And Then There Was ‘The Oldenheim 12’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Peggy Jonkers (Noortje Herlaar) wasn’t taken but she did take off. Episode one of The Oldenheim 12 is the first time Peggy’s stepped foot in Oldenheim in over seven years. One child returns, another goes missing: the same day Peggy arrives by bus, Nine (Roos Wiltink) disappears. It was a school night and her parents didn’t want her to go out and see her boyfriend, Rick (Ko Zandvliet), after his shift. Nine snuck out anyway and she never came back.

Right from the start, in episode two, you have national police working with local pd to help crack the case. An outsider, Sharif Dahmani (Nasrdin Dchar), is put in charge of the investigation, but it doesn’t matter. People keep disappearing, and it isn’t an episode of the Dutch drama unless someone’s been discovered vanished, their possessions abandoned suspiciously.

Who could be doing this, or what (aliens, or a Leftovers-like situation, are considered)? Oldenheim’s a small town (and the show plays up that smallness, too – the population is mentioned once at 6000 people, but it feels like everything revolves around maybe two dozen). Everyone’s connected to everyone else, so while you’d think the list of suspects would go down as the number of victims goes up, the perpetrator manages to keep themselves hidden.

Unlike other shows that deal with missing person cases, Oldenheim doesn’t have that central figure through whom the audience follows the case. Often it’s the detective (Broadchurch), or someone like Peggy, who’s a journalist and from Oldenheim but hasn’t been around for a while, or the family of the first victim (The Missing), and the show touches base with all of them but Oldenheim is an ensemble show. If this results in some detachment early on, the four-episode rule applies.

There’s some great attention to detail with the clothes the characters wear (particularly how the colors track their character arcs). The sets are also telling and informed by character – the doorknob of a woman who the town shuns sticking when Peggy tries to pull it, or the size of the police headquarters. Whenever Sharif opens the door to one of the conference rooms, the door hits the table. This isn’t a town used to handling massive cases and the cramped spaces reflect that (though the local pd is never portrayed as incompetent and they work well with Sharif).

The final episode, where all is revealed, is ferocious. I don’t know that an American show would’ve stuck to their guns the same way. Respect is paid to both Hitchcock and the Italian giallo genre. There’s also a homage made to one of my favorite TV shows (though it would be a spoiler to say which one). Wiltink is one of the show’s brightest castings and it’s a shame she has to be the first citizen to disappear.

Oldenheim 12 has already been renewed for a second season. It looks like they’re going the anthology route (which is good, since I’m not sure what returning to Oldenheim for another twelve episodes would accomplish) but there’s only so many times you can recycle this format before it goes stale. I’m skeptical about the need to continue, but season one proved it could work.

The Oldenheim 12 is currently streaming on Acorn TV.

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