From Penoza and The Swingers to Bellicher, the Netherlands could soon be the new Scandinavia when it comes to gripping TV. That’s certainly borne out by the latest show to touch down from the country on Walter Presents, Flight HS13. Originally a Turkish series adapted for Dutch audiences, called Vlucht 13, it follows the aftermath of a plane crash that kills all of its passengers on board. But before you think you know what to expect from the drama, it takes a gigantic left-turn, and you’re never quite sure where it will veer next for the next 10 hours.
Our lead is Liv (Katja Schuurman), the happily-married wife of surgeon Simon (Daniël Boissevain), who lives with him in a beautiful home, raising their lovely son, Mart. But it’s not the blissful union it appears to be: we get a glimpse of an awkward birthday party in the first episode that suggests trouble brewing beneath the surface. That trouble becomes even more apparent when Liv discovers that Simon isn’t actually among the list of dead passengers at all – in fact, he never got on the flight in the first place, because he was busy meeting another woman at the airport.
It’s a head-spinning set-up that’s deftly condensed into the opening chapter, and it’s largely down to Schuurman’s performance that we can go with it; we ride her wave of grief, acted with a sensitive, convincing shock, only to share her confused joy that her husband is alive, and her bewildered anger that he’s apparently been unfaithful. Boissevain also does excellent work as Simon, managing to make us intrigued by this double life, which seems to begin as a harmless bit of flirting with a co-worker at the hospital. But we’re firmly on Liv’s side of this story, even as the show flashes back to Simon’s fling and even takes us to where he is now, as we piece together his torn loyalties.
Liv is joined by Simon’s family, including brothers Haje (Jeroen Spitzenberger) and Erik (Reinout Bussemaker), as they all investigate his strange disappearance. Spitzenberger is enjoyably ambiguous as Haje, who is hiding more secrets than he lets on, while Bussemaker is winningly earnest as Erik, driven to explore Simon’s connection to the titular flight, even unofficially, so he can rule out any kind of sinister ploy by his brother to bring the plane down. But the thing is that such a plot could easily be true. Any certainties are swiftly unsettled by the introduction of Alex (Annelies Appelhof), Haje’s troubled girlfriend, a splash of kidnapping, a dash of threatening behaviour from some Iranians to Simon’s loved ones, and an underlying unrequited affection that Haje bears for Liv – a web of personal drama that opens up the potential for all kinds of corruption, betrayal and violence.
But it’s all grounded firmly in the rollercoaster of emotions that Liv goes through in that initial 60 minutes, tying us to the story even as it reaches wider and thinks bigger than those intimate origins. By the time people are chasing down mobile phone signals to track Simon’s last known location, you’ll have started biting your fingernails. Taking off quickly and promising to stick the landing, this unpredictable thriller is an unexpected treat.
Flight HS13 airs at 11.05pm weekly on Tuesdays on Channel 4, with the whole box set available on All 4 and Sky On Demand.
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