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'Cold Courage' is a Complex Thriller Worth the Watch
March 11, 2021  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

The new miniseries Cold Courage might, in a way, resemble a Scandinavian version of The Equalizer.

But I could be wrong about that because the early episodes don't exactly connect all the dots on precisely where the show is going. Some dots remain swirling around in viewers' heads.

That's not a dealbreaker. Cold Courage, which becomes available Thursday on the premium service AMC+, shows encouraging signs that it will be worth the effort to sort out the intricacies, interwoven plot twists, and sometimes ominous backstories.

By the end of the first episode, at least one critical item becomes clear: Cold Courage will revolve around Mari (Pihla Viitala, top) and Lia (Sofia Pekkari, top), Finnish women living in London.

They're from different worlds, not to mention different parts of Finland. Mari jokes at one point that Lia is butchering her language, which viewers wouldn't be able to confirm or refute unless they also speak Finnish. Cold Courage employs a fair amount of subtitling, though its London setting puts most of the dialogue in English.

We meet Lia first, and she's in the more immediately dire straits. We gradually learn she moved to London in some measure to escape a dangerous stalker of an ex and that she, therefore, arrived with few resources. She works at a publication and scrambles to pay the rent by picking up gigs as a freelance designer.

One day, Mari runs into her, quite literally and not by accident. In contrast to Lia, who has work-friend colleagues, Mari seems to be part of a core group that's on a mission. 

That's where the Equalizer notion floats into the corner of the picture. Mari and her friends explain to Lia that they want to give a voice to the powerless and that their vision extends well beyond individual cases of injustice. Their current working operation aims to take down a politician they fear threatens large swaths of all minority communities.

That would be Arthur Fried (John Simm), who is six weeks away from winning a Parliamentary seat that would almost certainly make him prime minister.

Fried's campaign promises to "Make Great Britain Great Again." "Britain for Britons," the placards of his supporters defiantly declare, and there isn't much doubt who they mean by "Britons."

Or who they don't mean. We visit a Fried rally held in front of a mosque, where he all but tells his cheering supporters to kick those Islam worshippers out of England by any means necessary.

Okay, the real-life reference of the Fried character isn't exactly subtle, and Cold Courage has a definite political component. Fried isn't a bad guy just because he's a demagogue, though. He's also a pretty miserable human being, and Mari's group, which calls itself "The Studio," has just six weeks to impress that point on the voters.

Meanwhile, even as it is setting up this relatively linear storyline, Cold Courage introduces a series of murders, making the show, at times, more a police drama than a political drama.

Sometimes. It's hard to differentiate, however, and it gets even harder once Lia's and Mari's backstories start to unfold. Each is more than slightly damaged, and their external quests intertwine with their slow paths toward self-healing.

Pekkari and Viitala handle the roles well, making this considerably more complex than your average female-buddy cop drama. Simm makes Fried appropriately oily, and the real cops and secondary characters maintain both the intensity and mystery of the show.

Some viewers may decide Cold Courage requires more concentration than they want to invest. It's a smart series, though, and those who persevere should be rewarded.

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