Top critical review
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Far from perfect but it grows on you
on 22 December 2014
Neither series is particularly frightening. Series 1 starts creepy, but it morphs into a cross between Desperate Housewives and The Addams Family. Series 2 goes larger on gore but it's honestly difficult to understand how you can set a story in a rundown asylum populated by nuns and NOT have it end up scary. Quite an achievement there.
If you want an all out fear assault on the senses this probably isn't it. Nothing like as frightening, for instance, as The Woman in Black but the absence of outright terror allows the storylines and underlying humour to dominate, which is fine by me.
Series 1 starts well and then begins to drag a little ("not ANOTHER murder...") whereas series 2 starts slowly and picks up momentum as it goes forward, with a strong last couple of episodes. Series 1 is focused on the house, its occupants and their backstories which are conventionally bloody and generally infused with black humour somewhere along the line. Favorite episode was the Black Dahlia which was cleverly done and initiated some post-episode googling.
Series 2 has less black humour and some fairly disparate threads but some of them really go nowhere which was a bit frustrating. You can either attribute this to a commendable sense of mystery or a chaotic approach to plotting. Take your pick, but I think they probably just about get away with it.
The acting is good, notably Jessica Lange who is immense in both series, but particularly the second one, and I rather liked the idea of using essentially the same cast each time, though in different roles.
Am I glad I bought it? Yes, probably. But I doubt if I'll watch it again and I didn't like it enough to buy into series 3 and 4, so it's back to Nordic Noir for me...!