‘The Bridge’ – Series 4, Episode 6

This is a full review of The Bridge: Series 4, Episode 5. Catch up with all the reviews here. Don’t read on unless you’re completely up-to-date on the BBC2 schedule!

This week is Tommy’s story. The guy Henrik picked out of the files and put at the top of the investigation board gets a 18 minute long pre-credit explainer. I’m not usually a fan of this way of storytelling, but we are presented with a perfect concise package – a gift to the viewer that comes packed with answers we’ve been dying to find out for weeks.

Four Years Ago

Tommy Peterson worked for the dangerous mob boss William Ramberg, and was a police informant trying desperately to keep a violent gang war from happening. Henrik and Lillian promised to intervene before the shooting started, but couldn’t get sign-off from the prosecutor’s office. All this takes place on Tommy’s son’s birthday, and his son is revealed as wheelchair-user Kevin from Henrik’s NA group. Only four years ago he had the use of his legs and was called Brian.

Tommy is a patient of Niels the psychologist who can’t help him other than by prescribing drugs. And he goes to Richard Dahlqvist to do a tell-all for a newspaper – “Six Dead in Gang War. Police Informed, Did Nothing”. Unfortunately Richard’s eye for detail is Tommy’s ultimate undoing. The way he smokes a cigarette is distinctive and described in the article. In a terrifying meeting with William it’s clear the gangsters know he’s the snitch and they’re preparing to kill him. Turns out Danish cigarettes can kill you in two very different and equally nasty ways. Tommy is clever though, and has set up an escape route but is let down by his friend Moyo. In a classic gangster movie scene it’s William in the car who comes by to sweep up poor Tommy. There’s nowhere left to run.

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‘Witnesses’ – Series 2

As you may have noticed I’m still waiting on the next big Euro drama to cross my path. All the Scandi stuff recently has me feeling a bit flat, with fairly promising starts leading to confused middles and ‘meh’ endings. It’s fine to have a beautiful backdrop of lakes and mountains, but you need to populate it with original characters leading interesting lives. The story needs to be multi-layered, but not too complicated; zoning out and playing with your phone is the absolute death knell for a subtitled drama. Both the good guys and the bad guys need to have clear motivations that we can relate to.

So with a Gallic shrug it might well be time to bid au revoir to the northernmost corners of Europe and see what France might have to offer; after all, the daddy of the noir resurgence in the past decade has been the Emmy award-winning and much loved Spiral. The most memorable dramas I’ve watched recently have been French, or part French; the balls-out action heros in Braquo, stylish super spies in The Bureau and the best character in Midnight Sun was the deeply troubled French detective.

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

If you’ve not yet heard anything about the The Handmaid’s Tale, let me give you a hand getting out from under that rock where you’ve been hiding. This is an MGM production being show on Hulu in America. They seem to be a good 7 episodes ahead of us. Sadly, even in 2017, sometimes America is ahead of us in tv land. It’s great to have synchronised start dates, but it’s still not the norm. Avoiding spoilers for this much talked-about show is going to be a killer.

A few weeks after starting in the USA this 10 part drama series has been picked up by Channel 4 in the UK, which, as the young, intelligent, and left-leaning political channel is a really good fit for their brand and a bit of a coup. The series is based on a novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and despite its startlingly relevant content was actually written in 1985. So this dystopian future Atwood envisaged is 30 years closer than we’d have hoped for, and none of her themes are any less relevant or possibilities presented any less realistic. In interviews Atwood says that none of these war crimes in the fictional Republic of Gilead are entirely made up – all have happened somewhere on the globe. This really is extremely dark stuff. Do we as the audience have the stamina to get through it?

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The handmaids distinctive uniforms at a ceremony

 

The series opening is distressing, as our heroine Offred is violently parted from her husband and daughter, but it’s not a tense escape. We know she’ll get caught. The rippling tension comes from her social position at her new posting with the Commander (Joseph Feinnes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).

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‘Ronja the Robber’s Daughter’

A Studio Ghibli tv series on Amazon?! Yes please, says I! Most people who love the silver screen are familiar with the masterful Japanese animation house, behind such beloved international classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. 

Film School Rejects say “The studio is respected the world over for its lush animation, attention to detail, and the way its movies can soak its audiences in a mood without any effort at all”. So it’s easy to see that expectations were set high for their first ever tv series, which debuted in Japan in 2014. I won’t drag out the suspense – Ronja the Robber’s Daughter is a huge disappointment.

Ronja is a cute little girl, born to a robber king and his wife. They lead a band of ne’er-do-wells who patrol the forest paths robbing from the rich who travel through in their horse-drawn carriages. The merry band live in a secluded castle surrounded by a forest full of enormous creepy birds with women’s faces.

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‘Versailles’ – On the Box

BBC 2’s newest lavish period drama is a British-Franco-Canadian collaboration about the building of the fabulous Palace of Versailles. A second season was already ordered ahead of the premiere. I guess that’s the thing with history – there’s a whole lot of story to tell.  It’s part produced by Canal+ but in English with no phony French accents, which is great. There’s nothing more jarring in a drama than hearing accented English that sounds like Vicki Michelle in Allo ‘Allo.

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