The Bridge 2, BBC4, with Sofia Helin, Kim Bodnia PREVIEW

Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA) in The Bridge 2
Back on the case – Saga and Martin in The Bridge series 2. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 4 January, 9pm

Story: Thirteen months after the events of the first season, a coastal tanker leaves the Öresund waterway and heads straight for the Øresund Bridge.

THE FIRST series had such good leading characters in Saga and Martin, against such an atmospheric story, that it’s already been remade twice – by the Americans (set on the US-Mexican border) and Sky Atlantic (as The Tunnel).

So, the question with this follow-up is the usual one that hangs over sequels – will it match the original, or will it, in this case, be a bridge too far?

On the evidence of the opener, it does keep up the fine standard of series one. If anything, it heightens the emotional tug as the icy Swede and devastated Dane are reunited over an investigation into a crewless tanker that crashes into Øresund Bridge.

Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN) in The Bridge 2
She may not show it, but Saga is a bit of a softie for Martin

Moving reunion for Saga and Martin

This crossing between the countries obviously has to link the two leads, and it got the mystery rolling in series one and was the setting for the emotionally shattering finale. To recap, the madman Jens had killed Martin’s son, Augustus, and Martin was only stopped from killing Jens by a wounding bullet from Saga’s pistol.

All the characters have moved on in series two. Saga has a boyfriend and reads books on ‘Relationship Skills’. Martin is in a trial separation from the wife he cheated on, Mette. He has also gone grey and is on some boring police duty following the trauma of his son’s murder.

When Martin and Saga meet again, it packs an emotional punch. Knowing how socially challenged Saga is, with her Asperger’s-like behaviour, it’s quite touching when she goes out of her way to see him personally on a flimsy pretext after 13 months of silence. As Martin says, he could have emailed over the info she requests.

Five hostages chained below deck

Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), Victor (JUSTUS RAGNARSSON) The Bridge 2
Martin and Saga question one of the tanker’s captives

The unspoken conclusion we draw is that, despite her having the emotions of an Easter Island statue, Saga obviously has some feeling for her old partner.

And Martin, around whose grief everyone treads carefully, is almost in tears to be sitting alongside the woman who treats him as bluntly as ever. In one moving scene, they are crossing the Øresund Bridge in her baby-shit green Porsche when Martin is overwhelmed to be near the scene of their disturbing confrontation with Jens. Saga’s inept response is to turn on the radio.

The plot here is an intriguing backdrop to their story, as the mystery tanker is found to have no crew but five captives chained below deck – three Swedes and two Danes. They all seem to be drugged, hampering Saga and Martin’s attempts to work out what happened.

Series two of The Bridge is mysterious and affecting

But when one of them dies, the stakes are raised. And the opener concludes with a shocking discovery about the cause of death.

Once again, the story is beautifully filmed, with the bridge and sea looking eerie and mysterious. The story is compelling and the writers have had the courage to move the characters forward, making them more affecting then ever.

Cast: Sofia Helin Saga Norén, Kim Bodnia Martin Rohde, Dag Malmberg Hans Petterson, Sarah Boberg Lillian, Lars Simonsen Jens Hansen, Puk Scharbau Mette Rohde, Rafael Pettersson John Lundqvist, Vickie Bak Laursen as Pernille, Henrik Lundström Rasmus Larsson, Tova Magnusson Victoria Nordgren, Sven Ahlström Oliver Nordgren, Camilla Bendix Gertrud Kofoed, Fredrik Hiller Marcus Stenberg

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Nordicana 2013

Arne Dahl cast: Malin Arvidsson, Shanti Roney, Matias Varela, Claes Ljungmark and Magnus Samuelsson at Nordicana 2013
The cast of Arne Dahl at Nordicana
A DERELICT warehouse in Clerkenwell, London, was the inspired setting for the first Nordicana, a celebration of Scandi TV, film and culture, which finished yesterday. You could easily imagine Sarah Lund with flashlight looking for a suspect within its twisting corridors and forgotten work spaces. 

Instead of killers and corpses, however, were screenings, Q&A sessions with the actors, in addition to glasses of Icelandic vodka, smoked salmon and massages. Oh, and the famous Lund sweater was for sale too. The two-day event featured screenings of TV’s Wallander, Arne Dahl and Borgen, along with panels from actors including Charlotta Jonsson (Wallander), most of the Arne Dahl cast, and Lars Knutzon (Borgen). 

There were sessions with authors Ann Cleeves (Shetland, which is almost in Scandinavia), and David

Nordicana 2013, in Clerkenwell, London
Inspired setting – The Farmiloe Building, London

Hewson, author of the recent novelisations of The Killing. In addition, several movies were screened, including Love Is All You Need, starring Pierce Brosnan, The Hunt, with Mads Mikkelsen, and A Hijacking.

Nordicana is a sign that our liking for noir in the cold climates has taken root since The Killing became such a hit on BBC4. I was struck by how packed the two screenings for Arne Dahl were. 

This cop drama hasn’t generated as many headlines as Sarah Lund, but it was clear at the screenings of the brilliant two-part series finale, Europa, that Arne Dahl has quietly built an avid following. That the cast on the panel interviewed by crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw – Malin Arvidsson, Shanti Roney, Matias Varela, Claes Ljungmark and Magnus Samuelsson – were all so charming and approachable will have done nothing to dent the series’ popularity.
Nordicana was good fun. The next appointments with Scandi dramas will be back in our front rooms as BBC4 lines up Borgen 3 and The Bridge 2 for broadcast.

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The Killing series three starring Sofie Gråbøl PREVIEW

Sarah Lund at the murder scene that launches the third series. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½ 

BBC4: starts Saturday, 17 November, 9pm 

Story: Detective Sarah Lund has found some peace in the form of a new home, hopefully a move to a less front-line job, and the impending recognition of her 25 years police service. But homicide again gets in the way of her plans…

Sarah Lund returns in the third and final series of the acclaimed Danish crime drama – but with a difference. She’s let her hair down, has new jumpers, a garden, is cooking proper meals, and half-smiles at one point.

That the uncommunicative, obsessive detective is trying to reclaim her life will catch her many devotees off-guard. This is the woman whose compulsion in series one to solve the Nanna Birk Larsen case led her to lose sight of her boyfriend and her son.

We get reacquainted with lonesome Lund as she is about to be rewarded for 25 years of police service. So eager is she to pursue some happiness in her personal life that she is trying to get a transfer away from the crime scenes to the analysis department, and also tries to duck out of investigating a mangled body found in a junkyard by the port.

Lund is pushed into investigating by Borch (right)

The audience knows the Lund enigma so well
Then comes a painful scene. Lund has invited her teenage son to dinner with his girlfriend, whom Sarah has never met. She has prepared a meal for the couple, got her new home ready – but then the lad calls to blow her out.

It’s sad for Lund, who starts apologising to her boy for having failed occasionally as a mother. But while doing this, she absentmindedly flicks through some crime-scenes photos of a dismembered corpse. A tattoo on a severed arm offers her a clue, and she begins to ignore her son, once again working through the possibilities of this clue.

Sarah Lund is back, her son forgotten again. In a moment, sadness switched to laughter when I saw a preview of this opening episode at the BFI in London on Friday. The audience now knows the Lund enigma so well, they could only laugh when she reverted to her murder-immersed old self.

Sarah Lund’s old flame is on the scene
The global financial meltdown is the backdrop to this 10-part story, and the apparently random death in the scrapyard turns out to have links to the crisis.

Lund with new partner Juncker and Brix

It’s a rich mix of a story, with the strands including Sarah Lund’s old flame, Mathias Borch from the National Security Service, reappearing in her life, while Prime Minister Kamper is facing re-election and trying to avert the disaster of having Denmark’s oil giant Zeeland pulling out of the country and moving operations abroad, costing many local jobs.

Zeeland’s boss Robert Zeuthen is facing a boardroom coup, and there’s a shocking development concerning his family. It’s a tense opening episode, kicking off with chilling murders on board a tanker ship, but one containing a lot of the political machinations of the kind we saw in The Killing 1.

The Killing was the TV drama of 2011
The original series was only shown in the UK last year, a remarkably short time in which Sarah Lund – the awkward, silent, puzzling heroine – has become a much-loved leading character in the crime genre. Having been around since 2007, the subtitled Danish series with no household names in it was a word-of-mouth sensation, clearly catching BBC4 completely unaware.

Is there a link between the sordid murder and corporate powers?

We’ve watched Lund’s decline into loneliness, particularly in series two, where she found herself in uniform on border duty. This second outing lacked the emotional power of the first, which was a heartrending portrayal of the impact of the kidnap and murder of teenager Nanna on her family.

Will series three be a fitting send-off? Some of the novelty has inevitably worn off what was initially an exotic drama for Brits, but the opener is packed with intrigue and Sofie Gråbøl is again very strong and sympathetic as Lund.

Sofie Gråbøl: ‘I cried all the way home’
It should also keep us guessing. The actress was at the BFI last week and said that for the third she had guessed wrong who the writer Søren Sveistrup had made responsible for the crimes.

She also acknowledged that finishing her role as Lund had been emotional. ‘It hit me like a hammer,’ she told the audience. ‘I had three big emotional scenes on the last day and it was stressful.’ Having been given a bottle of champagne, she said, ‘I just ran off because it would be pathetic to cry at work. I cried all the way home.’

Sofie Gråbøl at the BFI. Pic: Robin Jarossi

Sveistrup was also at the BFI and emphasised that series three is definitely the final one. ‘It’s been great,’ he said. ‘We agreed from the start that it would not be a neverending story. I’d hate it to become just another mass-produced show.

‘So much television stinks. It’s important to reinvent yourself. Do something, be proud of it and finish it.’

He’s surely right. But Sarah Lund will be much missed.

Cast: Sofie Gråbøl Sarah Lund, Nikolaj Lie Kaas Mathias Borch, Morten Suurballe Lennart Brix, Sigurd Holmen le Dous Asbjørn Juncker, Anders W. Berthelsen Robert Zeuthen, Helle Fagralid Maja Zeuthen, Stig Hoffmayer Niels Reinhardt, Olaf Johannessen Kristian Kamper, Jonatan Spang Kristoffer Kamper, Trine Pallesen Karen Nebel, Tammi Øst Birgit Eggert, Peter Mygind Tage Steiner

Read on:
Why The Killing is the best thing on TV – 10 reasons (CrimeTimePreview)
The Killing BBC4
The Killing (Forbrydelsen) Wikipedia
Sarah Lund’s Jumper
Crash course in Danish for Killing fans

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Lilyhammer starring Steven Van Zandt PREVIEW

Witness protection is a dish best served cold for Frank Tagliano – in Norway. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Tuesday, 11 September, 10pm

Story: New York Mafia member Frank Tagliano agrees to testify against his new boss when he thinks that he has been overlooked for promotion – on condition that he is relocated with a new identity in the FBI’s witness protection programme and asks to be sent to Lillehammer, Norway.

The Mafia genre meets Nordic noir in this offbeat crime mashup – the first original series made by Netflix and being shown on UK terrestrial TV by BBC4.

Steven Van Zandt – right-hand man of two Bosses, Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano – here cashes in on his Sopranos persona as Frank The Fixer Tagliano, New York mobster.

Frank and Lily, before the tragedy

When a rival tries to shoot Frank in his bar, during which Frank’s beloved dog Lily is slain, the gangster decides to rat on those behind the attempted hit. When the Feds ask where he wants to be relocated for his witness protection, he says Lillehammer. ‘Lille-what?’ says the agent. The show’s title, by the way, is a play on the departed dog’s name.

94 Winter Olympics
Culture clash doesn’t quite cover just how quirky this show is. Frank fancies Lillehammer because he remembers the 94 Winter Olympics there, how beautiful it looked and all the pretty girls.

The premise is pretty daffy, but it does allow for plenty of fun in the plot. So, the criminal finds himself living next door to the local chief of police, but this doesn’t stop him importing some tried and tested methods of extortion and bribery. It seems like Mafia business as usual when Frank finds a sheep’s head outside his house on day one.

Local cops Laila Hovland and Geir 'Elvis' Tvedt
Local cops Laila Hovland and Geir ‘Elvis’ Tvedt 

The opener of this eight-part series involves Frank – new name Giovanni, ‘Call me Joe’ – in an illegal wolf hunt, as well as dealing with lairy youths on a train, and a nutty job centre employee who uses a ventriloquist’s dummy to demonstrate interview techniques to the unemployed.

Love is in the air
Which Frank is, with the job centre weirdo offering him a job as a pizza delivery guy at Dolly Dimples on arrival. However, Frank is way too resourceful to re-start life at the bottom and has himself set up quite nicely by episode two. There even seems to be the chance of romance in the frosty air.

It’s hard to dislike this riff on a mobster fish out of water story, and certainly it went down a snowstorm in Norway, where 20 percent of the population tuned in.

A second season has been commissioned, though Van Zandt’s touring commitments have held up production. Certainly, the Boss himself is right behind Little Stevie’s latest acting project, as Springsteen’s musical tribute to the series, given on tour in Oslo, reveals in the video below.

Cast: Steven Van Zandt Frank Tagliano, Anne Katharine Krigsvoll Laila Hovland, Marian Saastad Ottesen Sigrid Haugli, Steinar Sagen Roar Lien, Fridtjob Saheim Jan Johansen, Kyrre Hellum Geir ‘Elvis’ Tvedt, Trond Fausa Aurvag Torgeir Lien

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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.

The Bridge series 1 PREVIEW

Saga (Sofia Helin) and Martin (Kim Bodnia) and the Bridge. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½

BBC4, starts Saturday, 21 April, 9pm 

Story: The body of a woman is found on Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. An uneasy pairing of detectives from each country, Saga Norén (Sweden) and Martin Rohde (Denmark), must join forces to stop the killer.

Once again it looks as though Nordic TV noir is giving British television honchos a lesson in making drama that is ambitious, multi-storied and suspenseful with this new 10-part Swedish/Danish co-production.

It begins hauntingly on Oresund Bridge, which links the two countries, when the body of a woman is found laid across a line marking the border between them. BBC4 is starting the series with a double bill that introduces cleverly woven storylines centring on a very disfunctional pairing of a female cop from Sweden and a male one from Denmark.

From the opening moments it is captivating and mysterious, with the city nightscapes filmed stunningly to give both international settings an eerie, alienating quality.

Detective Rohde at the scene of the grisly crime

Saga wears leather trousers and drives a Porsche
Oresund Bridge is an impressive modern structure, but when its night-time lights go out for almost a minute we know something bad is about to happen. When they come on again, the body of a woman, a leading politician from Malmo, is discovered.

The two detectives, Saga Norén and Martin Rohde, meet and decide it’s a Swedish case. He returns home, but when Saga’s team try to move the body they make a shocking and grisly discovery that means the Swedes and Danes have to work together. It’s as though the murderer has planned it this way.

Saga is, as one of her colleagues puts it mildly, ‘a bit odd’. Blonde, wearing leather trousers and driving a Porsche, she is more like Star Trek‘s Spock than a Nordic detective. Lacking tact, self-awareness (she constantly strips down to her bra in the office to change her top) or diplomacy, she operates purely on logic.

Who is the moustachioed man?

‘She’s a bit odd’ – Saga

And what a team she makes with Martin. She talks to her Danish colleague as though he were a child. When he says he can’t sit in her office because he has just had a vasectomy – though he has just sat in his car to drive over to her – she tells him he makes her uncomfortable. ‘Pretend the seat is your car.’

How did the killer dim the bridge’s lights? How many victims will there be? And in another storyline, who is the moustachioed man offering a hiding place in the country to a battered wife and her son? The killer? There is a potent mystery to unravel here.

Episode one finishes with a pulsating scene in which an obnoxious journalist is trapped in a boobytrapped car while bomb-disposal experts try to free him.

Finally, the killer delivers a message to Saga and Martin. ‘We’ve got interesting times ahead of us…’

You can say that again.

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• Crime Zapper – Death in Paradise, To Catch a Thief, Nordic Noir •

• Filming starts in the spring for the first joint production between the BBC and France Television of an eight-part drama called Death in Paradise. It is described as a fish-out-of-water story about an English cop posted to the Caribbean island of Sainte Marie. What to anyone else might be paradise, for detective inspector Richard Gill is hell. He hates th sun, sea and sand, and can’t adapt to the local style of policing. But he is a brilliant detective, whose first case is to uncover who killed another British cop. Sophie Gigon from France Television says, ‘This is a great example of our international co-production work, based on the universal theme of crime investigation with a comedy touch. We’ve combined English and French creative talent to aim for a production that will be light-hearted but meaningful.’ Death in Paradise is Robert Thorogood’s first TV credit and follows his discovery via the Red Planet Pictures annual writing competition. Casting to be announced…

• Monday’s Nordic Noir doc on BBC Four was terrific, an insightful tour through Scandinavia’s ground-breaking and popular crime writers back to Sjowall and Wahloo. Participants included Karim Fossum, Jo Nesbo, Maj Sjowall, Barry Forshaw and others. Catch it on iPlayer (though I’m not sure this is available to users outside the UK), and look out for the follow-up, Italian Noir, on Boxing Day night.

• Vintage crime hounds may be interested in two radio adaptations coming up soon. BBC Radio 4 is dramatising David Dodge’s 1952 novel To Catch a Thief, which Alfred Hitchcock turned into a glittering suspense movie starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. American John Robie is living quietly in the south of France trying to live down his career as a notorious jewel thief, when a series of copycat burglaries lead the police to suspect that he is back to his old ways. To catch his imitator he tries to lay a trap, which is complicated by the daughter of one rich American tourist taking a fancy to him. Jeff Harding plays John Robie, Jennifer Lee Jellicorse plays Francie Stevens, Laura Brook is Mrs Stevens, Alun Raglan is Paul, Simon Armstrong is Bellini, Aurelie Amblard plays Danielle. Catch it on Saturday, January 8, at 2.30pm.
Meanwhile, to mark the 50th anniversary of Dashiel Hammett‘s death on January 10, BBC Radio 7 has a two-hour dramatisation of another tale that became one of the great crime films, The Maltese Falcon. This goes out of Sunday 9 at 1pm and stars Tom Wilkinson.

• As if walking to work in London’s freak snow blizzards this winter is not bad enough, I stumbled into this 10ft monster this morning. What chillled my spine, apart from the sub-zero temperature, was that I am currently reading Jo Nesbo‘s The Snowman. For those who haven’t got round to this best-seller yet, it’s the story of detective Harry Hole tracking a sinister serial killer whose calling cards are disturbing snowmen. OK, this one’s got a friendly smile, but so did Norman Bates.

• Best seasonal wishes to everyone who has visited crimetimepreview. In its first four months the site’s had 15,000 hits, and there are some terrific new crime series lining up for 2011. They’ll all be covered, we’ll have interviews and a YouTube channel of promos and trailers, and much more. Happy viewing.


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