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TV Review: Russia's 'Dead Mountain' Is Alive And Riveting On Topic

Dead Mountain Pereval Dyatlova Pyotr Fyodorov Oleg Kostin Topic
Topic

The premiere of Russia’s “Dead Mountain” is available to stream in the United States, and the series is alive and riveting. Yes, you read that correctly. The Russian series based on the events surrounding the Dyatlov Pass incident and the ensuing investigation is available to stream on Topic (scroll down for more info). In the meantime, this spoiler-free review will dig into one of 2021’s best TV shows so far.

If you have a prolonged or beginning interest in 1959’s Dyatlov Pass incident, then “Dead Mountain” is the show you want to see. The series is based on those real-life events in which ten students took a hike into the northern Ural Mountains. Sadly, one of them turned back, and the rest of them never returned. Their mysterious deaths have accordingly spawned multiple theories spanning decades.

“Dead Mountain” threads through those various theories without broadcasting its purpose. Each theory surrounding their tragic deaths gets examined from UFOs to a human who encountered the group having involvement. Threading the needle through various suspicions is the very secret KGB major, Oleg Kostin (Pyotr Fyodorov), whose thorough investigation in 1959 pulls at his own traumatic memories.

How The Show Begins

A WWII veteran, Oleg is at constant war between living in his horrifying past and the unlived present. “Dead Mountain” accordingly weaves between both of Oleg’s timelines as it lays out his haunted present and his all-consuming past armed with all of its brutal tragedies. If you have watched Russia’s must-see series “Ancestral Land,” you will have an idea of what might get gleaned.

Katya (Mariya Lugovaya, “Better Than Us”), the medical examiner tasked with navigating the deadly aftermath of the Dyatlov Pass incident, works with Oleg to uncover the truth. Soon enough, though, Katya’s tenderness with Oleg turns into a brewing romance between the pair. Between hope brimming for a happy ending for this nascent coupling, “Dead Mountain” reminds us of the doomed fate that awaited the late students at the heart of the investigation.

The Dyatlov Pass flashback episodes are the focus of four episodes, and Oleg’s investigation is at the fore of the other half as each takes turns. Director Evgeniy Nikishov and screenwriters Ilya Kulikov, Alexsandr Sysoev, and Vasiliy Vnukov aptly shift between the interwoven stories with the detective-work taking the lead before viewers see what “really” happened in the lead-up to the deadly outcome, per “Dead Mountain.”

How The Series Develops

There is so much poignance in knowing what lied ahead for these souls, and the cast does an extraordinary job bringing them to life. Their camaraderie and the relationships they grow together during their journey get excellently conveyed. In a stylistic choice, “Dead Mountain” presents the Dyatlov nine’s ill-fated trek in black-and-white, adding a heavy, mournful tone to the proceedings. In contrast, the investigation is shown in vivid color.

The eight-episode miniseries alternates between dedicatedly dramatizing the Dyatlov Pass incident and following Oleg’s eye-opening investigation. For reference, Episode 1 begins with Oleg before transitioning into the lead-up of the students’ fateful trip. From the premiere on, viewers alternate between Oleg’s past and present in one installment to the drama-filled hike in the next.

To say “Dead Mountain” is ambitious would be an understatement, yet it impressively pulls off this herculean task. The series is gripping, thought-provoking, and impossible to stop watching. There are so many incredible layers to this excellently executed drama. You may have to watch it twice to soak it all in. “Dead Mountain” packs so much into these eight cinematic episodes. Your mind will never wander. 

The Performances Are Outstanding

There is an abundance of information and insight to consume. And while the pieced-together drama surrounding the Dyatlov nine gets extrapolated upon, “Dead Mountain” also turns its attention towards Oleg, whose story is captivating to unravel. The role is one of Pyotr Fyodorov’s best since his tour-de-force turn in “The Duelist.” As he did in that stirring film, Fyodorov transmits Oleg’s evocative and enigmatic persona in a single glance.

As an actor, the attribute that consistently stands out about Pyotr Fyodorov’s ever-ranging performances is that he never tips his character’s hand. Instead, they remain a persistent mystery while Fyodorov clues viewers in with subtle insights, both spoken and not. In “Dead Mountain,” Fyodorov takes these skills to their pinnacle. Thus, making Mariya Lugovaya’s emotional counterbalance all the more impressive.

Lugovaya’s Katya is easy to like, gentle, and magnetic. Katya and Oleg’s ensuing romance provides beguiling newfound tension to the story surrounding “Dead Mountain.” As much as viewers are aware of the fate awaiting the Dyatlov nine, we are unaware of what awaits Oleg and Katya. It is like watching a flower grow between concrete, given the unexpected beauty that blooms amid such inescapable tragedy.

Episode 1’s ending hints that Oleg and Katya’s connection may become irreparably injured in a troubling twist for viewers. So, viewers get left in suspense as to whether they will manage to weather the seemingly destined fallout. How “Dead Mountain” works to throw in a likable romance amid so much story is a testament to director Evgeniy Nikishov and writers Ilya Kulikov, Alexsandr Sysoev, and Vasiliy Vnukov’s talent.

And There’s More: The Dyatlov Cast

In the second episode, “Dead Mountain” introduces the Dyatlov Pass hikers, and as the show develops, their unique journeys and personalities shine through. There are love triangles and hardships that they all manage to hike their way through. The cast takes viewers on such a convincing ride. It feels documentarian at times. 

As the hikers encounter highs and lows, the sprawling ensemble breathes life into each incident before it all culminates in a harrowing fashion. The ensemble’s dexterity is omnipresent and compelling. The Dyatlov Pass hikers were real people, and “Dead Mountain” bringing a dramatic rendering to an audience should help make them all the more tangible in a way.

Take away all of the theories, and what you have is the tragic loss of nine all-too-real lives, and “Dead Mountain” never lets the audience escape that fact with its tremendously poignant script and the talent of its cast. 

How To Watch

Russia’s “Dead Mountain” is now available to watch in the United States and Canada via Topic, and for those who has desired to see it since its original Russian release, the news is thrilling. Topic is available to watch on Roku, Android, Apple, Amazon Prime Video Channels, and more. So, it is next to impossible to be unable to watch the streamer.

“Dead Mountain” premiered yesterday (September 2) on Topic, and you will have a week to decompress between episodes because new ones will bow each week following the premiere. The finale will conclude the series’ run on October 7.

Why You Should Watch

It is safe to say that “Dead Mountain” provides insight into a long-boiling mystery. If you have watched true crime YouTube sensation Kendall Rae’s coverage of the Dyatlov Pass incident, you know there is no shortage of theories. That said, the information is carefully gone through in “Dead Mountain” may finally provide closure on the tragedy.

If you have been looking forward to “Dead Mountain” arriving in the United States since it premiered in Russia in late 2020, Topic has you covered. So, while Americans continue to wait for the U.S. release of Russia’s “Silver Spoon” Season 3 (and the movie), “Dead Mountain” provides a welcome sight.

Hopefully, this is the start of even more Russian series arriving in the United States soon after their original launch. “Dead Mountain” is another prime example of why they should. It is a haunting series that comprises eight movie-equivalent episodes into a limited series run. The size and scale of this TV show are admirable, grand, and fiercely captivating. You do not want to miss it.

The first episode of “Dead Mountain” is now streaming on Topic. New episodes will get released every Thursday leading up to the finale. 

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