As Netflix tries to churn out local content, we get to see several Danish Netflix originals. For example, a couple of months ago, Nicolas Winding Refn got to show off his style with his Danish series Copenhagen Cowboy, which I admittedly have yet to see, and, a while back, I recommended The Chestnut Man and called it the best Danish Netflix release at that time. Today I want to talk about the latest major Danish Netflix original, which I think is mostly solid. But it must be said that in moments it is genuinely tense and gripping.
The limited series titled The Nurse (Danish title: Sygeplejersken) — not to be confused with Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm’s true crime English-language Netflix original The Good Nurse — is based on Kristian Corfixen’s 2019 true crime book of the same name and it depicts the story of the series of mysterious deaths at the Nykøbing Falster Hospital in the mid-to-late 2010s, which led to the incarceration of one of their nurses, who was sentenced to prison for attempted manslaughter.
The show, which — as far as I am aware — uses real names both when it comes to the main hospital workers and the victims, follows Pernille Kurzmann Larsen (played by Fanny Louise Bernth), a young and inexperienced nurse who is just getting used to Nykøbing Falster and actually working at a hospital. Pernille is swiftly taken under the wing of Christina Aistrup Hansen (played by Josephine Park), who is widely regarded as a nurse who is on top of things in spite of the gossip surrounding her.
Christina and Pernille become good pals and dub themselves a ‘dream team,’ but things change all of a sudden when Pernille starts to suspect that Christina is secretly giving patients potentially lethal doses of medicine that they don’t even need in the first place. But because Pernille hasn’t actually seen it happen (and because her colleagues largely refuse to listen to her theories), she decides to — mostly on her own — try to find evidence for it and somehow prevent the nurse from doing harm.
I think this is a solid and relatively short (4-episode long) limited series, which comes from one of the writers of The Chestnut Man and the director of Summer of ’92 (the Danish film about the Danish national team that miraculously won the football Euros in 1992). It got off on strange footing, though, as the tone-setting Scandi-noir grey weather in the opening shots of the show almost looked dystopian. Though, I guess, that is in line with how some characters in the show speak pejoratively about that area of Denmark and the lifestyles of the people who live there (it is at one point described as the worst hospital in the country).
Although I can’t say that I have spent much time in Nykøbing Falster, I thought this was quite sad to hear (especially coming from doctors and nurses), but it may have been true to how the book told the true story. I can’t speak to those kinds of details, but I was genuinely surprised by how dismissive some of the hospital workers were, e.g. how a doctor refutes the complaints of a friend of one of the victims by implying that the patient just got up out of his hospital bed, went to the room that had all of the medicine (how would he know where it was?), and then chose something to overdose on (that felt really unnatural and unbelievable to me — would a doctor really say that?). But, you know, maybe that is taken straight from the book. There were a couple of times in the show when I questioned the show’s medical logic. I’m no expert, but it certainly seemed like they made a few errors here and there (e.g. there is a moment in the show when Christina is teaching Pernille how to give CPR on a patient, but while she does show her how to give the chest compressions, I don’t believe we ever see them giving the required rescue breaths).
While those kinds of errors held it back for me, I must say that I really liked the show’s focus. I think it was really smart to keep the actual crime at arm’s length, which is to say that the show rarely shows anyone actually giving the potentially lethal doses that Pernille believes to have been given by Christina. I also think it was a good decision to focus so much on Pernille, as her inexperience makes her a good audience insert, but also because I think it is dangerous for these shows to focus too much on the perpetrators of the actual true crime, as you don’t want these types of shows to accidentally glorify the wrong people. I also think there was a good attempt to humanize the victims. We don’t just see them on Pernille and Christina’s shifts, there is also an effort to insert a series-long subplot involving the best friend of one of the victims, which helps to make it all feel as real as it was.
I think the performances are quite good. I can’t say that I knew too much about Fanny Louise Bernth beforehand, but she does really competent work here. Josephine Park is similarly strong as Christina Aistrup Hansen. You may have seen Park in another Danish Netflix series titled Baby Fever (Danish title: Skruk). Finally, let’s talk about that excellent final hour. This is where the show really elevates itself above being merely a competent Danish true crime series. In the final episode of the show, it essentially becomes this incredibly tense horror film, as Pernille is on her night shift with Christina. During the night shift, we see how Pernillle must race from room to room to both collect evidence and protect the patients that could be targeted. Here the show is exactly as gripping as it could be. It had me on the edge of my seat, as you always had to guess whether Christina was around the corner, which patients she would visit at night, how Pernille could prove it, and if people would ever believe her. And this episode makes this a show that is definitely worth checking out if you cannot get enough of the true crime genre.
– Article / Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.