Sunday, 22 November 2015

TV27: Scandinavian Noir 4: The Bridge, Salamander, The Fall

Since I'm reviewing TV serials, it's time to catch up on some thrillers from the other side of the ocean. Only the first is from Scandinavia, but both of the others owe a lot (possibly their existence) to Scandinavian Noir and I consider them to be part of the same genre.

The Bridge

The title of this excellent, pure-Scandinavian-Noir police drama, created and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, refers to the Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden. When a body is found on the middle of the bridge, local police from both countries are called in and Danish inspector Martin Rohde must work together with his Swedish counterpart, Saga Noren, to find the killer.

Rohde and Noren are unique, flawed and fascinating characters, making for an interesting working relationship. The well-developed characters are played to perfection by Kim Bodnia and Sofia Helin. Helin’s role is particularly challenging as Noren suffers from some form of autistic spectrum disorder, with poor social skills and a lack of empathy, though she is trying to learn. Rhode, meanwhile, has his own challenges, focusing on his family relationships.

There’s lots of drama in The Bridge, but also lots of suspense. The writing is intelligent and the cinematography is excellent. I didn’t enjoy The Bridge as much as The Killing, finding it especially difficult to relate to and appreciate Noren, though I do find her fascinating. I also didn’t enjoy the second season (2013) as much as the first (2011). But in the end, I am still inclined to award The Bridge ****, though just barely. My mug is up.

Salamander (2012)

Moving south to Brussels, we have yet another fascinating police inspector, Paul Gerardi, who cannot be bribed as he investigates an odd bank robbery leading him to a secret organization known as Salamander, which includes some of the country’s highest-ranking political and business leaders. With both the criminals and the authorities after him, Gerardi has an almost impossible task ahead just to stay alive.

Salamander, created and written by Ward Hulselmans, has an intriguing premise that is particularly appealing to me, and I really enjoyed Filip Peeters in the lead role. But I did not appreciate the graphic violence and found many of the plot twists too predictable. So Salamander only gets ***+. My mug is up.

The Fall

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m generally not a fan of films or TV shows about serial killers (though Scandinavian Noir is an exception). But Katrina alerted me to this British TV show starring Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson, a brilliant English police detective who is sent to Belfast to hunt for a serial killer. This is no ordinary police or serial killer TV show (my review is of the first two season from 2013-14).

For one thing, this is not a typical whodunit. We are introduced to the killer early on and spend a lot of time with him. He’s a bereavement counsellor named Paul Spector. We see Spector’s home life (yes, he actually has a family), his work life, his motivations and his crimes. It’s very rare to be given such a thorough look at a serial killer (not counting Dexter, of course).

Secondly, despite the suspense, The Fall (created by Alan Cubitt) is more about thoughtful drama than action. 

Jamie Dornan plays Spector and he’s terrific, as is Anderson, whose character has no shortage of flaws of her own. One of The Fall’s unique dynamics is the way the two lead characters share personality traits, specifically the ability to live two separate lives.

This is television at its darkest, but The Fall is intense, intelligent, suspenseful and very compelling viewing. A surprising **** for this British psychological thriller that owes a lot to Scandinavian Noir, of which I am a big fan. My mug is up.

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