Last November, Netflix announced that the six-episode series, Woman of the Dead, based on the novel of the same name by Bernhard Aichner—and it premiered January 5, 2023. The international best-seller has been praised for maintaining a suspenseful plot while exploring an interesting question: how far would you go to avenge a loved one?
Woman of the Dead premise
Part of what made the novel so compulsive to read is the main character, Brümhilda Blum (Anna Maria Mühe). She’s the mother of two young children and owner of a funeral home in a well-known ski resort town. When her husband is killed in an accident, Blum is devastated. But denial isn’t the first stage of grief in this story. Revenge is.
Blum soon discovers that her husband’s death wasn’t an accident. It was murder. And she becomes determined to not only find out why but punish those involved.
The novel is described as Kill Bill meets Dexter via The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and from what we’ve seen of the trailer, the series appears to uphold that promise. The cinematography (Stephan Burchardt) is beautifully shot, with vivid colors offset by ominous dark undertones. It sets the perfect aesthetic for a show that explores the dark secrets anyone can harbor and how far one woman will go to revenge.
It's incredibly difficult to build a character capable of committing multiple murders as also being a loving and devoted mother, but Aichner did an excellent job doing exactly that. Blum—and all the characters in the story—are more than cardboard archetypes inserted to fill a thriller trope. She’s quirky—talking to the bodies that land on her mortician’s table—but full of determination and a surprising amount of fight. Her complexity makes her compelling, and as a reader—and now viewer—it’s impossible to tear yourself away.
Woman of the Dead
Woman of the Dead adaptaion
Of course, if anyone is capable of maintaining that individual nuance in character depth, it’s writer Barbara Stepansky (Outlander, Flint). She along with Wolfgang Mueller (Das Boot), Benito Mueller (The Whistleblower), Mike Majzen (Pagan Peak), and Nicolai Rhode (Tatort: Borowski)—who also directed, adapted the novel for the international collaboration with Netflix and ORF (The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation).
Over the course of the episodes, Blum turns from predator to prey as the enemies she’s facing decide to fight back. These aren’t corpses, after all, and if she wants to avoid her husband’s fate, she’s going to have to be quick on her feet and stay one step ahead. It helps that Blum isn’t as innocent as she appears, and as she mourns her husband and fights to avenge his death, she has to work through her own baggage at the same time, keeping viewers guessing as to what she’ll do next and how she’ll continue to stay above water, so to speak.
The all-star cast features many well-known international actors, including Yousef Sweid (American Assassin), Felix Klare (Unschuldig), Simon Schwarz (Crush My Heart), Franz Josef Danner (Meiberger: Chasing Minds), Stephanie Lexer (Clash of Futures), Robert Palfrader (Walking On Sunshine), Romina Küper (For Heaven’s Sake), and Gregor Bloéb (Arme Millionäre). Even though the show is keeping the translated title—it was originally published as Totenfrau, the show returns to the story’s roots and is performed in German.
Early response to Woman of the Dead
With only six episodes to unravel secrets, it’s no wonder early reviews have called the series fast-paced and binge-worthy. So far, the series holds a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s too early for the website to reflect critic views. IMDb gives the series a 6.8 out of ten stars with fans acknowledging the dark plot as propulsive and thrilling, and found the revenge twists satisfying to watch. Decider loved the fiery grit of Blum and how the setting almost became a character on its own, ranking the show a firm “stream it”. While a few reviewers found it to be an average run-of-the-mill thriller, many sites are raving, calling it “fresh and original”, “a hidden gem”, and a “brilliant female-driven revenge story”.
As the show gains momentum thanks to enthusiastic word of mouth, we expect the rave reviews will continue to come in. Blum is a magnetic character grieving her husband in a visceral and profound way. This intimate perspective topped with heart-pounding action is a memorable and unique experience. The only question left is, when will you watch?
All six episodes are currently available on Netflix.