Where have all the Skandis gone?


It’s been some time since I last had a BBC4 Saturday night EuroCrime series to blog. As November – the Month of the Drowned Dog, according to the early Ted Hughes poem of the same name – is upon us, I had been hoping for some to take us Baltic-wards, but the Beeb are continuing their current Australian-themed thrillers with another four-parter to succeed the just-concluded The Code.

So I’ve been looking around to see what prospects we have for some of our old favourites returning, using the word ‘favourite’ in its most elastic sense.

The most obvious candidate for a much-desired return would of course be The Bridge, stretching into an unprecedented fourth series. The news now is that this has been formally commissioned, though nothing is yet known about transmission dates. Creator Hans Rosenfeldt had previously said that Sofie Helin and Thure Lindhardt were ‘on board’ and that if the right idea came up, Kim Bodnia could return.

Apparently, there will only be eight episodes in series 4, which I regard with suspicion, and that it will definitely be the last as there will be no possibility of further stories after it, and yes, I interpret that the way you just have (unless Rosenfeldt plans to rip off the ending of The Killing (which has my permission to come back anytime, as does Borgen, though I know neither will). It will not directly succeed series 3, commencing eighteen months later, so the dangling plot of tracking down Henrik’s daughters won’t be featuring.

Also confirmed for a return is Iceland’s finest, Trapped, which has been confirmed as renewed with an even more complex murder mystery, to which I say “Can’t wait!”, except that for some reason its not going to appear until late 2018, so I’m going to have to.

Less welcome news is that the rather dodgy mess that is Bedrag (aka Follow the Money), starring Maverick Mess and Stoic Alf, has not only been commissioned for a second series but that said series broadcast its seventh episode (out of the traditional ten) last night in Scandinavia. This year’s subject is P2P Banking, which sounds dry as anything, so thank God we’ve got Maverick Mess’s antics to enliven things (I nearly said ‘look forward to’ but given my opinion if series 1, that would clearly be a misnomer).

I imagine we’ll be looking at that next spring, which gives me ample time to have my snarking pencil sharpened.

As predicted, there is no sign of anyone being enthusiastic about creating another series of Crimes of Passion, whilst Arne Dahl has not yet written any further A-Gruppe books to be turgidly refashioned as Arne Dahl TV programmes.

Turning to those other European countries that have featured in the Saturday night slot, there is sadly no indication of any repeat appearances for Molina and Guerin of Disparue (The Disappearance), but I have news of great horror for you: after disappearing with only the defiant whisper of a second series, in respect of which its Wikipedia entry hasn’t been updated in over two years, Salamander has indeed been recommissioned, and imdb has it down for an opening episode on some unknown date in 2018.

If this does indeed come to pass, it will mean a five year gap from the end of series 1 which, as we all so clearly remember writer Ward Huselmans proclaiming, was “writ(ten) for big audiences”: how’d that work out for you, old bean? Needless to say, if this ever happens, and if BBC4 elects to show it, I shall be waiting, not with a snarking pencil but with a poison ink fountain pen.

Though if they bring Tine Reymer back with it, I may find it in my heart to welcome her sturdy and blue-eyed good looks.

In the meantime, I would delight in being surprised by something Skandi designed to fill in the Saturday nights remaining until Xmas. After the next Australian short, there are five Saturday nights left in 2016, the last of them being Xmas Day.

It would be a fitting conclusion.

The Bridge: Some Thoughts


This past few weeks, when I haven’t been the person I usually am, I’ve spent a lot of time watching DVDs: a simple and efficient way of keeping my mind somewhere else whilst I let time seep slowly past me.

I’ve managed to get through the first two seasons of Person of Interest again, and start the third, which is ideal binge-watching stuff. It’s an entertainment, a thriller, easy to breeze through without my mind needing to engage that much. This time, I can see the hints, the foreshadowing, because I know what will eventually be revealed.

But I  also decided that, having bought the box-set a good few months ago now, it was time to re-watch The Bridge, aka Bron/Broen, all three series. It’s still as good as it was when I first watched it on those SkandiKrime BBC4 Saturday nights, and I was dreadfully short of detailed memories, having retained only the basic structure of the first two series, so watching those again was like beginning anew, but with a closer appreciation of how the various elements interwove, tributaries joining a hidden central stream whose banks only appeared late in each series.

Watching The Bridge III has been different. I reviewed it weekly, and when you do that it imprints the memories in you more deeply. I remember far more of it that I did of either of the first two series, with Kim Bodnia, working out the inescapable logic of who he was and what he had done.

I have just completed watching episode 6. Another couple of days and it will be complete, and I will turn to the box-set of The Killing, which I’ve had even longer and not yet re-lived. But episode 6 contained a scene that, as I watched it, a year or so ago, I thought was extraordinary, and which watching again was just as powerful, and which may be one of the most extraordinary scenes of television I have ever seen.

For those whose memory is not as directly stimulated as my own, Sofia Helin’s co-star in series 3, Thure Lindhardt, as Henrik Sabroe, is seen behaving strangely from his first serious introduction. He lives with a beautiful wife and two daughters but goes out to single’s nights for casual sex, which he discusses with his wife. There is something strange about this set-up, which is revealed to be a hallucination. Henrik’s family disappeared six years ago. The case is cold. He asks Saga to look at the file.

I was pleased to sense, correctly, that the family’s appearances were hallucinations (albeit only a short time before this was made explicit). Then came this extraordinary scene. Henrik has been keeping everybody out of his home. It is unchanged, in the irrational hope that by doing so, he is keeping his family alive in some manner, in the superstition that by doing so, they are staying alive.

It makes no sense. It’s like me with the Book of Remembrance in Dukinfield Crematorium, each year on my Dad’s anniversary, and how every year that there isn’t another name added to that page is somehow a sign of life. We who have been bereaved are prone to irrationality.

But Saga, herself disturbed by news of her mother’s suicide – an evil act, by an evil, controlling woman, deprived of power and authority over her daughters and determined to exercise it in a final act of destruction: Ann Petren radiated an understated but implacable evil in even her quietest moments – Saga comes to Henrik’s house late at night and, in the face of her unbudgable rationality, he lets her in.

And in quiet tones that are stable and self-comprehending, he confesses his madness to her, confesses that his wife and children are there with him, that in the six years of their absence he has looked at them and spoke to them and listened to them. They sit in the kitchen and, in a directorial masterstroke that is an ingenious as it is unobtrusive, the camera angle shifts from Saga’s perspective to Henrik’s and from one perspective there are three people in the room, Alice sitting at the table, listening, its top between her and her husband, and from the other there are only two, only those who are really there. But Alice appears from Saga’s perspective, though she cannot see and does not believe, and she is gone from Henrik’s perspective even though it is he who has held her here.

I wish I could have written that scene, but I haven’t and never will. But I understand it and I can stand inside it, and I can be Henrik for the time that that scene takes, even as I am in awe at the courage it takes to say what he says, to place yourself so wholly in someone’s trust, to bring them so deeply into your psyche.

It means all the more in that that is now something I cannot do. I can only watch from outside.

In so many ways, in so many scenes, The Bridge has been exceptional, on so many levels, and I am clinging to the hope that an unprecedented fourth series, one that may bring back Kim Bodnia, will eventually be made.

My Cup Runneth Over


Again?

Not only is it getting increasingly likely that there will be an unprecedented fourth series of The Bridgethough if this comes off, it will be the last one – but Kim Bodnia may well be back as Martin Rohde too!

It seems that the difference of direction that kept him out of series 3 was the show’s desire to have him out of prison, whereas Bodnia wanted only to appear if he was in prison (and absolutely right he was, too). Unfortunately, that spelled the death warrant for poor old Hans, Saga’s boss, since if Martin had been part of the story, it was his boss, Lillian, who would have been bumped off.

That leaves me with the urge, yet again, to find some kind of safe passage to Earth-2 where I can watch that version of series 3. Meanwhile, all fingers (and appendages) crossed that The Bridge 4 is commissioned, and that Martin will also be back.

Saturday SkandiKrime: The Bridge 3 – episodes 1 & 2


It’s been a long wait, far longer than mortal man should be expected to endure, but we are once again immersed deeply in the deep and compelling world of The Bridge. Sofia Helin is back as Saga Noren and, despite the absence, probably permanently of Kim Bodnia as Martin Rohde, despite the inevitably changed dynamics, from the moment the show got on the road it was clear that this was going to be very very very good indeed.

Blogging something as good as The Bridge is considerably harder than it is hapless fluff like Arne Dahl: the depth, the detail, the intensity, the intricacy of the writing, the performances, the direction. It’s a whole order of being different, because there is so much to watch for, so much to take in, so much that prompts speculation as to where this might lead, what effect it might have.

For instance, the series pulls a brilliant trick on us in just the first episode, a lovingly disguised punch. A woman is dead, a Danish citizen murdered in Malmo in bizarre circumstances. A prominent LGBT campaigner, promoting gender-neutral pre-schooling, she has had her heart cut out and, with emoticons painted over her face, has been arranged in a tableau of the nuclear family, sat around a table, mannequins creating this set-up.

Saga has to work with a Danish counterpart, but Martin is in prison, six months into a ten year sentence for last series’ off-stage murder, so Lillian – the Danish Police head who is now three months married to Saga’s boss, Hans – appoints Hanne, an older, female detective. We smile to ourselves, prepare to adjust to the changed dynamic, we watch Saga try to institute small talk with her customary air of bafflement at other’s reactions, we laugh at the awkwardness, we settle in for en episodes – and a trap blows Hanne’s right foot off just before the end.

Danish involvement in the case shifts to Henrik, a thirty-something, handsome, slick guy, who wants the job because it means working with Saga.

More about Henrik shortly. Let’s dial it back to the first episode. We have the murder, and the lack of any real leads or motives around it. On this spine, the series starts to build a mosaic, of people who, initially, we don’t know, doing things that have no apparent bearing on our case, about whom we start to wonder.

For instance, there’s Lisa Friis Andersson, played by the considerably attractive Sonja Richter. There’s a young guy helping out at her home who steals a necklace, which he puts on. Her daughter Karen’s being bullied at school, which is being spectacularly ineffective about combatting it. Lisa’s teaching her daughter to hit back. She’s married to Lars Andersson, in one of whose containers, on his Malmo site, the murder victim was found.

Oh yes, and then there’s Lisa’s video blog. It appears she’s a fundamental Christian, with a strong conviction that she freely expresses. That the victim was a lesbian, trying to destroy the difference between genders and therefore the basis of the traditional family, is something to be welcomed. It’s nasty stuff, that Lisa defends as free speech. So too’s the calm, polite but vicious blog against the priest who conducts Denmark’s first same-sex marriage. Lisa points out that if he’d done that back when the scriptures were written, he’d have been stoned to death: rhetorically, she asks why people think the old  days were bad?

It’s sleek, nasty, inciteful stuff, which Lawyer Lisa denies incites action. So is it a coincidence that, in episode 2, someone strangles the priest, paints his face with emoticons and leaves him dressed up to be found in a playground?

Though she’s not necessarily that Christian: our Lisa would like a pair of leather trousers like Saga’s, because they look hot. In a less involving series, I’d be rooting for her to get them, because Sonja Richter looks like she could seriously rock them.

And there’s Henrik. Long before he’s named, long before we discover he’s a Police detective, he’s acting pretty strangely. He appears to be married, with two girls, but he’s out picking up an attractive, dark-haired thirty-something at a Singles Club, takes her home, has sex with her. But when he gets back home, he’s describing the woman, her name, her apartment to his wife, a scene that sets the nerves jangling with the implications.

He’s a damned good detective too, spots a number of things Saga misses in the second episode, but he’s also trying to pull with her. Young master Henrik is one mother of an enigma. Not to mention a regular pill-popper…

The second half of the second episode is dominated by Hans being kidnapped, at gunpoint. His assailant is Aleks, an armed robber just released from prison, who hwants revenge on Hans for allegedly forcing him to grass up his associates (who don’t appear to be all that forgiving) or else see his wife Samira roped in as an accessory, their kids taken away. Aleks wants money to set up his family, but the loot’s been stolen, Johnny denies taking it but sets him up to be killed.

Unfortunately, Aleks discovers that Johnny has also taken Samira and the girls. He’s about to kill Hans rather than ransom him, when the Police, following Henrik’s deductions, raid his place. The Police miss the concealed basement. But someone following up, with a bloody big gun, doesn’t. Aleks goes down but the mysterious, leather-jacketed rescuer doesn’t free Hans but instead knocks him out with Chloroform. Just like the Clown Killer used on the first victim…

Like I said, it’s harder to blog The Bridge than feeble stuff like Arne Dahl, but the comparison is unfair to begin with. The Bridge has ten hours of story to tell, and demands you look and watch every second, whereas the Arne Dahl‘s only have two hours to begin with. Even if they were good enough to summon up two hours worth of story, there’s simply no basis for comparison between the two.

But of course The Bridge 3 is Saga Noren, is Sofia Helin. What of her? On the one hand, little has changed: Saga does not do change, she does not do any variation on her intensely focussed devotion to her duty. On the other, she has changed. Others keep referring to what she did to Martin, trying to get into her head over her shopping him. Hans is convinced that she must be affected by the loss of her friend, by guilt at not going to see him.

But he’s a murderer, and Saga cannot socialise with a murderer. In 9 1/2 years, when he’s released, she’ll see him then.

But she’s different. There’s a beautifully incarnated extra fragility to Saga. She acts more like a ‘normal’ person at times, having absorbed the need to do so, but there is no real warmth to it, but she is more and more puzzled at its failure, at everybody’s failure to react as they, conventionally, should. Helin’s momentary rigidity indicating a trapped feeling, an urge to fly, her eyes darting around, seeking an escape, these are more intense, but the degree is subtle.

And there is a personal pressure on Saga too. Her mother has reappeared after 20 years, to tell her her father is dying, to try to drag Saga into reconciliation, to ask her to read the medical records of Saga’s sister, Jennifer, who took her own life after years of abuse. Saga is convinced that her sister was driven to her death by Munchausen’s by Proxy, but her pathologist colleague, whom she trusts, tells her that there is no evidence to support that. And he and she trust in evidence.

This is heady stuff. It’s too soon to fully judge, but this is already the best thing to happen to Saturday night since The Bridge 2, and in four more weeks it might very well be the best thing in television all year, and since The Bridge 2 for that.

Four weeks. Just think of it. Only four more weeks.

Saturday Eurocrime – Fulfilment Postponed


Not just yet…

So there I was thinking, it’s November, we ought to be within sight of the usual January transmission of The Bridge, series 3, with some revelations as to how Saga’s devotion to her duty played out for Martin. Something to look forward to for the post-Xmas Saturday nights.

I figured that if I checked up on-line, I should be able to get some idea about transmission dates without causing myself grief by discovering any unwanted spoilers. And that’s where things went horribly wrong.

People, there will be no The Bridge 3, not until the autumn of 2015. Waily, waily, waily.

And the third series will not feature Kim Bodnia although, in a sliver of silver lining, we are told that this does not rule out his returning in later series: a hitherto unsuspected suggestion that The Bridge may not follow the Sandinavian pattern established by The Killing and Borgen in restricting itself to only three series.

There were no hints as to the potential storyline of series 3, which is currently being written, and I wouldn’t have read them if there had been. But we are advised that the series will deal with Saga having to cope with the loss of her only friend.

I’m not going to speculate. I do wonder how the series can proceed without the strong contrast between its two leads. Kim Bodnia’s presence has been crucial to the success of both series to date and given that the fundamental aspect of The Bridge has been its contrast between the Danish and Swedish natures (no matter how little of this an English audience actually discerns), surely there must be a Danish pole of sorts to be inserted.

And we have to wait until after next year’s summer! This is almost as bad, no, it’s even worse than the wait for Cumberbatch and Freeman to become available for the fourth series of Sherlock.

The Bridge 2: Uncollected Thoughts


This isn’t going to be one of those full-scale, first impression analyses that usually go under the rubric of Uncollected Thoughts, more of a gosh-wow-holy-fuck sort of reaction to the kind of thing that, if there was more of it around, would have me looking for somewhere to wedge a TV into this pokey living space of mine.

For the past four weeks, like a million or so discerning others, I’ve spent large chunks of my Saturday evenings watching The Bridge series 2 on BBC4, all sub-titles and all, just like I’ve done with The Killing (x3) and Borgen (x3). I watched the first series, a year back, and loved the interaction between its stars, Kim Bodnia as Danish Police Detective Martin Rohde and Sofia Helin as Swedish Police Detective Saga Noren. It had its flaws, such as one particular red herring plot that got too big to contain and instead just got shut off, but overall, the stunning ending, and the performances of irs two leading lights made superb drama.

As evidenced by the clueless, inept, carbon copy plotting of the British-French remake, The Tunnel, which got a lot of praise from people who had no idea just how big a rip-off it sought to be of the original, nor who had any idea of the weight and life given to Martin and Saga by Bodnia and Helin, which Stephen Dillane and especially the hopeless Clemence Poesy couldn’t begin to even dream of matching.

As for series 2, though, which has combined complex and intricate eco-terrorism plottings with an amazing number of personal stories, not least those of Martin and Saga themselves, this started strong and just got better and better with every double-episode, until tonight’s finale just crackled with unbearable tension, leading to an ending that will have us all churning our minds to think of a way of getting out of that.

Throughout it (except in the moments I was screaming mad at my connection running slow or dropping out), I couldn’t help thinking at every moment that if there was one piece of British Drama that you could given an unequivocal 10 to, The Bridge would rate somewhere around 300. It can’t be that difficult to create television of that quality, we used to do it all the time. But then that was whem we trusted our audiences to understand up to the level of our shows’ intelligence.

The ending, when it came, was foreseeable from the outset of the final episode: the crucial clue was casually presented but nonetheless immediately noticeable, and both Saga and Martin acted as they had to, foreordained by who they were and what they had experienced, understanding the necessity of it for each other.

The writers have set themselves an even higher bar that Sherlock series 2 when it comes to getting out of that one convincingly.

Fi9nally, now that it’s over and I can go on Wikipedia to check out the casting without stumbling on a spoiler, let me just say that Tova Magnusson, who played Viktoria Nordgren, not only acted the part superbly but was bloody gorgeous to look at, and it’s nice to put a name to the eyes (and other associated features).