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Series / Himmelsdalen

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Himmelsdalen is a Swedish thriller series released in 2019, starring Josefin Asplund of Vikings fame, based on the book by Marie Hermanson. In English-language media it is known as Sanctuary, its name in Swedish (not to be confused with the Canadian fantasy series).

Helena visits her estranged twin sister, Siri, in a sanatorium within the Italian Alps where she resides. After claiming she's there to get help with alcohol and drug problems, Siri begs Helena to switch places with her so she can visit her girlfriend on the outside, who's been badly injured by her ex-husband. Helena refuses, then finds the next day that she's been drugged by Siri, who left in her clothes anyway. Though Siri had proposed only being gone a day, she never returns. After this, Helena is horrified to realize that everyone, staff and patients, believe she's Siri. Not only that, but both the sanitorium and Siri herself have far darker things going on than Helena realized...


  • Action Girl: Helena and Siri were both pushed to learn self-defense skills by their father, rather than traditional feminine things such as ballet. So they learned aikido instead. It serves Helena in good stead at the sanitorium where Siri traps her: she's forced to fight for survival.
  • Always Identical Twins: Helena and Siri look exactly alike. It's necessary to cause the switch that sparks the plot.
  • Badass in Distress: Helena, though trained in martial arts and highly capable, is still put in tight spots more than once (including getting captured). It's mostly due to being overwhelmed by brute force or surprises.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The cruel sociopath Raymond nearly drowns Luck, a dog whom Helena is attached to, as a means of tormenting her.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: The sanitorium has many cameras to monitor the patients (the more dangerous at least). However, they still have blind spots to exploit.
  • Blackmail:
    • Carol gets ahold of the hammer Siri used to beat another woman into a coma, and uses it as leverage on Helena, her twin, since as they're identical DNA evidence Siri left would also implicate her.
    • Jack was threatened by the Army buddy he got to help track down Siri with revealing how much he screwed up letting her escape, so he'd give more money.
  • Blatant Lies: Siri tells Helena a bunch of lies in the pilot. First she claims to have found love with another woman (surprising Helena since she had expressed homophobia) who was abused by her husband (she's actually a fellow patient Siri beat) and wants to leave so she can be with her (as a ploy for escaping the sanitorium where she's being held).
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Despite them boasting that their security system is airtight, the sanitorium staff apparently saw no issue with leaving identical twin sisters together, such that one of them could just walk out impersonating the other. It turns out they did have fingerprint scanners, which would stop this (since twins have different ones even when identical). Siri made a cast of Helena's fingerprint though and used that to escape.
  • Cassandra Truth: Helena finds herself locked in a secure mental institution where everyone believes that she's her dangerous twin. No one believes Helena is who she says, instead of her twin Siri. Those who do entertain it don't for long, since things always point the other way. Until the last few episodes, but then those with interests in doing so cover it up.
  • Cliffhanger: Helena escapes from the sanitorium in the Season 1 finale, going to look for Siri on the outside. As the series has apparently been canceled, it may be the show ends this way.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Some of the "hosts" (guards/orderlies) are in bed with Carol, a ruthless crime boss among the patients, who cover up his dealings.
    • Jack covered up Siri's escape to save his job, including later destroying evidence that showed Helena is not her.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Helena puts on a guard's uniform near the end (with a cap that mostly shades her face, in the dark) to escape.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Luck, a dog in the sanitorium, barks at Siri but likes Helena. Siri, it turns out, is a dangerous sociopath, quite unlike Helena. Luck also dislikes Raymond, another dangerous sociopath.
  • Evil Twin: Siri turns out to be a dangerous, manipulative sociopath who murdered a mother and daughter, then switches places with Helena, her normal twin, so she can escape a mental institution. Even as a child, Siri stole her toys out of spite, hiding them from Helena, and killed her dog (to Helena's only much later realization).
  • Faking the Dead: Siri or someone else fakes her death, due to a corpse that's supposedly her found in a burned car. It turns out she's still alive in the season one finale.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Carol at first seems like a nice, laidback guy. Then it turns out he's a leader among the patients who is implied to be a crime boss on the outside who's continued his ways with the same brutality. He's always polite and genteel to others, but it clearly doesn't run deeper.
  • Great Escape: There are rumors throughout the series of patients planning an escape, but it turns out to be largely false. In the season one finale Helena manages it, despite extensive security measures.
  • Hallucinations: Helena imagines seeing Siri gazing back at her in the mirror at one point, then attacking Dr. Fisher with a hammer.
  • Hope Spot: Helena escapes in the season one finale, but a woman who pickes her up on the road turns out to be calling Jack...
  • Insane Equals Violent: Subverted. Although all of the patients are dangerous sociopaths who have been sentenced to life for crimes in various countries, it's mentioned that even those with their condition are not always so. Many only commit nonviolent crimes, with captains of industry and politicians specifically mentioned to often be sociopaths.
  • Lack of Empathy: The defining trait of sociopathy, which the sanitorium's psychiatrists exposit about. Helena having empathy is a sign to them of Siri improving, surprisingly, since they all believe Helena's her.
  • Obfuscating Insanity:
    • Enzo faked having sociopathy, thinking he'd get better treatment in a mental institution vs. prison. This ended up backfiring however, as now he may never leave, and every attempt to prove he's not a sociopath has been taken as sociopathic manipulation.
    • Dr. Fisher turns out to have multiple "in beds" (psychiatrists undercover) within the patients. "Margot", real name Jane Taylor, turns out to be one.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Helena is staid and more conservatively dressed. Siri is wilder, adventurous, with a more relaxed style. It turns out Helena is also neurotypical, while Siri's a sociopath.
  • Police Are Useless: Helena calls the police to say she's being held against her will. They say they'll help, though instead she's believed to be just a deluded patient, which gets her ignored.
  • Sadist: Raymond finds he enjoyed seeing Helena in distress before when he'd drowned her, begging for mercy. To relive the sight, he takes hostage Luck (a dog she's fond of) so that she'll beg for mercy once again.
  • Serial Killer: One of the patients was a priest who raped, murdered and cannibalized many women.
  • Shower Scene: Helena is shown going into the shower topless in episode three.
  • The Sociopath: Siri and all of the patients are sociopaths. The sanitorium specifically exists for studying them, and the condition's discussed at length.
  • Twin Switch: Siri does with her twin Helena in the first episode, switching places to leave the sanitorium without Helena knowing (she's been drugged).
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Helena vomits explicitly as a result of side effects from meds or stress.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Dr. Fisher injures himself, then tazes Margot, making it look as though she'd attacked him. He did this because she'd reveal Helena isn't Siri otherwise, so he used it to discredit her as the reveal could ruin his career and life's work.