Sebastian Bergman, starring Rolf Lassgård PREVIEW

Vanja Lithner (Moa Silen) and Sebastian Bergman (Rolf Lassgård). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC4: starts Saturday, 26 May, 9pm

Story: Sebastian Bergman, a leading Swedish criminal profiler, finds his career on the skids when he returns to his hometown, two weeks late for his mother’s funeral, but just in time to help the local force to solve the brutal murder of a 15-year-old boy.

Gosh, our Nordic neighbours do love an oddball hero. After The Killing‘s surly Sarah Lund and The Bridge‘s wacko Saga Noren, we have shambling Sebastian Bergman.

Double-chinned, overweight, unshaven, with a lecherous approach to women, that’s Sebastian. We first see the criminal profiler giving a rambling lecture to an audience of police officers. One of them, a former colleague, calls him a jerk.

But while he’s not in the Rufus Sewell/Rupert Penry-Jones league of dishy alpha males, he is a fascinating creation, a mixture of tragedy and courage. As this latest (in what seems an inexhaustible production line) of well-made Nordic crime dramas reveals, Sebastian has a lot of hinterland.

Detective Vanja gets the sharp end of Sebastian’s tongue

Young victim’s been shot and had his heart removed
He’s returned home to sort through his deceased mother’s belongings – two weeks too late for her funeral. He leers at a woman on the train, gets to the house and finds an old photo of his wife and daughter. He wails in pain.

He leans on an old police colleague, Torkel Hoglund, the head of CID whom he helped through his divorce, to give him a job back with the police. ‘I need this,’ Bergman says desperately.

Once back in the fold, investigating the case of a teenage boy who’s been shot and had his heart removed, Bergman is rude to his colleagues and witnesses – such as the headmaster of the dead boy’s posh school.

Who is the mystery letter from?
He also tries to hoodwink a detective into illicitly using the police computer to trace a woman who wrote to him 30 years previously, but whose letter his mother never passed on to him.  Who is the writer of the letter? Why is he so anxious to trace her? We don’t find out until the final devastating minutes.

Rolf Lassgård, popular in Scandinavia for his roles in Wallander and Beck, plays Bergman, and is a pickled herring in the face of programme makers who think only actors who are young and bland can carry a good drama.

Sebastian’s not exactly popular with his police colleagues

Cracker took us to similar territory, with the irascible wreck of a profiler forever correcting the detectives’ instinct for going for the bleeding obvious suspect in murder cases. Here, Sebastian’s first unpopular theory is that the bully neighbour of young victim Roger was not his killer.

BBC4’s Saturday-night Nordic fix
But Sebastian Bergman can stand on it own feet as an absorbing drama. The investigation is complex without being ridiculous, taking in blackmail, greed, snobbery and jealousy, while also giving us Sebastian, at first glance an unpleasant old so-and-so, whom we soon realise is carrying a lot of grief while retaining a wicked wit and humanity for the underdog.

His two 90-minute stories should more than adequately fill BBC4’s Saturday-night Nordic fix.


  1. I am so happy that I am a follower of this blog.

  2. What you Brits are missing here is that Scandinavia takes after the US. Read James Patterson or watch Bones or NCIS and you will find strange characters as in ones with personal problems etc. The Scandinavians do not learn British English anymore but American English and are heavily influenced by that continent.

    Also for those who still do not understand what a smörgåsbord is should know that it is a buffet. Not mentioned here but other places in regards to this crime thriller.

    Good blog by the way and keep it up!

    • Anonymous says:

      Which continent do you live on? Obviously not America. Most American crime series feature candy floss, unrealistic, underdeveloped characters surfing through flimsy plots that give scant nods to the original ideas. There are notable exceptions, but most are mediocre at best. James Patterson is no Henning Mankell or Jo Nesbo. The $2,000.00 or so I spend a year on American television obviously goes to the hairstylists and the personal trainers. Sarah Lund and her sweater would never see the light of day here. Moreover, with an adult illiteracy rate at almost half the adult population we couldn’t view the original because most of us neither can nor want to read subtitles, so we produced our own inferior version. If it wasn’t for American Public Television, whose demographic is middle class, educated Americans, we wouldn’t even have seen Brannagh’s Walander. The majority of Americans view APT as elitist so few will have watched it. I’m sure Britain does produce dross too, but the difference between American and British attitudes is that the former will never admit it and the latter are slaves to negativity.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it time for us skinny blokes to put on some weight then?

  4. Anonymous says:

    The main problem with British crime dramas is that the too dumb down,and have too much middle class and stereotypical characters.And most of all too soap lite as where,scandinavia crime dramas like the Us stick more to the story.and bases it around the sad victim politics and the trouble person that’s trying too solve the case and the strange characters.Plus like the in Americans they let the story and characters develop more and that what went wrong with Luther and The Hustle.

  5. This show is mediocre, at best.

  6. No it ain’t.

    I hope there are more to come.

    • Yes it is! I’m a big fan of nordic noir&drama. I’ve read many of their books and seen their TV series/films but this was disappointing cliche ridden rubbish with really crap plots and a pathetic storyline. Compared to Borgen (a drama not a thriller but still their product), The Killing, The Bridge (which also needs improvement), Edderkoppen, Wallander, Unit One etc. this serious has a lousy script, laousy casting, lousy acting, lousy direction.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yeah really enjoying this show, miss the original Wallander as well

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