Tag Archives: TV

Tuesdays are the new Sundays

The Bridge, Episodes 3 and 4

***May contain spoilers***

Well, for this week anyway. My apologies for the lateness of this post; the internet has not been co-operating and as a TV-less intellectual, I am reliant on the wonderful i-player for my scandi-crime fix. My subtitles were a bit glitchy and out of synch, making the whole experience a bit more dadesque than I believe was intended.

Nevertheless, this week’s double bill was worth waiting for I’m glad, actually, that BBC4 is showing this programme in two-episode chunks like this, not least because I found episode three a little slow going, in contrast to the pace and drama of the opening two. I think this was down to a couple of things. For one, it is clear now that this show is pretty complex, with a huge number of characters and plot strands. As with many of the Scandinavian crime shows we’re seen across here, this not just a linear whodunnit but something a fair bit more interesting and rich. It takes some getting used to and I don’t know if the writers can successfully bring it all together in the end, but for now I’m happy to watch the tapestry unwrap. Episode three was putting in place the groundwork for future storylines, bringing in Anja, the troubled teen with dreadful parents, and introducing the theme of police corruption (ruptured eyes – yuck!). This meant we didn’t get to spend much time with Martin and Saga which was a little disappointing but made up for, in part, by a few flashes of Saga-tastic dialogue.

The Anja storyline engrossed me from the start but I was a little indifferent to Bjorn. That all seemed a little too familiar. The Morse Code was a genius touch, though, reinvigorating the victim-slowly-dying-as-we-watch-online trope. Learning Morse Code for when I’m kidnapped is now firmly on my to-do list. It wasn’t clear at all how Anja was going to fit in,though, and tension was definitely ratcheted up as we watched her go into a strange man(in all senses)’s apartment and be locked in. As seems to be typical for this show, our expectations keep being confounded. Although, Anja’s new friend is definitely not the full shilling, as we’d say in Scotland, she seems better off with him than with her terrifying mum.

As episode 4 progressed, we got to see a bit more of Martin and Saga. One of the things I like about European crime drama is how unchoreographed and inexpert-looking the action sequences are. The confrontation with the balaclavaed baddy in Episode 4 was typically bumbly and shambling, with both our protagonists taking a beating. Martin definitely took the brunt of it, though, with that kick (ruptured testicles – yuck!). Saga’s confusion about the guilt she felt over Martin’s injury was oddly touching.

Increasingly, it seems to me that Stefan is being set up as a red herring, with all the links between him and the case. He always seems to be around, his sister was one of the poisoning victims and he works at the shelter where Bjorn met his abductor. Surely all this is too obvious, though? I’m going to be really annoyed if he turns out to be the killer. Plus, does anyone else think he’s kind of attractive? It must be that moustache.

The biggest revelation of this episode was the presence of No One and his relationship with Anja’s deranged flatmate. Is this the Truth Terrorist? How many disciples does he have? I’m not so keen on serial killers who network so this was a bit disappointing if I’m honest. It smacks of producer-logic to me: if one serial killer is scary, then a whole heap of them must be terrifying. Plus, it seems so unlikely. How would a serial killer even go about getting disciples, advertise on Craig’s List? Our disciple’s plans for the morrow don’t bode well, especially if he keeps swishing that sword around. On a serious note, I hope the BBC4 programmers are treading carefully with what’s ahead as a maniac on a violent killing spree is not an appropriate thing to show in the midst of the Breivik trial.

Forecasts then, at this midpoint? I think Saga will continue to develop her nascent human qualities under Martin’s tutelage. I also think that Martin will find he has some connection to the killer as why else wouldn’t he shoot him? Thinking about the set-up of the police corruption idea, this may well be the killer’s next target, the next ‘problem’ he wants to expose. I have no idea who the killer is at all, which is either a really good or a really bad thing. What do you think is going to happen in the next instalment?

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Interesting Times Lie Ahead

The Bridge, Episodes 1 and 2

***Warning: may contain spoilers***

The Bridge, BBC 4’s latest Scandinavian crime offering, doesn’t hang about.  Seconds in and the plug has been pulled on the Oresund Bridge, plunging it into darkness. When the lights come back on, there is a woman’s body slap bang in the middle of the Swedish – Danish border.  As both countries’ police forces arrive, the expected jurisdictional conflict begins with some bickering over an ambulance.

This incident smoothly introduces our protagonists: Saga Noren and Martin Rohde.  Martin is affable, laid back, more immediately likable. Saga is, well, as someone from her own squad described her, a bit ‘odd.’ She makes Sarah Lund seem like a person with a sensible work-life balance. Abrasive, offensive, insensitive, it’s hard to imagine her working well with anyone, let alone the chilled-out Rohde.  And work together they must. As the body is removed from the scene, it is gorily revealed to be parts of two different women:  a Swedish politician and a Danish prostitute.

There are definitely more questions than answer in the mid-section, with snippets of other storylines being explored. There’s Veronika and her magnificently moustachioed, mysterious benefactor. She is given the chance to escape from her violent, ne’er-do-well husband but only if she moves into a house in the middle of nowhere and gives up all contact with her previous life. We also follow the woman from the ambulance as she attempts to bargain, bully and beg a new heart for her perilously-ill husband. What is their significance in the overall story?

The steady pacing and the gradual build of tension means the climax is proper edge of seat stuff, with a thoroughly unlikable reporter getting trapped in his car with a ticking bomb. Sounds familiar enough, you might think. But there enough twists here to keep things fresh, from the bomb squad walking away when things get too risky to Saga’s emotionless conversation with the victim, trying to find out what he knows before he dies.

In the final seconds, we hear the distorted voice of the killer himself on a CD found in the booby-trapped car. He promises that the corpses are just the start of his mission to point out the ills of society.

The second instalment develops this theme of social inequality, something that is never far away from the surface of this genre. The killer broadens his campaign, contacting the media and providing the unblown-up journalist from episode one with reams of statistics on crime.

Our investigators follow separate lines of enquiry in their own counties with Saga focusing on the forensics and Martin finding out more about the background of Monique, the Danish victim. The snippets of their domestic lives nicely subvert gender expectations, with Martin distraught over Monique’s journal whilst Saga takes the covers from her one night stand.

The sub-plots, too, continue to thicken with Ambulance Man demonstrating that his new heart is pretty hard before it conks out. Mr Moustache also features, searching for his poor, feral sister whose scarred wrists correspond with his own.  Just as he finds her, she collapses, seemingly drunk.

As the other half of one of the bridge bodies turns up, we discover the next part of the killer’s plan. Homeless people are arriving at the hospitals, poisoned. The victims are already starting to pile up and the murderer’s message plants the blame solely on us and our indifference.

It’s beautifully shot and hugely entertaining, with an engaging cast and plot.  It’s funnier than previous Scandinavian crime offerings but no less dark. I can’t wait for the next instalment.


Introducing … The Bridge on Sundays

The Bridge, starts Saturday 21st April on BBC4

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I’m starting to get excited about the upcoming BBC 4 series The Bridge. The initial premise looks pretty intriguing: a woman’s body is found on Oresund Bridge, on the border of Denmark and Sweden. What seems at first to be a single, albeit gruesome, murder turns out to be more complex as the corpse is revealed to be the remains of two women, a Swedish politician and a Danish prostitute.  

The location of the murder means that the Danish and Swedish police are obliged to share jurisdiction. Undoubtedly, much conflict and friction will ensue as the international investigators are forced to work together to solve the case. I look forward particularly to getting a glimpse of how these two very different nations view one another. My outsider’s perspective is that the Danish view the Swedes as staid, conservative, and even dull whereas the Swedes perceive the Danes as being too easily influenced by the countries around it, for good or ill.

 Unless the initial episode turns out to be a disappointment, my plan is to blog along with the series, posting reviews of each double episode usually on the Sunday after they are first shown.  Feel free to pull up a chair, have a glass of wine and join me. Don’t forget your knitting – but make it something simple so you can keep up with the subtitles. 

 


Les Yeux Carrés

Spending the last few weeks battling with an exciting respiratory tract infection has given me an unusual amount of time to become closely acquainted with both my sofa and various television offerings. You will be no doubt startled to hear that my preference is for crime drama programming and luckily for me, now is a wonderful time to be a TV crime fan.

It’s all thanks to BBC4 and their shock success with the Danish series The Killing. I’m not going to say too much about that as, really, you’d have to have lived in a box not to have come across it. Even the Duchess of Cornwell is a fan and for good reason. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s beautifully written and acted and has excellent knitwear.

My crime TV of choice used to be UK and US based. I grew up with Suchet’s Poirot and Hickson’s Marple, and it’s to Miss Marple I return if ever I’m feeling defeated by the world. Again, it has the bonus of good knitwear. CSI was a favourite for a while but accidentally watching a ton of CSI Miami cured me of that.  Bones was good until it jumped the shark and I still have a soft spot for NCIS and The Mentalist. But after a while all these shows felt tired, the same tropes being recycled between them over and over again. If there’s a guest star of moderate fame, he’s going to be the killer. So I stopped watching. For a while, I thought I could get into sci-fi because I liked Battlestar and Firefly but then I gave my husband the Farscape boxset for Christmas. Cripes.

My salvation was discovering that transcribing even the most overused idea into a foreign setting and language makes it feel fresh and new again. Take, for example, Ne le dit á personne, the film version of Harlan Coben’s Tell No One.  The perfectly serviceable source material is transformed into something altogether edgier and interesting by its Gallic makeover.

Perhaps it’s a kind of shift that enacts this change, from one cultural and aesthetic context to another. Perhaps, too, it’s the distance created by the form of transmission; in the majority of these programmes you have to follow the subtitles – does this create a greater engagement, a more active participation in the viewing process?

Regardless, this sudden increase of interest has resulted in a raft of programmes becoming available. So, Killing aside, which ones have I found most worth watching?

Before The Killing came Spiral, a fast paced and gritty French drama following the investigations of Laure Berthaud and her squad. Little seems to separate the flics and the delinquents here; violence and corruption are everywhere and everyone is tainted. Berthaud’s drive to root out evil doers seems driven by obsession rather than morality, and she seems destined to destroy both herself and those around her in the process.  Of the three series available, the first  and third are most worthwhile but it’s all compelling viewing. I just couldn’t get over Laure’s hair in series two.

The Swedish version of Wallander is excellent if unsurprisingly bleak. The levels of violence, both physical and psychic, make it difficult viewing anyway, even if one can get the tragedy of Johanna Sällström out of one’s mind.  The acting and writing are perfectly in harmony with the source novels, as it the flat, monochromatic style of shooting. There are great pleasures to be had here but they are bitter ones.

Those Who Kill, another Danish offering and Inspector Montalbano, from Italy, while entertaining enough are not quite up to this standard. Those Who Kill was a bit too ‘murder of the week’ to engage as well as it might and it felt oddly lacking in ideas for a first series. Having your protagonist kidnapped twice by serial killers makes her seem a bit crap at her job, frankly.  And whilst I loved the glorious locations and the energy of Monalbano, it just didn’t have the warmth and wit of Camilleri’s novels.

So it’s over to you. What series should I watch next? Are there any UK or US shows that might capture my interest? Please comment below.