Before closing out the year and welcoming in a new decade, check out Pagan Peak, the German-Austrian version of the hit series Bron/Broen (The Bridge).
The Swedish-Danish crime drama series Bron/Broen has spawned the French-British thriller The Tunnel and the American-Mexican series The Bridge, as well as Russian-Estonian and Malaysian-Singaporean versions.
Now available in the States is Pagan Peak, aka Der Pass, the German-Austrian adaptation. But there are as many differences in its story and characters as similarities to Bron/Broen.
The first season opens with Austrian police officers making a gruesome discovery on the side of the road in Bad Radkersburg — not the one you might be thinking of if you’ve watched the original series or another of its adaptations. That comes next.
Up in the Alps, Austrian Alpine police have cordoned off the area where a forest ranger found the frozen body of a man in the snow. It has been staged in a particular way and placed so it sits on both sides of the Austrian-German border. As such, the mountain police have notified German state police, who send Ellie Stocker (Julia Jentsch, Hannah Arendt) of the Traunstein criminal investigation unit. Her Austrian counterpart is Gedeon Winter (Nicholas Ofczarek, The Team) of the Salzburg criminal investigation team.
These two are like black and white, night and day, oil and water. Ellie is a cheerful and dedicated cop who almost always has a smile and a nice word for colleagues, as well as a close relationship with her father. Gedeon, on the other hand, is an unpleasant alcoholic druggie and bent cop who has an uneasy relationship with his ill mother and no answer for why he still works for the police. Saga and Martin, they are not.
While Ellie and Gedeon investigate the first case, Austrian police find the body of another dead man in the mountains, posed similarly to the first victim. Now they’re looking at a possible serial killer on the loose, so criminal analyst Christian Ressler (Martin Feifel, Vienna Crime Squad) is brought in to provide a psychological profile and other details that could point to who the culprit might be.
Also assisting on the case, albeit reluctantly, is Sebastian Brunner (Lucas Miko, Charité), the leader of a sort of doomsday cult who seems to be the inspiration for the killer. Meanwhile, a young worker unwittingly crosses paths with the killer, and Munich newspaper reporter Charles Turek (Lucas Gregorowicz, SS-GB) receives additional communications from the now-nicknamed Krampus Killer.
The police investigation goes nowhere as the body count rises — until an incident prompts officials to close the case and Gedeon and Ellie to take drastic actions… all as the killer begins to home in on his ultimate target.
While Pagan Peak is much more of a slow burn than Bron/Broen, it still tells an engrossing story — one that gets its inspiration from, but isn’t a straight German-Austrian copy of, the original series’s first-season narrative. I appreciate this and the fact that the lead characters are quite different from Saga and Martin. The show hooked me from the off and I would have binge-watched it in one sitting if I hadn’t needed sleep.
The eight-episode first season features Franz Hartwig (Murder by the Lake), Hanno Koffler (Beat), Natasha Petrovic (Secrets from the Past), Christopher Schärf (Skylines), and Julian Looman (The Mallorca Files).
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