The first scene opens with teenager Maja (pronounced Maya) Norberg lying dazed in a classroom, where a mass shooting has taken place and almost everybody is dead. Her clothes are covered in blood and she is apparently in shock.
This scene would have been more typical if it was America instead of Sweden where the show is set. Given that there are very few school shootings there, it is an anomaly. But the writer Malin Persson Giolito whose book Quicksand was adapted into this Netflix series obviously thought otherwise.
In November 2016, Quicksand won the title of Best Crime Novel of the Year, Sweden’s official suspense literature award, which is given by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy.
After Maja spends nine months in prison awaiting her trial, the show takes us on flashbacks all through her mind, trying to decipher and recollect how she got involved in such a crime. Did she really shoot her friends, her boyfriend? What led up to all this?
Juxtaposed with courtroom scenes, are Majas memories of her life before the crime. Existing class differences in Sweden, racial and immigrant issues are dealt with, as portrayed by one of the bright students Sameer Said whose parents do menial jobs and he is humiliated time and again,despite managing to get into one of the finest schools in the city of Djursholm.
As a foil to him is Maja’s boyfriend Sebastian Fagerman, son to one of the richest men in the country, who sucks her into his world of drugs, drinks, wild parties and soon her life is reduced to a vague nothingness. Even after being raped, Maja cannot leave him.
Quicksand shows us the intricacies of human nature at its most complex and how it can be fatal for an 18 year old who has little adult supervision in her life…a common thing in most western countries perhaps.
Gifted actress Hanna Ardehn plays her part in turns with naivety and complexity very effortlessly. The other actors too are brilliant, especially her lawyer David Dencik who shows utmost sensitivity to his young traumatised client and remains her only ally.
Quicksand engulfs you and though I wouldn’t call it ‘exceptional,’ it is a decidedly good, short and gripping watch. Especially since it’s just one season with 7 episodes. Crime show lovers, watch!