Henrik Georgsson’s five-part documentary series Pray, Obey, Kill explores the 2004 shooting in the small Swedish hamlet of Knutby that killed Fossmo’s wife Alexandra and seriously injured Daniel Linde. Fossmo insists he didn’t do what he admitted to investigators in 2006 despite being found guilty of “instigating” the death of his wife and the attempted murder of his neighbour. Due to his leave from his life sentence, he is available for an interview.
PRAY, OBEY, KILL: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Starting Point: A green chair with a clock next to it may be seen in a blurry videotape image. The location for Helge Fossmo’s docuseries interview is then announced in the present.
The Main Point: The first episode focuses primarily on how law enforcement arrived at the location, which was located on a complex belonging to the Knutby Philadelphia Pentecostal sect, of which Fossmo was the pastor. Executive producers of the series and journalists Anton Berg and Martin Johnson attempt to unravel the convoluted case 17 years after it occurred. The police were informed about Alexandra’s presence in the house up the hill after Linde was discovered, according to the investigators and other law enforcement personnel engaged in the case. However, she was actually the first victim of the shooting, and it appears that the police were rather taken aback by the neighbours’ response to the entire incident.
The suspicions of law enforcement were heightened when a former sect member called Sara Svensson came forward to claim that she shot both individuals and constantly stated that she “acted alone.” Did someone in any way influence her to do it? She was the former babysitter for the Fossmos, who fired her after she attacked Alexandra at her house two months earlier. However, the investigation showed that Fossmo was having an affair with Linde’s wife, who was eventually released after being detained with Fossmo. The group itself was another issue; Alexandra’s sister, Sa Waldau, who went by the moniker Bride of Christ, was regarded as its head.
Our Opinion: A documentary like Pray, Obey, Kill can either start out by introducing the Knutby Philadelphia group and Helge Fossmo’s involvement in it, or it can jump right into the case itself. Both have advantages and disadvantages; the disadvantages typically involve confusing the audience by leaving significant portions of the story unclear. Georgsson made the laudable decision to dive immediately into the matter. We were unsure of the order of events and everyone’s responsibilities because the case is so intricately linked to the activities of the Knutby Philadelphia group.
Even the initial investigation turned out to be unclear. Alexandra was in a different home than Linde? When the police arrived, why was Fossmo inside Linde’s home? Instead of using reenactments, Georgsson ingeniously uses handmade miniatures to depict what the crime scene looked like, but this just helps to further muddy the picture.
Another tactic the director employs is Berg and Johnson discussing the matter as though it were the first time they had ever discussed it. These exchanges have the feel of sequences from a shoddy police procedural rather than a docuseries. However, it’s not the most engaging way to provide this material. It’s there to fill in some holes in the interviews and also testifies to how much the two journalists revealed about the case when they looked into it. Additionally, it gives law enforcement the short end of the stick by making Berg and Johnson appear to be the ones who have been looking into the issue for the entire time.
Therefore, instead of diving immediately into the argument in this instance, it could have been preferable to establish the sect’s history first. What does the Bride of Christ represent, for example, and what influence does she have over the sect? Just how strong was Fossmo? What about his past—his first wife had passed away inexplicably five years earlier—could have made law police believe he was the catalyst?
All of this will undoubtedly be covered in the five hours. But without that knowledge up front, there are too many unanswered questions for us to understand the case during the first episode.
Skin and Sex: There is only talk of liaisons.
Final Thoughts: The head of the investigation cites a description of a call attempt to Sara Svensson in late 2003 that resulted in Fossmo’s voice being heard on the other end of the line.
No sleeper star.
Most Pilot-y Line: In what appears to be a post-production move, the faces of two of the law enforcement personnel who were interviewed were covered. There is no justification for why their faces are hidden.
We say, SKIP IT. Although the case in Pray, Obey, Kill seems intriguing, the way it is presented flattens that appeal, leaving the viewer less clear on the details of the case than they would have been had they just done online research.
— Decider (@decider) April 13, 2021
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