The Killing returns tomorrow night for its final series on BBC4 and to celebrate the return of our favourite jumper wearing detective, we’ve had a look at the best Scandinavian dramas and why explain just why you should be watching them with just as much vigour as Homeland.
While it may have been The Killing that got all of the headlines and got everyone excited in the world of Scandinavian drama, it isn’t the only fantastically juicy thriller out there, with both Wallander before and The Bridge after proving that the very best murder mysteries really are being made in the icy North.
Wallander was the first, and is commonly (and correctly) held up as the starting point for Britain’s love of these darker dramas, featuring unusual detectives and no sign of a glamorous outfit or mysterious and magical gadgets and moments of inspiration.
Wallander was a rounded, flawed human being, and despite his heroics, never seemed anything other than highly committed and rather excellent at his job.
The BBC then decided to take the novels into their own hands and make English language re-interpretations of them, with the far more photogenic Kenneth Branagh in the lead role. Thankfully though, unlike the American remake of The Killing, the show didn’t completely disregard its Nordic roots, keeping the show based in Sweden.
The Bridge is the lasted import that BBC Four has brought to our attention, but is certainly the front-runner for this year’s Best International Series prize at the BAFTAs.
The Bridge sees the joining of Sweden and Denmark, as the two countries are forced to work together (in the shapes of detectives Saga and Martin) for solve a mystery of a dead body placed on the border of the two nations.
Saga is another fantastically off-kilter heroine and a character with flaws so big you could drive a bus through them. Single minded to a fault (to the level where it’s clear she’s more than just focussed), Saga isn’t the usual sassy crime stopper, but a painfully blunt detective with the social skills of the thrown brick.
Saga is incredibly charming and likeable in her lack of moral boundaries and unintentional gallows humour fitting right in with the dark storyline. Don’t be put off though, as The Bridge isn’t so dark as to be off-putting, just enough to make it truly enveloping.
Leaving the world of homicide detectives alone for a moment, Borgen confirmed that Nordic Noir was a thing to stay by yet again whipping up those with a taste of the TV life into a frenzy of excitement.
The show follows Birgitte Nyborg, a surprise winner of the Danish election and her travails of trying to organise and run a government whilst still holding together her family life.
With a brilliant performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen at its core and a script with fantastic levels of dry wit, Borgen is wonderfully accessible for those yet to sample the delights of Nordic noir.
Now in its third series in Denmark (which are set to be brought over to the UK), Borgen is filled with political intrigue, fantastic characters and a story with more layers than a wedding cake and a must for anyone with a passing fancy for dramas like The West Wing.
Beating out the second series of The Killing to win the Best International TV prize at the last TV BAFTAs should be a clear enough signal that Borgen should become right at the top of your TV watch list.
One thing links The Bridge, Borgen and The Killing though; it’s that all three shows have strong, unusual and brilliant female leads. While many American and British police dramas centre on conflicted guys with fashionable stubble and an axe to grind, these Scandinavian dramas feature far more grounded, flawed and above all exceptionally capable women at their heads.
They also share a much gentler pace. Not concerned with wrapping everything up in a neat bow in an hour or two, all of Scandinavia’s finest have a far more novel-like pace, with shows far more concerned with character development than charging through a mystery at double quick speed concerned that audiences won’t stick around.
Now back comes Sarah Lund and her jumpers, back for one last hurrah before she’s retired from TV for good. With the nights closing in, it’s time to embrace the winter darkness and join Sarah Lund on her final journey. We’ll see you at the border crossing.
The Killing series 3 starts tomorrow at 9pm on BBC Four
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith