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Series / Sorjonen

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Sorjonen, also known as Bordertown on international markets, is a Finnish detective drama that airs on Yle TV1 and is available for streaming on Netflix.

The series focuses on Detective Inspector Kari Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen), a talented if peculiar detective that moves from Helsinki to Lappeenranta, a small town that borders with Russia, after his wife barely survives brain cancer, in order to live a more peaceful life — but things are not actually very peaceful in a town caught between two worlds.

As of 2020, three seasons have aired.

It'll be followed by a movie sequel, Bordertown The Mural Murders.

Sorjonen / Bordertown provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Luhta is formally recruited to SECRI by season 3.
  • Aborted Arc: The casino/hotel/refuge project and the tension that comes from the plan to push through with the last one gets mentioned only a couple times after Pauliina's death.
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Sorjonen is all but confirmed to be on the Autism spectrum.
    • Sorjonen's daughter Janina goes through a Sanity Slippage in season 3 after her mother's death, becoming much colder and detached. At one point she is seen researching Borderline Personality Disorder before projecting this diagnosis on her boyfriend in a very abusive manner and in the movie Lasse Maasalo says that Janina might be a psychopath but that was probably done to get under Kari's skin.
  • Arch-Enemy: Lasse Maasalo. Although the show deals with many killers and lacks a Big Bad, Maasalo is Sorjonen's recurring nemesis and has an It's Personal vendetta which includes Kari.
  • The Atoner: Kari once asked Lena what she did such that she had to raise a child she found from a drug raid. A flashback reveals that she killed Katia's biological mother when the latter drew a gun at her.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: After 3 seasons of never even considering using violence as a solution, Kari, knowing it's the only way to stop him, executes Lasse Maasalo in cold blood in the climax of the movie.
  • Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: Invoked in one case, where Niko poses as one of the killer's childhood bullies to avert an explosion. He then taunts her to the point where they get physical and is eventually overpowered with the aid of a SWAT team.
  • Brutal Honesty: Sorjonen's speech is rather blunt, whether speaking to people under his command or his superiors.
  • Bully Hunter: The serial shooter in one of the cases in the second season has this as their motive for killing four people, Janina's boyfriend Elias included, and holding another four hostage.
  • Camera Fiend: Elias Ström is almost always seen with a camera.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Niko is evidently frustrated at the lack of progress in SECRI's investigation of a serial shooting case. He eventually asks Sorjonen for help, who figures out the connection between the victims. The pressure only amps up when he heads the unit by season 3.
  • Character Tics: Sorjonen tends to make exaggerated hand motions or tap the side of his head and such when trying to remember things using the Memory Palace trick.
  • Chainsaw Good: Lasse Maasalo uses this on Seppo Paltemaa at the end of season 1.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The snowball Lasse Maasalo gives Kari in season 3 comes quite handy for the series finale, as it contains the antidote for the nerve agent the former released to the city's water supply.
  • Child by Rape:
    • The aborted fetus found in Susanna Lehto's home was conceived from Jalmari's assault on the former. Jalmari, as a child, was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Susanna.
    • The first episode of season 3 reveals that the series' first victim was this.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Ville Vesterinen does this on Elina Koivula to find out who got her pregnant.
  • The Coroner: Hannu-Pekka "HP" Lund. In some occasions where the case involves something beyond his or his office's capabilities, he asks Kari to enlist the help of the Lasse Maasalo, a chemistry professor.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • Paul Degerman had a chemical weapons factory thanks to ex-FSB chief Baran Valtserov. He kept all his children out of the loop until a lawyer leaks the existence of the factory to Anneli in season 3.
    • Mikael Ahola is much more assertive in pushing through his/Robert Degerman's projects. He's also the only member of the Degerman family besides the patriarch to be directly involved in running the now-demolished chemical weapons factory.
  • Corrupt Politician: Both Robert Degerman and Mikael Ahola are shady as fuck. On the other side of the border, we have former FSB chief Baran Valtserov.
  • Cowboy Cop: Sorjonen is a non-action example of this trope - often taking his investigations in seemingly strange directions based on deductions his colleagues can't understand. Much to his boss, Taina's, chagrin, he had a tendency to keep his cards close to his chest and operate beyond her authority.
    • Lena is a more straight example of this trope once she joins SECRI, largely due to her history as an FSB agent. She's prepared to steal evidence, and use physical torture against witnesses, among other things, to help crack a case.
  • Da Chief: Taina and in season 3, Niko.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Sorjonen is a bit of a tortured soul after his years as a homicide detective in Helsinki. He's haunted by all the atrocities he was forced to witness. At one point, its revealed that he's haunted by hallucinations of all the victims who's killers he failed to bring to justice. And all that is before we get to the fact that his wife suffered from cancer and only just recovered when the series began.
    • Lena Jaakkola clearly hasn't had an easy life either. She's been an FSB agent and a member of the Russian Mafia, and lived a violent life on both sides of the law. Through all this, she has struggled to raise a daughter with whom she has a troubled relationship at best.
  • A Deadly Affair: After finding out Jaakko Anttila got Elina pregnant, Ville Vesterinen gets his half-brother-in-law Julle Laakkonen to kill Jaakko in a car crash in Russia, then murders Julle in an "accident" in his car yard. Ville cheated on his wife with Elina.
  • Death by Irony: The first victim in "Cat's Cradle" saves a child from a bunch of bullies. He gets sniped at the beach because he bullied the killer as a kid.
  • Death Seeker: Ronja Leppisalmi in one of the cases in the second season; she had Jalmari Salvilahti kill her. However, due to circumstantial evidence from a related case, daycare manager Susanna Lehto looked like the prime suspect.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Or rather Decoy Support Cast. DC Metso, who quits at the end of the first case after being found out to be dirty. Metso would reappear in later episodes as Degerman Concern's head of security, and would even be the reason Lena went dangerously close to fighting rabid dogs in "The Fury, Part 2."
  • Defective Detective: Sorjonen is troubled by all the crime he has witnessed as a member of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation. He's often seen with expressions of disgust around cadavers.
  • Descent into Addiction: In the third season, there are indications that Niko is becoming increasingly reliant on painkillers after being shot.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • DC Johanna Metso. She was working with Ahola in trying to keep the heat away from the cabins where the Doll's House prostitution ring was taking place.
    • DC Santeri Kaminen, who was using his informants to smuggle drugs from St. Petersburg.
  • Driven to Suicide: In a season 3 case, a woman stands in front of a train after learning her abductor and rapistgot away scot-free.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Elias Ström is unceremoniously killed off by a serial killer targeting their bullies in a season 2 case.
  • Faking the Dead: At the end of the first season, Maasalo fakes his explosive death by using the already-dead body of retired realtor Seppo Paltemaa, but not before sending Kari proof that they did all the crimes they were accused of.
  • Fan Disservice: The videos SECRI find on the Doll's House girls. It's meant to be off-putting.
  • Fight Clubbing: In "The Fury, part 2", Lena is kidnapped by Iskariot Ranta's men and forced to fight in an illegal fight club in the Lappeenranta quarry in order to save Katia by being in a cage with a rabid dog. Fortunately, the Poliisi raided the place in time before she killed someone for real.
  • Flashback: The case in the first episode of season 3 is Kari's last with the NBI, and therefore the first case we see overall in the series.
  • Freudian Trio: The Lindfors siblings in season 3 - Harri is the Hot-Blooded Id, Eerik is the quiet Superego, and the pragmatic Antti straddles between the two.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Ville Vesterinen wasn't happy at all when he found out the woman he was having an affair with got pregnant.
  • Half-Sibling Angst: Downplayed with Elias, who isn't really that invested with the business and political machinations of the Degerman family (besides backing Pauliina's plan with his late father's inheritance to build a refuge against the wishes of Mikkis and a major Russian investor).
  • Happily Adopted: For varying degrees of happily. Turns out that Lena was shot in the line of duty, and had an emergency hysterectomy in the process; later on, during a drug raid, she found Katia as a toddler, inside a cardboard box, in her real mother's apartment, who was a junkie. Lena explains to Katia that her real life mother died since.
  • He Knows Too Much: A motive for a few crimes:
    • An elderly man was killed because he was going to come clean on how he covered up his son causing an accident that killed the latter's mother and wife.
    • The leader and a member of a conservative Laestadian community were killed because said member planned to come clean with her same-sex affair with the wife of the leader, and the former because he learned of said affair and was quite the abusive husband.
    • Lasse Maasalo had Mikkis Ahola kill everyone involved in the former's plan to poison Lappeenranta's water supply. Ahola himself becomes a victim in the series finale.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Anneli tries to be one, to the point of ousting her incredibly shady husband from Degerman Concern's board, at least until she learns of her father's secret chemical weapons factory.
  • If I Can't Have You…: In the second story arc of the 1st season, Ben drugs Janina with a party drug that he knows has fatal side effects as a revenge for her turning him down.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Lena Jaakkola is quite skilled at it. Understandable, given that she is ex-FSB.
  • Karma Houdini: Susanna gets away with child sexual abuse as the Statute of Limitations had passed by the time SECRI uncovered her past.
  • Lack of Empathy: Janina in Season 3 after her Sanity Slippage. She becomes very abusive towards her boyfriend in an effort to get him to strike her and never shows much remorse for her actions. In the movie she matter-of-factly talks about this and still doesn't display guilt or remorse.
  • Lockdown: Lappeenranta is placed under a strict curfew after a string of shootings shocks the entire town.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: While they signed off on papers relating to Paul Degerman's now-demolished factory, the elder Degerman siblings had no idea said factory was producing chemical weapons. It took a counsel from one of Degerman Concern's business partners leaking a paper trail to Anneli for them to learn about its existence.
  • Love Dodecahedron: A couple of cases in season 3 involve this:
    • Lotta Simberg was in a relationship with Harri Lindfors, but eventually also had a relationship with with Harri's father Henrik. Then there's Eerik Lindfors who Cannot Spit It Out.
    • Markus Laurila, the speaker of a remote Laestadian community, is married to Tuuli Laurila. It turns out Tuuli is a lesbian and is in an affair with Maija Koponen. Then there's Rebekka Koskelinen who's in love with Tuuli.
  • Love Triangle: A bit; Janina and Elias are in a relationship for the most part barring a short break and obviously the latter's murder, though he and Katia had set sights on each other at separate points.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Lena, Katia's Mother. It helps that she's a former member of the FSB.
    • Sorjonen's wife Paulina proves to be one in the first season finale, even resorting to blackmail in an attempt to get her daughter cleared off a murder charge.
  • Mayor Pain: Degerman. He'll do anything to get financial backing for his projects. Including turning a blind eye to a prostitution ring for his investors, and trying to dig up dirt on Sorjonen in order to stop him from investigating.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Katia's real mother died in an FSB-led drug raid 15 years prior to Season 2.
    • It is revealed in "The Fury, Part 1" that the mother of HP's son Teemu abandoned them.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong:
    • Lena. Particularly since she's former FSB. Upon joining SECRI, she's their most action oriented agent, and still using her unique off-the-book skills while working for SECRI.
    • Katia, to a certain degree. Her life experiences have made her incredibly jaded for her age, though, she also goes to therapy because of them.
  • Murder by Mistake: In one case, a woman mistakes the owner of the house where she used to be held for quite some time for her erstwhile abductor.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: It's part of the killer's motive in a season 3 case, but the victims were killed mostly because they knew the existence of a lesbian relationship. In a highly conservative Christian community.
  • Naughty Nuns: Close enough. One of the victims in one episode was a theology student that ran a blog on sexual experiences, had a big collection of sex toys, had a tryst with a married man, and got pregnant in the process.
  • Non-Action Guy:
    • DC Niko, at least that's what he wishes to be, but still does competent field work.
    • Sorjonen even more so than Niko for that matter.
  • Nordic Noir: An example of it.
  • Offing the Offspring: A killer in season 3 murders her daughter once she learns who her real mother is.
  • Pćdo Hunt:
    • Daycare center manager Kaija Susanna Hallava left Kotka and changed her name to Susanna Lehto after doing unspeakable acts on at least three children.
    • The first victim in The Movie was a suspected pedophile.
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: After Kari is sent home early at Pauliina's request, he happens to hear his daughter and Elias get some action. He pretends to forget his keys then knocks once they're done, though Janina wasn't having any of his excuses.
  • Photographic Memory: Sorta but not quite. Sorjonen uses and tries to train other members of the Serious Crime Unit in the Memory Palace technique.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The land the mysterious Degerman factory used to stand on, which is heavily implied to have caused the deaths of Lasse Maasalo's wife and daughter.
  • Rank Up: Taina is called up to head the NBI by the end of season 2, with Niko taking up her spot.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Taina, the Lappeeranta police chief and Kari's boss, tries to be one.
  • Red Herring: The aspect that the victims' relatives had convictions in one case was a deliberate ruse by Maasalo to throw SECRI off, all of them were killed off as they're involved in one way or another with his plan to poison the city's water supply.
  • Riddle for the Ages: A Running Gag early in the series has Kari quizzing Niko on why Taina loves being around cadavers. We never find it out.
  • Scenery Porn: As many Nordic Noir series, the scenery is gorgeous to look at.
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Both Pauliina and SECRI are absent, let alone mentioned in The Movie.
  • Shaming the Mob: Once a conservative Christian community learns of the sexuality of the deceased head's wife, Kari enters the chapel to drop in his two cents about tolerance.
  • Sherlock Scan: Comes with the territory for Sorjonen, given his use of the Memory Palace.
  • Sixth Ranger: Lena Jaakkola, a former Russian FSB agent, joins SECRI, in order to replace the departed DC Metso.
  • SWAT Team: The Special Intervention Unit is called in by the Poliisi (although it's under the Helsinki Police Department) when things get too hairy with armed suspects.
  • Superhero Paradox: Lappeenranta was a largely safe and crime-free town. But once veteran homicide detective Kari Sorjonen moves in to take over the town's Serious Crimes Unit, it suddenly becomes a hotbed of violent crime - sex-trafficking, drug dealing and even a serial killer. In fact, the politicians seeking to discredit Sorjonen and get the unit shut down actually seek to exploit this coincidence, claiming that Sorjonen 'brought' serious crime with him to the town. Though it could also be argued that all that stuff was already there, Sorjonen just uncovered it.
  • Taken Off the Case: Taina has taken Kari and Lena off cases that involve them on a personal level, note  though in one case in season 2, she had Lena turn in her badge and gun.
  • Tempting Fate: DC Kaminen really thought Ben wouldn't stab him to death, even going as far as to bring an unloaded gun to the scene.
  • Those Two Guys: Susi and Luhta, despite not being members of SECRI for most of the series, are almost always seen together assisting the main characters in their investigations.
  • Title Drop: The show's originally named after Det. Sorjonen, since it centers on his actions with the Finnish Police as he moves to the town away from the big city. The Netflix title comes from Lappeenranta being a border town with Russia, with St. Petersburg being just 2-3 hours away by car.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Johanna Metso in the very first case of the series, after the rest of SECRI finds out she was leaking details about the investigation to Mikkis Ahola.
  • Water Source Tampering: In the series finale, Lappeenranta suddenly faces a wave of poisonings thanks to Lasse Maasalo screwing with the water supply with a nerve agent.
  • You Are in Command Now: With Kari unavailable due to the recurrence of Pauliina's cancer, Niko suddenly finds himself in charge of a case involving a string of shootings in Lappeenranta.
  • You Killed My Father: Lasse Maasalo's primary motive is to exact revenge on who he deems to be involved with the deaths of their family. The season 3 finale also reveals that his former residence stood on land contaminated by a demolished chemical weapons factory owned by Paul Degerman.


Video Example(s):


Karhu busts in

The Poliisi's poliisin Valmiusyksikko Karhu or the Police Rapid Response Unit gets called in to bust into a gym being used by organized crime to locate a missing Poliisi officer.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / SWATTeam

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