Putting aside my own personal curiosities about the origins of the term “Stockholm syndrome,” Netflix’s new Swedish dramedy series, Clark, caught my attention primarily for one reason only: Bill Skarsgård. I still remember when Skarsgård originally really wowed me, which also happened to be the first time I ever saw him in anything. One of Netflix’s OG shows, Hemlock Grove, started in 2013 around the same time as the critically-acclaimed Orange is the New Black, and featured Skarsgård as hunky vampire Roman. Since that three season run, Bill has gone on to lauded performances in projects such as Stephen King’s It, Hulu’s Castle Rock, 2019’s Villains, and 2021’s Nine Days. Clark provides a metaphorical sandbox of insanity for Skarsgård to really sink his teeth into, jumping from one extreme to the next with manic charms. I cannot say how close Clark sticks to the facts, but I’m not sure I care either—with a title that has proclaimed from the beginning to be “based on truths and lies,” one must simply strap in and let director/co-writer Jonas Åkerlund take one along for the ride.
For those uninformed about the man that has come to be known as Sweden’s first celebrity gangster, take comfort in the knowledge that Clark goes out of its way to follow every facet of Olofsson’s uncharacteristically bonkers life story. When a show’s opening scene flashes back to 1947 and the camera swishes down into a wide-open vagina during childbirth, one just knows that what will follow will be out of the norm, to put it mildly. With his mother screaming to “get the fuck out,” and inside the womb, the baby’s face being that of an adult Skarsgård, Olofsson (who narrates the entire miniseries from start to finish) proudly proclaims this birth as his “very first jailbreak.” The viewer then receives a brief tease of what is to come through these six episodes, and the promise that Clark has “robbed, partied, and had tons of sex.”
Of course, the clever narration from Olofsson provides only one vantage point of Clark’s increasingly wild and erratic behavior. It is up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions about Clark’s morals and decision-making. In 1965, Clark embarks on an important home invasion with a gaggle of friends. They observe a quiet spot on the water that houses unimagined potential. It turns out to be the home of the prime minister, who proceeds to chase them off the property with a shotgun. In the blink of an eye, Clark is proclaimed dead before abruptly rising only to be sentenced for 18 months at a youth center. This will not be the last time Clark ends up imprisoned, and as the trend seems to recur over and over again through the timeline of Clark’s life, it reveals a lot about his character. Does he relish in being behind bars, as almost a second home?
In his destructive wake, Clark leaves all manner of enticing and often beautiful women, and those he deceives into befriending him. Clark seems to always possess a hidden agenda, and is driven strictly on selfish, indulgent actions. Each episode begins and is named after a quote from Olofsson—he is obsessed with himself, and constantly refers to “Clark” in the third person. For the loves in his life, Clark frequently does not even favor them in his choices. He makes empty promises of redemption and changing for good, yet does not deliver. Even for those who end up hating this exaggerated version of Clark Olofsson, Bill Skarsgård delivers an irresistible take on this complex antihero. Until the third episode, we do not get into the Stockhold syndrome scenario, but it is well worth the wait. Waiting so long before reaching this event serves to enrich the craziness that occurs both beforehand and afterward.
Clocking in with a total of six hour-long episodes, Clark never overstays its welcome by maintaining a break-neck pace and constantly changing visual and editing style. Copious amount of explicit one-pump sex scenes, attempted bank robberies, crazy hijinks, and Skarsgård’s bare ass—Clark has it all. I would suggest this show to fans of frenetic action and absurdist comedy, seen in films like Kingsman: The Secret Service and Smokin’ Aces. For the Skarsgård faithful, Clark will be jaw-dropping evidence of the actor’s ability to elevate any material he completes. Netflix offers several language options, but I would highly suggest watching in the original Swedish language with English subtitles. The emotionality of the dialogue spat out in the native tongue is vital to Clark’s darker edges.
Clark implores audiences everywhere to “go shit yourselves” when it debuts exclusively to Netflix on Thursday, May 5th.