TV Series

FIRST LOOK: Riding in Darkness

Aug 10, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This is a first assessment of the Viaplay Swedish crime series "Riding in Darkness" based solely on the first three episodes of the show that completes its course in eight.

This is a story about the long journey towards redemption and healing from horrific child sexual abused, loosely based on true events that took place in Sweden in the 1990s to 2016. Riding in Darkness has been produced in collaboration with music artist Sophie Jahn who suffered from the monstrous deeds of her father during her childhood and decided to out her life story after watching the Swedish TV series Quicksand and exclaimed: "the father in the show is nothing compared to my real father!". Acclaimed screenwriter Ulf Kvensler, known for his involvement in lauded Swedish productions such as The Restaurant and Solsidan, worked for three years on the project, which proved to be a rather challenging one since the premise of the featured story was based on reality. Veteran Swedish actor and fiction writer Jonas Karlsson was cast in the role of the protagonist, Tommy Lundh, an equally charismatic and appalling individual who took advantage of his position and power as an instructor at a well-known equestrian center to sexually molest several of his students, most of them underage and underprivileged teenage girls. Karlsson delivers a convincing performance, playing Tommy with a sinister menace and portraying the character as prone to outbursts of violence and paranoia.

Even though the true story spans more than 25 years in its entirety, Kvensler opted to compress the timeline into 15 in order to maintain dramatic consistency and focus more on a more well-rounded character development. The first episode begins with Molly (Saga Samuelsson), a young girl coming from a troubled family and an addicted mother, arriving at Heddesta to work as a stable girl for Tommy. She instantly forges friendships with the other girls who work there, especially Frida (Amanda Jansson), but the dream for a better life soon evaporates as Tommy shows his dark side, sexually harassing Molly with every chance he gets. However, Molly plucks up the courage to talk about her horrid experience with Katarina (Melinda Kinnaman) and together they file a formal complaint against Tommy at the local police station. From then on, a battle begins between two opposing sides consisting of locals who either believe or don't Molly's accusations. The case goes on trial and by the end of episode 3, viewers left on tenterhooks regarding the final verdict.

There is a lot of jumping back and forth in time, without however that ever becoming too confusing and the directors, Molly Hartleb and Julia Lindström depict the equestrian center as an almost timeless setting, avoiding focusing on details that would make the time transitions feel more plausible. Tommy is a challenging character to portray and Karlsson proves once again his skills and versatility in a role that is somehow reminiscent of that of Klaes Waltin, another villain incarnated by the popular Swedish actor in the 2013 miniseries Death of a Pilgrim. The young actresses cast in the roles of Tommy's victims leave many promises for a bright future, conveying the emotional and psychological consequences of abuse in a measured manner, never resorting to over-the-top outbreaks soaked in hysteria. The photography is easy on the eye, and the brightness of sunny days is juxtaposed with the all-encompassing gloominess of the featured story. Riding in Darkness seems to be a solid choice for Nordic crime fiction lovers, and it will also certainly appeal to fans of the true crime genre. If you enjoyed productions such as The Dark Heart and The Investigation, then you ought to give this one a try.


Riding in Darkness
TV Series
Molly Hartleb, Julia Lindström
Written by
Ulf Kvensler, Sophie Jahn
Jonas Karlsson, Hanna Ardéhn, Melinda Kinnaman, Malin Persson, Amanda Jansson, Saga Samuelsson
Production Companies
Film i Väst Jarowskij AB ZDF
8 ep/45 minutes

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