Review: Beartown

Swedish rednecks!

HBO takes us on an unsatisfactory hockey trip to Sweden's icy redneck country.

Published 22 October 2020 - 8:00 pm
Tor Aavatsmark

With more and more players fighting for consumer streamingwallet, more of the leading services are focusing on more local content to attract subscribers. Netflix has launched The Rain, Quicksand – Biggest of all and Ragnarok, while HBO has come up with Beforeigners and Gosta.

In its third Nordic TV series, HBO based the script on the novel (2016) by Fredrik Backman. The plot is both topical and interesting, but the series has unfortunately become a lax and uninspiring affair. In fact, more annoying than captivating.


We are definitely in Norrland! In a dilapidated, endangered small town that in every way most resembles a city in the middle of the deep forests from the time of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the city’s great son returns from success abroad.

Peter Andersson (Ulf Stenberg) has for several years played hockey at the elite level in the NHL league in Canada, now he takes the teenage children and the wife to the childhood town. With them in their luggage, they carry a family tragedy, an incident that has just been swept under the rug.

The plot is somewhat reminiscent of The Way Back, where the city’s great hero returns home to save the city’s lost sports team, but Stenberg is not as thirsty as Affleck. Where Affleck was given the task of rescuing a failed basketball team, there is only one sport that applies in Beartown – HOCKEY!

Peter is hired to train the A-team, but quickly realizes that it is far beyond the possibilities to be saved, so he undertakes to train the junior team, and quickly achieves success. Then his daughter is raped.

Beartown, season 1 (Photo: HBO)

Beartown addresses a highly topical issue with young people’s party culture, gray areas around consent, naive adults, sexual abuse and, not least, subsequent “abuse” on social media. But the series fails both in terms of credible characters and dramaturgy.

It is perfectly fine that it has been decided that the setting should be in dirty brown-gray colors, to properly emphasize how nitrist the city and life are in this deserted, frozen small-town hell; but the houses, the interior, the clothes and the hairstyles look, strangely enough, as if they have remained unchanged since 1975. This despite the fact that the action takes place in the present.

The NHL player (who probably earned 2 million a month) lives in an old, dilapidated house.

All this can be written on account of conscious, artistic, choices, to reinforce / substantiate the story, far worse is that several of the main characters are so caricatured and unrealistic that we are annoyed.

The father of the young hockey talent Kevin is a thoroughly unsympathetic psychopathic devil of rank. Certainly a reflective choice on the part of the author, but we do not actually buy such a thoroughly nuanced person. Several of the actions of the characters are unfounded and highly unlikely. The script is generally not very subtle, black and white, and several of the side stories are just that, side stories without either a head or a tail.

Then it is better with the youth, who get a lot out of a rather flat dialogue; but even they fail to elevate the drama significantly to the point that we are able to engage with them and their fate – the narrative becomes too constructed, unvarnished and sought after.

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Beartown, Season 1 (Photo: HBO)

If you are a die hard ice hockey fan, you will probably find a certain joy in Beartown – because here a lot of screen time is devoted to pure ice hockey matches. Well choreographed and exciting skirmishes on the ice, in a city where hockey is the only thing the inhabitants breathe and live for – the rest of the plot is unfortunately far from equally fascinating.

Beartown is a series you can skip elegantly with a clear conscience. 3 faint, very mediocre, stars.

Beartown, season 1 (Photo: HBO)





  • HBO
  • Release: October 19, 2020
  • Directed by Peter Grönlund
  • With: Miriam Ingrid, Oliver Dufåker, Ulf Stenberg, Tobias Zilliacus, Aliette Opheim, Otto Fahlgren
  • Genre: Drama
  • Country: Sweden
  • Year: 2020
  • Time: 4:15 p.m.
  • Grade: 3
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