REVIEW: ‘Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes’ is Twisted but Undermined by Pacing

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Post Mortem No One Dies in Skarnes - But Why Tho

Netflix keeps bringing international vampire fare to viewers, and Post Mortem is a Norwegian drama with a biting sense of humor that won’t appeal to all. Motion Blur Films produces the six-episode season that follows Liv Hallangen (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen), who is declared dead after being mysteriously found in a field. Small-town Skarnes is thrown for a loop when Liv wakes up on the autopsy table. As Liv tries to piece together what happened to her, she realizes she now has a strange craving for blood.

Post Mortem follows a trend that many shows tend to have: no one seems to have heard of supernatural creatures before, even in fiction. Just like many zombie shows say everything but the word “zombie,” Post Mortem will never utter the word “vampire.” A general trait in Post Mortem is characters often make decisions that would have audiences yelling at the screen, and not in a fun way. Liv has grown up in a funeral home and been around corpses her whole life, so much so that she knows how to use an embalming machine. Even in high-stress situations, there are times when she makes decisions that would make one balk, and later on when she is surprised that things don’t go well it is the equivalent of the “shocked Pikachu face” meme. This doesn’t just go for Liv, a large number of the characters pull acts like this.

Initially, the story is very compelling. Liv’s private struggle about what happened to her occurs alongside her brother Odd (Elias Holmen Sørensen) who is secretly trying to keep the family business afloat. This is where the dark comedy of the title comes in: business is struggling for the funeral home because no one dies in small-town Skarnes. Often, comedy in the show can be found by Odd’s excitement at a job and then the subsequent realization that he is the only one happy someone has died. Side quips with this similar morbid humor are frequent, and probably the best part of the show. It will not be for everyone, but for those who truly revel in gallows humor, they will find a lot of laughs in the writing.

Honestly, the major issue I had was with the marketing Netflix did with Post Mortem. Even reading the show’s summary on the website (at least for NA) it sells a very different show. The synopsis claims that the focus is Liv debating whether to sacrifice townsfolk to help keep the family business running and satisfy her thirst. That only occurs once towards the end. With that initial marketing, it felt as though I was watching a prologue, waiting for the main plotline to start. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the show’s writing. However, Post Mortem spent a lot of time with Liv being rude and brushing everyone off as she tried to pretend everything was fine. It is a lot of angst and irrational decision-making that detracts from the overall mystery that was presented at the very beginning of the series: What happened to Liv? The slow burn pacing unfortunately makes the resolution feel a bit rushed and anticlimactic.

One other possible yellow flag in the writing for Post Mortem is the portrayal of Judith (Kim Fairchild). Fairchild does a fantastic job, let’s make that very clear. However, once again through an objective lens, it doesn’t look great that as the only Black woman on the police force, she initially is written as lazy, and tries to convince partner Reinert (André Sørum) to not pursue the case. Granted, in the back half of the series her reasons for why are revealed, and she gains a lot more agency in the story besides just comic relief. However, Judith is arguably one of the most interesting characters in the show, and it felt the writing neglected her.

There are certainly positives to this show, do not get me wrong. It’s comedic timing with the morbid humor is on point. Additionally, the entire cast knocks it out of the park. Full disclosure: I watched the show with the British English dub, and am happy to report that the voice over cast also did a phenomenal job complimenting the original actors portrayals. Kathrine Thorborg Johansen’s every glance as Liv will have viewers mesmerized, even when occasionally rolling their eyes at the writing. Cassie Layton‘s vocal performance is the perfect blend of dry sarcasm and desperation of a woman trying to regain her footing. One again, praise belongs to the entire cast across the board, but special shoutouts also go to Elias Holmen Sørensen and English Dub actor David Fynn‘s comedic timing for Odd. It is painfully awkward in the best way, and makes you root for him through all this mess. Once again Kim Fairchild, and English Dub actress Luyanda Lewis Nyawo, are phenomenal. Judith lights up every moment she is on screen.

Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes is a mixed bag. The twisted gallows humor is well done, and the entire cast sells every moment of the show. Unfortunately, frustrating writing and marketing decisions slow the pacing and hinder the show from reaching its full potential.

Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes is streaming now on Netflix.

Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes is a mixed bag. The twisted gallows humor is well done, and the entire cast sells every moment of the show. Unfortunately, frustrating writing and marketing decisions slow the pacing and hinder the show from reaching its full potential.