The Bridge: Season 3

[I found this saved in my draft items, it looks like I wrote it just after the series ended in December 2015, but forgot to post it!]

The BridgeThis series seems to continually surprise me, turning out to be about things that I wasn’t expecting. Back at the start of season 1 I expected it to be a cultural/political piece looking at the difference between Denmark and Sweden, neighbouring countries separated by a narrow stretch of water and joined by the titular bridge. In fact it turned out to be about a misfit police pairing investigating a serial murder. Well, no, I guess it turned out to be about a personal vendetta and I thought it would probably be the end of the series. Then season 2 turned up and somehow managed to coherently develop on that before seeming to close the door on a third season by getting rid of half of the lead pair. So I don’t know what’s more surprising, that it came back for a third season at all, or that it came back even better than it was before.

What is completely consistent is the addictiveness of the show. Once again I let a few episodes store up on the Sky box before my brother nagged me to watch them so that we could talk about them. As soon as I started watching, I couldn’t stop, powering through the backlog and then counting the hours until new episodes on Saturday evening. On one occasion I was actually compulsively refreshing iPlayer waiting for it to appear as soon as the live broadcast had finished. There is of course an element of manipulation with the use of cliff-hangers, but the writers also do an excellent job with the overall pacing of the series, keeping the crimes, investigation and personal storylines moving along, constantly taking small steps forward. Even the red herrings and miss-directs manage to not feel too frustrating, none of them felt like dead ends just there to increase the episode count.

Danish-Henrik makes an interesting alternative to Danish-Martin, and also a fascinating partner and counter-point to Saga. The two of them have a mountain of baggage between them, but somehow they work together. Sofia Helin as Saga excels this season, the character’s behaviours and responses all seem to finally hang together. She’s consistent in her strengths and her weaknesses and being pushed outside of her comfort zone really clarifies things for her, the characters around her and the audience. Henrik’s own personality and coping mechanisms also make sense as his own background is revealed and the development of their relationship is fascinating and rewarding to watch.

While I still think there is a missed opportunity to look more closely at the similarities and differences between Denmark and Sweden, I didn’t find that so frustrating when watching. I never really knew what country they were in or what language they were speaking, but it really didn’t matter and of course that wouldn’t bother the Swedes and Danes at all, who of course are the primary audience, not the internationals. I’m also not 100% certain that I fully followed all the twists and turns of the plot or the overall conclusion. But it just didn’t matter. It was a completely compelling from start to finish and my only regret is that it’s now gone. I have no idea what direction the story would have to swerve to next, but please, please, please let there be a season 4!

[The Bridge commissioned for a fourth and final season]

New and Returning Shows – FX, TNT, Syfy and USA

Yesterday I looked at what three of the big cable channels are bringing to us in the next year – HBO, Showtime and AMC. Today I look at a few of the other channels.

fxLooking at their current and past line-up, this channel more than most feels very American and fairly male oriented with surely their most well known show being The Shield. The longest running show on FX is Sons of Anarchy with season six is likely to air at the end of the year and an expectation of a pickup for a seventh and final season.

American Horror StoryJustified will return next year for a fifth season and American Horror Story’s third season Coven will air later this year, continuing the to change setting and characters each season (although with some overlapping cast), which means that although I liked season 1, I hated season 2 but will still give 3 a chance. New show The Americans has just concluded a strong first season and a second will broadcast next year. FX has a fair number of comedies too, Archer (S5), Louie (S4) and Wilfred (S3) have been renewed while Anger Management has some weird deal that seems to mean there will be 90 episodes of the Charlie Sheen vehicle broadcast over two years. I don’t understand and I don’t want to know. FX is launching a spin-off channel, FXX and is moving long running It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (S8), middling The League (S5 and 6) and relatively new Legit (S2) over there.

NEW – The Bridge – to accompany the remake of the Danish Killing, FX has developed an adaptation of The Bridge, this time set on the border between the US and Mexico. I was engrossed by the Danish series but deeply frustrated by the resolution so I’m not sure whether I’m hoping for an accurate recreation or one that fixes the problems.

Links: FX official site, Wikipedia and Program list

tntWay back in the day TNT has was the channel that gave Babylon 5 a fifth season, which gets them a lot of good will in my book. These days they seem to be largely procedural based, but have seen three of their biggest shows finish up this year – Leverage, The Closer and Southland. They also cancelled the new medical series Monday Mornings, which I hadn’t seen but I thought had some potential.

Falling SkiesJune is a busy month on the channel with loads of returning series – Rizzoli and Isles (S4), Perception (S2), Major Crimes (S2, spin off to The Closer) and Franklin and Bash (S3). Slightly out of step with the rest of the programming, but getting a pick up anyway are sci-fi series Falling Skies (S2) and soap opera reboot Dallas (S3, early 2014).

NEW – Legends – Martin Odum (Sean Bean, Lord of the Rings) is a CIA agent who can completely transform himself for each undercover assignment, but starts to lose sight of who he really is. Based on the novel by Robert Littell. It all looks a bit Budget Bourne, but Sean Bean is a big draw and the rest of the cast is solid (including Tina Majorino, Grey’s Anatomy and Ali Larter, Heroes) so it’ll be interesting to see where it goes, but you’ll have to wait awhile as it’s not scheduled until summer 2014 for some reason.

NEW – The Last Ship – a pandemic wipes out 80% of the world’s population, the crew of a US naval destroyer are left to find a cure and put things back together. Another interesting idea (based on a book of the same name), but it felt a bit Syfy Movie of the Week, not helped by some stunningly wooden performances in the trailer from Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy), Rhona Mitra (Strike Back) and Adam Baldwin (Firefly). Also summer 2014.

Links: TNT official site, Wikipedia and Program list

USA Network
usa networkNone of the shows on USA ever really blow you away, but they are reliably entertaining. Their tagline is “characters welcome” which is kind of encouraging, but also kind of non-committal – “well, if a character happens to wander by, we wouldn’t throw them out”. The channels longest running series, Psych seems to still be going strong with an eighth season starting probably early next year.

BurnNoticeLong running banter filled spy drama Burn Notice has been given final notice, and the seventh season starting next month will be the series’ last. Suits and Necessary Roughness have both been renewed for third seasons, White Collar for a fifth season, Covert Affairs for a fourth and Royal Pains for a fifth AND sixth season.

NEW – Graceland – a group of US law enforcement officers from different agencies are forced to share a California Beach house as part of an undercover operation. Sounds like an utterly ridiculous concept, but I guess there might be some fun to be had watching them alternate between shooting people and arguing over chores.

Links: USA Network official site, Wikipedia and Program list

syfySyfy has disappointed a lot of people in the last few years, firstly with its daft name and secondly with its perceived move away from actual science fiction towards reality programming and even wrestling programmes! Our last best hope for a spaceship is still letting us down a bit, but at least there are some aliens with new series Defiance being picked up for a second season before the first one had even finished.

Warehouse 13It was announced this week that Warehouse 13 would be returning for a shortened fifth season to round off its storylines. Haven, Lost Girl and Being Human (an adaptation of the UK series) have all been renewed for fourth seasons, likely to air late 2013 or early 2014 and Continuum has just started its second season

NEW – Sinbad – Sinbad (Elliot Knight, straight out of drama school) cannot stay on land more than a day after his grandmother cursed him, blaming him for the death of his brother. It looks a bit Merlin at sea, but given that it was cancelled before the first season even aired, I’m guessing it’s not great.

NEW – Helix – As the teaser says – “A team of scientists, working in secret, are about to change the world. Or end it”. It’s from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), so it might be incredible, or it might be Caprica. There’s no air date yet.

Links: Syfy official site, Wikipedia and Program list