Best TV crime dramas of 2014

THIS ROUND-UP of the year’s best TV crime dramas has for the past four years comfortably listed 10 outstanding series.2014, on the other hand, is a tougher proposition. There were so many terrific stories and performances that I found it impossible to restrict it to 10. So, to celebrate the New Year, here is my top 14 for 2014…

True Detective, Sky Atlantic

A simply indelible series that was unlike anything else out there in 2014. Haunting, a little mad and with a dream-like – or perhaps that should be nightmarish – atmosphere. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson put in a shift, too. Our review

Happy Valley, BBC1

Sally Wainwright’s gritty drama was engrossing and powerful, and also had one of the performances of the year from Sarah Lancashire. The second series will have a tough act to follow. Our review

Peaky Blinders, BBC2

Really hit its stride in this second series. Great to see a revival of the British gangster drama that dared to be brash and different. Our review

Sherlock 3, BBC1

Some people did not like this flamboyant third series, but we did and so did most reviewers. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were really on their game, producing a drama that fizzed with jaw-dropping surprises and delights. Our review

The Bridge 2, BBC4

Superb follow-up to the first series, which pushed our heroes Saga and Martin into new intrigue and emotional turmoil. Kim Bodnia won’t return to series 3 because his character, of course, ended up in jail, but Sofia Helin will (see Digital Spy’s interview with them)
Our review

Line of Duty 2, BBC2

Another feather in BBC2’s cap this year, this drama about police corruption was superb and completely outshone the first series. Keeley Hawes dominated proceedings with a compelling performance as the inspector under suspicion. Our review

The Widower, ITV

Once again ITV came up with a fascinating exploration of a real crime. Reece Shearsmith as the slippery killer Malcolm Webster was haunting, in a drama that was way better than his other series this year, the unconvincing Chasing ShadowsOur review

Fargo, C4

It never came close to catching the bleak logic and black humour of the Coen brothers’ cult film, but this series starring Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton was quirky enough to keep everyone frozen to the screen. Our review

The Missing, BBC1

Sober, intelligent and always engrossing eight-part tragedy. The disappearance of a five-year-old British boy on holiday in France was a difficult subject, but this was a truthful and heartfelt series that was totally involving. Our review

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

Powerful Italian series, based on Roberto Saviano’s frightening book about the Neapolitan Camorra, which revealed how insidious and slightly unhinged Southern Italian crime organisations are. Our review

The Honourable Woman, BBC2

Twisting, full of intrigue and beautifully made and acted, this follow-up to The Shadow Line from writer/producer/director Hugo Blick was one of the most captivating dramas of 2014. Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped out of her Hollywood comfort zone and gave a blockbuster performance. Our review

Scott & Bailey, ITV

Once again this ITV staple with Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones got all the basics of good drama right, while coming up with some really intriguing crime stories. Our review

Boardwalk Empire, Sky Atlantic

A series that has never really grabbed audiences in the UK, but as it approached its finale it was always beautifully written, acted and produced. Our review

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

ITV specialises in dramas inspired by real events and again came up with a sober, fascinating series about the wrongful arrest of the eccentric ex-school teacher. Jason Watkins was terrific in the lead. Our review

Honourable mentions to… 
The Fall 2 – even if the finale made a hash of Stella’s character and was ultimately disappointing (see our mini-poll, above right), this had some great moments along the way; Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Suspects; Endeavour 2; Mammon; 24: Live Another Day; Amber; Utopia; Crimes of Passion; The Driver; Legends; Glue; Grantchester; and Common.
Fond farewells…
to Ronnie Brooks (and Law & Order: UK as well?), and Southland.
Disappointments…
Hostages; Salamander; the pilot for Bosch; Babylon did not quite cut it; Turks & Caicos – all prestige production and cast that failed to grip; Prey; Hinterland; Chasing Shadows; and Stalker, which was pretty dire.

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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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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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