama. It’s classy, engaging and thoroughly absorbing. File under essential viewing.
Walter Presents: ‘Sisterhood’ launches on Channel 4 at 11.30pm on 19th September 2022. The full boxset is available via Walter Presents on All 4 from 16th September.