HEARTLESS is a Danish supernatural TV show comprised of eight episodes, all of which were first broadcast in its native country in 2014. It’s now available as a two-disc DVD set in the UK after being shown on 4oD earlier this year, and it’s a must-watch for fans of the paranormal genre.
Described as ‘an 18 certificate Twilight Saga’, HEARTLESS is a dark, edgy thriller befitting the Nordic Noir sub-genre. It has its roots firmly planted on the side of the supernatural, but it also dips into several other categories at the same time. Thanks to its additional crime and teen drama elements, I’d best describe it as Lost Girl meets The Vampire Diaries, if Stefan and Damon were soul-sucking, sex-having teenagers ensconced at an elite boarding school.
HEARTLESS follows seventeen-year-old twins Sebastian and Sofie Nielsen as they try to uncover their past and figure out just why they feel the need to suck the life out of people. Their search takes them to their mother’s old boarding school, Ottmannsgaard, which is a giant, looming building hiding much more than a bad report card or two. The twins quickly find themselves embroiled in a centuries-old mystery that could hold the key to their survival, but time is fast running out and the death toll is rising. Only a heart can unlock the past, but who will pay the ultimate price?
Sounds good? That’s because it is! I loved every minute of HEARTLESS; I watched all eight episodes back-to-back and basically thought of nothing else all day. The opening episode sets everything up nicely, with character introductions and location establishment being the main order of business, and within the first few minutes a barrage of burning questions are raised. Cue a kick-ass soundtrack accompanying a highly stylish opening credits sequence, and, before I knew it, I was addicted. This is definitely my kind of show!
Sebastian and Sofie are instantly likeable, which could have a little something to do with actors Sebastian Jessen and Julie Zangenberg. Their on-screen chemistry is brilliant, and it’s very easy to believe they’re two misguided, tortured siblings with no direction in life. The supporting players are all great too, particularly Julie Christiansen as Emilie and Nicolaj Kopernikus as Henrik. Each performance is believable and memorable, which is exactly what I look for in a TV show’s ensemble cast.
The boarding school setting allows HEARTLESS to dip into teen drama territory, which adds romance and angst to an already hellish situation. School is always a difficult place for any student, but when you’re a non-human creature straight out of a mythology book, it’s infinitely worse. Joss Whedon punctuated that metaphor perfectly with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and HEARTLESS takes that idea and runs with it. Having Sebastian and Sofie deal with normal teenage issues and emotions is a clever way to complicate proceedings, and it makes the show that much more compulsive to watch. Imagine if Gossip Girl was full of soul-suckers and witches, and you’ll get the general idea!
One of my favourite parts of HEARTLESS is the scenes that flashback to 1666, and in doing so show us an era that happens to be the start of the whole story. The scenes themselves are reminiscent of those in The Vampire Diaries, with old-school clothing and saturated lighting being the only indication that we’ve gone back in time. Flashbacks will be a familiar narrative structure to anyone who watches a lot of TV shows, but they serve an important purpose here and are genuinely interesting to watch, unlike those seen in Arrow. In fact, I wish HEARTLESS had utilized flashbacks more — the story is fascinating, and, if there’s ever a second season, I hope there’ll be more of all the evil goings on in 1666.
HEARTLESS is fairly difficult to talk about without divulging spoilers and giving away the masterfully layered plot, but all I’ll say is that it’s not what I was expecting. There are twists and turns aplenty, with a big revelation occurring almost every episode, and it’s never something I guessed. As Sebastian and Sofie uncover the secrets of their past, ancient curses come to light and families are torn apart, all in typical TV style.
HEARTLESS contains copious amounts of teen drama, supernatural mysteries and a generous helping of adult content, all of which are very welcome aspects in any show I watch. It’s beautifully shot, well written, and, most importantly, very enjoyable. I loved it all from start to finish and would highly recommend it to any fellow fans of monsters, magic and the macabre — it’s a perfect example of the calibre of TV being produced in other European countries, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an eventual return to Ottmannsgaard.
HEARTLESS: The Complete Season One is available on DVD Monday, April 18th.
– JENNY DAVIES