Stop Nyqvist promo pic from MHz Choice

Stop Nyqvist is a dark Finnish political satire on MHz Choice. Aleksis Nyqvist (Antti Tuomas Heikkinen) is an oafish trainee in the media department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A gruesome murder at the Russian border causes the Head of Military Intelligence (Robert Enckell) and the Head of the Department of Defense (Jarkko Pajunen), to install a puppet in the newly created “Baltic Sea Unit” to ascertain Russian threats. Nyqvist fits the bill. As head of the Baltic Sea Unit, he stumbles his way through several ops that trigger hilarious yet harrowing mishaps, drawing secret agents to Finland from Russia, Denmark, Sweden and the U.S. Stop Nyqvist pokes fun at Finnish foreign policy, the global intelligence community, bureaucratic power struggles, and especially the Finnish language, which is notoriously inscrutable.

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Helpful background on Finland’s foreign policy

Finland shares the longest border in the EU with Russia, to whom they refer as “The East”. During the Cold War, and even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the policy regarding their neighbor was known as “Finlandisation”, in which Finland promised to maintain military neutrality, and the Soviets promised to let Finland alone. There is a sense that Finlandisation made Finland look like Russia’s doormat, but they are in a tricky diplomatic position, both literally and figuratively. Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and then invaded Ukraine in 2022, Finland has worried about threats to their sovereignty, and has been pulling away from Russia, reducing energy imports and other dependencies. Most importantly, Finland has expressed interest in joining NATO, which was strictly forbidden under Finlandisation.  In Stop Nyqvist, the Department of Defense is trying to protect Finland’s ability to join NATO at all costs, but has to cover its butt in case Russian relations go sideways. Hence the need for a secretive Baltic Sea Unit, led by a patsy.

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The Characters in Stop Nyqvist

Aleksis Nyqvist is a baby-faced, indolent trainee in a badly run media department. His wife Helena (Sona Kuittinen), a dental hygienist, encourages Nyqvist to take more initiative at his job. When a last-minute assignment to write a speech lands in Nyqvist’s lap, he outsources it to Helena. She basically transcribes her lecture to Nyqvist, but substitutes the word “Finland” for “Aleksis”, explaining that the country needs to “man up” (in its relationship with Russia). Flummoxed, the Defense and Intelligence leaders don’t know what to think, so they praise the speech, and place Nyqvist at the head of the Baltic Sea Unit, which ostensibly is working to preserve the wetlands in the Baltic region, but is actually tasked with finding Russian spies on Finnish soil. Nyqvist is paired up with a ruthless assassin, Härkönen (Marc Gassot) who is extremely efficient at his job, but always has an eye on his union rights, like hours worked and break times. Nyqvist quickly inserts himself into several operations, and with his “just enough to be dangerous” knowledge, screws things up royally. These machinations draw the attention of the Swedes, Danes, Russians and Americans, who all send operatives to Finland to see what’s going on. Naturally, the absurdity multiplies.

Our Take on Stop Nyqvist

The idea of a clueless functionary getting in over their head and wreaking havoc is not new, but it remains amusing. I like political satire, and although Stop Nyqvist doesn’t have the bite of The Thick of It or Veep, I enjoyed the dark humor of it. The show is dressed as a drama, and the comedy is straight-faced. For Finns, the jokes are likely more knowing and harder hitting, but skewering bureaucracy, self-interest, and miscommunication at the highest levels of government is funny in any language. I have two small complaints. One is that the complexity of the players and their motivations can be a little confusing, and a gag about Olof Palme feels wedged in. But frankly, it doesn’t matter, as long as you recognize that Nyqvist is going to screw things up, and the stakes are getting higher as the show goes on. The other is that the gags get repetitive, and the series could probably shave off a few episodes. But if you are in the mood for a dark yet absurd comedy, Stop Nyqvist is for you.

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