“Just say no” to drugs, and say “Yes!” to the multiple award-winning Hooked, an intense, character-driven drama series from Finland that will keep you in its grip.
Hooked (Koukussa) can be difficult to watch. The setting is cold and dreary. Many of the characters are unlikable and unsympathetic. The action can be slow and upsetting. The net effect is uncomfortable and unsettling.
But the storytelling is compelling and the acting is superb — both powerful enough to keep me watching until the closing credits of the final installment.
Set against the backdrop of Helsinki’s criminal underworld, Hooked stars Matleena Kuusniemi (The Home of Dark Butterflies) and Tommi Eronen (Jade Warrior) as Krista Savela and Oskari Autio, former teen lovers whose reunion of sorts, after more than fifteen years apart, results in consequences neither of them could have anticipated.
With the statute of limitations for her arrest and imprisonment having expired, Krista, a former drug addict and Oskari’s first love, returns to Helsinki from her self-imposed exile in Asia to start life anew. But her homecoming is a rude awakening.
The soft-spoken Oskari makes it abundantly clear he doesn’t want Krista in his life. As we come to learn, her fleeing Finland all those years ago marked a turning point in his life: he gave up drugs, raised their smart, nerdy son Niko (Santeri Helinheimo, Bodom) as a young, single father, and became a cop with the city police’s drug squad. The last thing he wants or needs is for his selfish, self-absorbed ex-girlfriend to wreck his life with Niko and Juulia Korhonen (Anna-Maija Tuokko, The Inspector), the jealous new love of his life.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the hardened and emotionally-volatile Krista quickly returns to the world she knew in her previous life, to the home of Joonas “Jonttu” Ritala (Ilkka Heiskanen, Private Eye Vares), a hippyish, low-level drug dealer and pot grower. Her turning to him for help is a fateful choice, as it is through him that she meets Karri “Kode” Ketola (Eero Milonoff, Ganes), Jonttu’s hotheaded, insecure supplier.
And so it is that Krista turns to dealing cocaine in order to earn some quick cash. What’s more, she and Oskari come to an arrangement: she becomes his informant to help him catch Julius Ahlberg (Jussi Nikkilä, Young Gods), Kode’s brother-in-law and boss, an importer of cocaine into Helsinki. For his part, Oscari can’t seem to help himself. Even before their agreement, he protected Krista, and continues to do so at the risk of his career and family life. What neither of them realizes is Oskari’s fellow officer, Riku Paananen (Lauri Tilkanen, Tellus, Nymphs), begins putting two and two together.
A couple weeks ago, at the Golden Venla Awards (Kultainen Venla), Finland’s equivalent of the Emmy® Awards and BAFTA TV Awards, Hooked took home five of the top honors, including Best Drama Program, Writer of the Year for Laura Suhonen, Director of the Year for Marja Pyykkö, Best Actor for Tommi Eronen, and Best Actress for Matleena Kuusniemi. Eero Milonoff was also nominated in the Best Actor category.
The performances by Kuusniemi and Milonoff are outstanding. Krista and Kode are the two most petulant, unappreciative characters in Hooked, prone to outbursts, sometimes violently. After a while it can get tiresome, but what saves the series from devolving into one depressing or maddening scene after another are the subtle displays of the emotional damage at the source of their angry lashings-out. In those moments you can’t help but feel compassion, no matter how unpleasant the characters may be.
And that’s the thing about Hooked. It’s realistic. People get desperate and do unsavory, even criminal things to survive. Love can be a motivation for the same. Life isn’t always hunky dory and it can get downright ugly and brutal. Yet… somewhere in all the messes, there is hope for a better day, a better life.
Shown in Finnish with English subtitles, Hooked is currently streaming on Acorn TV.
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