Oh, The Bridge! You’re back! Come here, let me stroke you a little bit as I say, “Hello, old friend, I’ve missed you.”
There have been British would-be imitations of the Swedish/Danish crime drama’s deliberation and oily bleakness, most recently the dreadful River and From Darkness, with lots of close-up crying and plots that unfolded with the speed and sureness of a worm opening a damp envelope.
There was the chilly, largely unsuccessful, overlong Fortitude before that on Sky Atlantic, and even dear Midsomer Murders put on a cardi, wrapped its legs in a crocheted blanket and did a “Nordic Noir” episode. Bless it. The current London Spy (which is excellent, by the way) surely, too, owes much of its jagged feel and careful pacing to the miserablist movement.
As does the Welsh drama Hinterland (below, a new series comes to BBC4 next year), which I loved. Suspicious death, isolation, a tormented cop with A Hidden Pain and awful weather. Perfect!
But really, all any of these did was make us hanker after the real thing, the greasy, grudging winter light of Copenhagen and Malmo, the chilly, lonely brutalism of the Oresund bridge of the title linking Sweden and Denmark.
And of course the off-kilter detective partnership of Saga Noren (Sofia Helin), a woman without a social filter and her partner, the man who made her a little bit warmer, Martin, the human pot- bellied stove. Sadly Martin has gone. Actor Kim Bodnia decided to leave the series, forcing the writing team into a handbrake turn as the first four scripts had already been written with him still in the show.
It has to be faced: The Bridge isn’t the same series without Martin. He gave Saga softness, and steered her, with his cheery common sense, through life’s emotional traffic cones. The fact that the third series is still able to captivate and thrill says much for the vision of the formidable team behind the cameras, who have decided to tell a much deeper story about Saga.
The look of The Bridge (and its cousin, The Killing) has always appealed to my northern soul and that metaphysical grey blanket is still there, thank goodness. Director Henrik Georgsson knows exactly what he wants: “Our ideal [time for filming] is November, when there are no leaves on the trees, we don’t like anything that’s cute or picturesque.”
Isn’t that marvellous? Even the architectural backdrops are carefully chosen: “There’s nothing from the early 20th century, it’s all from 1930 onwards, always glass, concrete and hard materials. We try to make a cold world around the actions of the characters.” I’m in heaven.
BBC4 has made itself the home of Scandi/Nordic noir and though The Bridge will take us only until Christmas with its Saturday double bills, there are other delights to look forward to in the new year and into spring. There’s Trapped, an Icelandic thriller about a Danish passenger ferry trapped in an Icelandic town’s small port by a snow- storm. Of course, there’s a murder. It could be a great, snowy, sweeping version of a classic locked-room mystery.
And though it isn’t a murder mystery as such, everyone who knows about such things is excited by Follow the Money, a Danish drama about economic crime in banks. It might sound as dry as a rye crispbread but I’m assured it’s fabulous.
As the nights draw in and the moon plays peek-a-boo with the clouds, there’s nothing better than wrapping yourself in chilly telly. So surrender yourself to this most immersive of pleasures. What could be better?
The Bridge begins on Saturday 21st November at 9pm on BBC4