Marcella on DVD

Marcella DVDIT’S BEEN CALLED infuriating and too dark, but dull it certainly is not. Marcella has been ITV’s attempt to refashion Nordic noir on these shores by getting the creator of the hugely popular The Bridge, Hans Rosenfeldt, to conjure up this Nordic-cum-Brit thriller. Anna Friel has certainly been compelling as the detective prone to blackouts, and this week’s episode had critics spluttering over a child’s death in the story.

Following the former Murder Squad detective Marcella Backland as she is propelled back to work following a 10-year career break has been an intricate and pretty deep at times. On the face of it the investigation concerns a serial murder case where the modus operandi of the killer bears a striking resemblance to an unsolved case Marcella was previously involved in, but there is plenty more to it, with Marcella’s husband being a bit dodgy (as well as unfaithful), sex worker muggers on the loose and various corporate shenanigans.

Personally, I can’t make up my mind about it (my original review is here). It is a bit daft and over the top at times, and certainly mystifying. I suspect we need to get to the end of it to see if it’s a load of pants or actually pretty decent.

Anyway, if the various storylines have had you baffled, you can scrutinise the drama again at your leisure or just see what all the fuss has been about as a first-time viewer when the DVD is released on 20 June. The boxset will be priced at £26.99 (cert 15, though this is to be confirmed).

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Marcella, ITV, Anna Friel

BUCCANEER MEDIA FOR ITV MARCELLA Pictured: ANNA FRIEL as Marcella. This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to MARCELLA.

Losing control? Anna Friel as Marcella

Dark and intricate thriller from the writer of The Bridge

★★★ ITV, Monday, 4 April, 9pm

HEROINES are often called ‘feisty’. Marcella Backland is not feisty, she is out of control.

She shoves her unfaithful husband down the stairs, she’s volatile, has blackouts, and when we first meet her she is in a bath and caked in mud and blood. How did she get there? That’s what this brooding eight-parter is going to tell us.

Writer Hans Rosenfeldt, who gave us the superb The Bridge, has here conjured up a heroine who is the opposite of Saga Noren in that Swedish-Danish production. The emotionless rule-following blonde has been replaced by a heartbroken, rule-breaking brunette.

Marcella on ITV with Anna Friel episode one

Gripping: Anna Friel as Marcella

Anna Friel as Marcella

Marcella, played wonderfully by Anna Friel, is a woman on a tightrope. It’s hard to even tell if she is a goodie or baddie.

Rosenfeldt has been brought in by ITV to inject some Nordic noir in between the fluff of Midsomer and Lewis. So Marcella is a forbidding heroine and many of the scenes are filmed on rainy London nightscapes. She’s not an anti-hero in the league of Walter White or Dexter, but she’s not cuddly either.

It also has in common with The Bridge multi-strands of stories woven together. This is how Rosenfeldt describes the drama he and his team wanted to make: ‘A thriller, yes. But there are many ways to tell a story. We settled for multi-plot. A lot of characters, not all of them immediately connected to the main story or main characters, but eventually ending up there; that’s what I like to do. That’s what I’m good at. Creating and solving a mystery with as many hooks, twists and red herrings as possible. So that’s what we did.’

BUCCANEER MEDIA FOR ITV MARCELLA Pictured: NICHOLAS PINNOCK as Jason Summers, SINEAD CUSACK as Sylvie Gibson and PATRICK BALADI as Stephen Holmes. This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to MARCELLA.

High-powered: Nicholas Pinnock as Jason, Sindead Cusack as Sylvie and Patrick Baladi as Stephen

Sinead Cusack and Laura Carmichael

The threads involve Marcella’s marriage breakdown after 15 years, her return to work as a detective when the Grove Park Killer seems to have reappeared after an 11-year break, a sex worker with a sideline in mugging, and a property firm run by a nasty CEO, Sylvie Gibson (played by Sinead Cusack in Cruella De Vil mode).

Nicholas Pinnock is Jason, Marcella’s now ex-husband, and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith in Downton Abbey) is Maddy, a student researching domestic abuse who is on the radar of a potential suspect for the Grove Park murders. Maeve Dermody is Grace, Sylvie’s high-flying businesswoman daughter.

Marcella is elevated above just being a compelling whodunit by also having an intriguing set of characters and terrific atmosphere.

Marcella on ITV Hub

Marcella trailer, with Anna Friel

HERE’S the trailer for ITV’s new thriller Marcella, which is currently on view in cinemas. It sounds like a good one, starring Anna Friel and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, who also wrote The Bridge. Set in London with a Metropolitan Police detective at its heart, Marcella is noir thriller told with Rosenfeldt’s unflinchingly Nordic style. Over eight episodes the audience will be led through a narrative maze where any character could be a witness, victim or suspect. Marcella will get involved in a serial murder case where the modus operandi of the killer bares a striking resemblance to an unsolved spate of killings from a decade ago. Also starring Jamie Bamber, Laura Carmichael, Harry Lloyd and Nicholas Pinnock.

BUCCANEER MEDIA FOR ITV MARCELLA Images taken at the read through in London. Pictured: JAMIE BAMBER as DI Tim Williamson.

Jamie Bamber as DI Tim Williamson in rehearsal with Laura Carmichael as Maddy Stevenson

The Bridge — Killer TV No 19

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Danmarks Radio/ Sveriges Television, series 1 2011; series 2 2013; series 3 2015

‘She’s Swedish, and the car came from Sweden. I assume I’m in charge.’ – Saga Norén

‘OK.’ – Martin Rohde

Sofia Helin (Saga Noren), Kim Bodnia (Martin Rohde), Dag Malmberg (Hans Pettersson), Lars Simonsen (Jens Hansen)

Identikit: Two detectives – one from Sweden, the other from Denmark – form an uneasy partnership when they must work together to investigate a murder scene right on the border between their two countries on the Oresund Bridge.


logosThe series that gave us the unforgettable Saga Norén, the blonde Swedish detective who has a laser-focus in solving crimes, but all the emotional intelligence of a Vulcan. She seems to be on the autistic scale, so that her idea of chit-chat is to come out with non-sequiturs like this in mixed company: ‘I started my period today.’ Or to ask a man who smiles at her in a nightclub whether he wants to have sex back at her flat. When it comes to breaking the news to a victim’s husband that his wife is dead, Saga has all the delicacy of an elephant on a flowerbed. ‘How many ways are there to say it?’ she asks her boss when he tells her to tread carefully. Saga, with her Porsche and leather trousers, is locked in a captivating partnership with Danish counterpart Martin Rohde, a shambles of an unfaithful husband who operates a lot on instinct, as they try to track down an ingenious, bitter serial killer who has attacked victims from both sides of Oresund Bridge, linking Denmark and Sweden. The investigation begins when what appears to be the body of a female Swedish politician is discovered straddling the national borderline on the bridge. The perpetrator has managed to plunge the bridge into darkness and staged the murder scene, so clearly this is a killer with huge resourcefulness and cunning. In truth, the plot involving the ‘Truth Terrorist’ staging various outrageous crimes to highlight perceived social problems is far-fetched. But, as with the key to many brilliant dramas, it is the principal characters who pull the audience in. Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia are two stars on a roll here, as characters who, despite their epic differences, slowly develop an off-key but somehow harmonious partnership. Across 10 episodes the tension builds slowly but remorselessly and with some stunning twists. And at the end, the killer is a lot closer to home than Saga and Martin – and the viewer – can ever have imagined. So highly regarded was the drama that the formula was immediately pinched by networks in the US and Britain/France, whose remakes are decent tributes, but certainly don’t outshine the original. Series two of the original came back, however, and developed the characters beautifully, with Martin struggling to come to terms with the murder of his son in series one, and Saga attempting to blend into normal society more – all against the backdrop of bio-terrorism crimes and incestuous lust among the rich. It ends with a heartbreaking cliffhanger and the two detectives divided and alone just when it seemed they were more bonded than ever. Sadly, Kim Bodnia did not appear in series three, and Thure Lindhardt stepped in as a new Danish partner, Henrik Sabroe. Next up for Bridge writer Hans Rosenfeldt is a thriller series for ITV called Marcella, starring Anna Friel.

Classic episode: The opener immediately and subtly establishes the character clash between Saga and Martin, while creating an eerie and perplexing mystery on the stunning Oresund Bridge. It is beautifully photographed, creating an alienating nightscape of highways, streets and the bridge.

The Bridge 3, BBC4, with Sofia Helin

Programme Name: The Bridge - TX: n/a - Episode: The Bridge - series 3 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN) - (C) Carolina Romare - Photographer: Carolina Romare

Bridge over troubled water: Saga faces a personal crisis

Saga Noren returns – without Martin Rohde – in a typically strange, chilling new investigation

★★★½

BBC4, date and time to be announced

SERIES 2 finished on a shattering note with the arrest for murder of one of The Bridge‘s two principles, Martin Rohde. Together with his detective partner Saga Noren, the characters had defined one of the most original and popular of the new wave of Nordic noir series.

Now series 3 is here, but Martin is not. Kim Bodnia, the lugubrious actor who had played straight man to Sofia Helin’s Asperger’s detective, did not like the direction the show’s writers wanted to take Martin, so he left.

Like Laurel without Hardy, or Lennon without McCartney, there is no doubt the show’s chemistry is upset. However, The Bridge is largely Saga’s story and on first glimpse of the new series I would say there is a good chance that the writers could be about to take her in intriguing new directions.

We meet her again as she about to be plunged into another weird and chilling new case. A Danish woman, a campaigner for lesbian and gay rights, is found murdered in a grotesque tableau with a group of mannequins, all having lurid smiles lipsticked onto their faces. Because she has been discovered in Malmo, Sweden, Saga is called in, once again partnered with a detective from Denmark.

So far, so familiar. But there is needle in the relationship, as Saga’s new sidekick resents her as the woman who is responsible for getting Martin imprisoned. And then Saga’s robot-like mask cracks a little when her boss, Hans Petterson, asks why she never mentions Martin, to whom she had grown close despite their initially awkward relationship.

She replies that she will visit him, but only when he is released in nine-and-a-half years. ‘I can’t associate with murderers’ – which is as close as she’s ever going to get to saying that she misses him badly.

The opening episode ends explosively for Saga

With her new partner, Saga investigates Morten Anker, the alienated and volatile son of the victim, who suffers from post-traumatic stress after serving in Afghanistan. As Saga and her partner close in, the opening episode ends explosively, and we see our heroine plunged into a personal crisis like none we’ve ever seen her in before.

Bridge fans will no doubt be disappointed that Kim Bodnia has departed, but by the end of the episode they will probably be hanging on to see what happens next.

Creator and writer Hans Rosenfeldt has a genius for coming up with twisted killers and he’s done it again. It will be fascinating to see what he does with his next thriller, Marcella, which has been commissioned by ITV, set in London and stars Anna Friel.

Check out…

Sofia Helin on the new series

Kim Bodnia leaves The Bridge

The Bridge 2 – the best show on TV

Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), BBC4
Unbridgeable gap? In season two Martin and Saga have grown closer. Pics: BBC

As second series of The Bridge has now reached its shattering climax on BBC4, and fans of the drama flock to London to see its stars at Nordicana – the growing annual festival of Scandinavian crime/thriller screenings and panels with the actors and authors – now is a good moment to celebrate what made Saga and Martin’s latest outing so brilliant…

Jens (LARS SIMONSEN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), BBC4
Confronting his past – Martin (right) visits Jens in prison

1 Saga and Martin

Series 2 pushed Saga and Martin into new areas and challenges. Watch dramas such as Midsomer and Lewis, and the characters never develop or grow. They just face a new chalk outline every week. In The Bridge, Martin struggled with the murder of his son by Jens, at the end of series one, through every episode. He also came to understand his Spock-like partner better, learning about her mistreatment as a child. And as Saga tried to have a ‘normal’ relationship with Jakob and had bust-ups with Rasmus in the office, we realised she did have emotions and could be hurt. The writer Hans Rosenfeldt says in a revealing blog on the BBC’s site, that the car and elevator scenes between Saga and Martin are his favourites to write, because that is when we get to learn a lot more about these two people. Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia have great chemistry, and the combination of their acting and the fine writing are what make The Bridge so superior to most TV crime dramas.

2 Humour

And the car/elevator scenes have been a joy. Saga quizzing Martin about whether he was sleeping with Pernille was very funny. ‘You spend a lot of time with her and she’s always touching you…’ ‘– It’s been a long time…’ ‘How do you cope? You used to have sex with people all the time.’ There was also the hilarious scene in which Saga clocked the dead gigolo’s penis and commented on its smallness – ‘Women don’t fantasise about men with small penises.’ Perfect logic to the end, so to speak.

Hans (DAG MALMBERG), Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), BBC4
Hans, Saga and Martin

3 The minor characters

There are no cardboard cutouts in The Bridge. Each character is fully fleshed out with some dramatic life. The sad end for Pernille, thwarted in her feelings for Martin, was given plenty of space in the final episode, which it deserved. But others, such as Martin’s wife Mette, were figures we came to know well. And of course Rasmus grew to be more than just the gofer he first appeared. Again, three cheers for the writing, which wove together such intricate but rich overlapping storylines.

4 Death in a cold climate

Scandinavian countries are often voted the most happy and contented in various bits of research. So it is nice to see they have a dark side, with splits in the fabric of their well-ordered way of life. And there’s the constant fascination of the simple otherness of the setting – the chilly gloom, Viktoria’s weird minimalist white house, the starkly beautiful Øresund Bridge, the odd colours they paint their Porsches and the suicidal, grey monolithic buildings of  Malmo and Copenhagen. The series must work wonders for the Caribbean tourist industry. Anyway, it’s a most atmospheric backdrop to these tales of alienation and subterfuge.

Viktoria (TOVA MAGNUSSON)
Viktoria, the human weapon

5 The plot was a gripper

Series one’s intrigue – with Jens as a super-evasive terrorist – stretched credibility at times, but series two was a shifting and fascinating story, with the twisted relationship of Oliver and Viktoria a great premise for the crimes. ‘You’ve no idea what I’ve done for you,’ Oliver said to his ice cold sister, sounding and looking like a crazed Nazi camp commandant. But despite all the bio-terrorism and killings, it was fitting that the heartbreaking finale should ultimately come down to Saga and Martin again. ‘You’re my only friend,’ she tells him. But sadly, not for long… (However, series three is being written, so the Swede and the Dane will be reunited somehow).

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