Witch Hunt is a Norwegian series on Walter Presents about the consequences a woman faces when she blows the whistle on her boss’s illegal activities. Although it’s fictional, the creators based the story on their research of actual Norwegian cases. When we meet Ida (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), she is a happy, confident woman who loves her job running the finances for a prestigious law firm in Oslo. When a 4.5 million kroner ($500,000) invoice pops up for a company that she doesn’t recognize, she asks the lawyer on the case, Jan Gunnar (Preben Hodneland) about it. “Just pay it,” he says. “That’s not the procedure,” she replies. When he pushes back, she takes the issue up the chain, not realizing that her life is about to be ruined. Turns out that invoice is part of a money laundering scheme that Jan Gunnar started at the behest of his slippery client Peer Eggen (Mads Ousdal), who represents half of the firm’s billings. Even though Ida is right to deny payment of the invoice, the partners in the law firm close ranks and throw her under the bus. It’s harrowing to watch.
What would you do?
Ida is known for her integrity, and has been praised for it. She genuinely believes that her superiors will side with her. So it’s an ugly shock when her boss PK (Ola G. Furuseth), uses both the carrot (promoting her step-son) and the stick (fabricating co-worker complaints against her) to shut her up. Ida wrestles with letting it go or standing her moral ground. Here, she has several men pushing her one way or the other. Her husband, Tore (Christian Skolman), doesn’t want to rock the boat. He is afraid of what the firm could do to her reputation and life. Tore’s brother Ola (Gard B. Eidsvold) sees an opportunity to pursue his agenda of maligning law firms that represent wealthy clients, so he pushes Ida to bring a case against them. Meanwhile, Inspector Eirick Bråthen (Fridtjov Såheim) of the Economic Crimes Authority wants to use Ida’s situation to bring down the clearly corrupt Peer Eggens, who keeps avoiding prosecution because of his connections to powerful people.
The Complexity Grows
Ida is not the only woman in the story. Birgitte (Caroline Glomnes) is a beautiful lawyer who lost a promotion because she wouldn’t sleep with Jan Gunnar, and has to decide if she is going to play the game in order to boost her career. Anette (Ellen Birgitte Winther) is the Minister of Justice who seems to have a corrupt husband, as well as a past connection with Peer Eggens. And Aida (Sara Khorami) is a journalist trying desperately to land a news feature. She doggedly pursues the story with behavior that is alternately praised as good journalism and maligned as harassment. As Ida ultimately engages the authorities and then the press, the consequences of her actions affect these other women.
Our Take on Witch Hunt
Witch Hunt is compelling drama, it has a fantastic cast, and it’s beautifully produced. It will give women viewers a stomach ache to see Ida take such a hard fall. She’s a team player who naively thought that her firm was walking the talk of integrity and transparency. She doesn’t want to go to the authorities, or the press, but is pushed into it when the firm starts trashing her reputation with their lies. My only beef is that in the first three episodes the men are portrayed as cartoonishly evil or self-interested, which almost made me give up on the series. However, by episode 4, all but the lawyers become more nuanced, and the plot picks up. Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, who you may recognize from Westworld, does an excellent job with the complex emotions and devastation that Ida experiences. If you are looking for a break from traditional Scandi-noir, Witch Hunt may be for you.
Note: Drama Quarterly has an interesting interview here with the creators who talk about their research and how truth is stranger than fiction.
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