Mini-review: Sebastian Bergman (BBC4) 1×1

Not The Bridge or Wallander, but still pretty good Nordic noire

In the UK: Saturdays, 9pm, BBC4

Well, The Bridge has come and gone, so BBC4 has had to try to fill the hole in its schedule and our lives with a new Nordic crime drama. Since the whole craze in the UK started with Wallander – albeit the Kenneth Branagh and Krister Henriksson versions – it only seems appropriate to turn to another Wallander: Rolf Lassgård. Lassgård was the original Kurt Wallander in the Swedish series movie based on the Henning Mankell novels, and it’s the creators of those movies who have clubbed together to give him a new role: the eponymous Sebastian Bergman, a bitter, misogynistic, misanthropic psychological profiler who lost his family in the 2004 tsunami, something from which he hasn’t recovered.

Anyway, this two-part trial run for the character sees him returning to work after a long absence. To avoid spoilers, let’s talk after the jump. The best embedded video I can give you is this and it’s in Swedish (sorry) and is the authors discussing the book the series is based on, not the actual TV series. But there’s a much better English language trailer over here that actually features Rolf Lassgård.

So, on the whole, this was a far more subdued, far more naturalistic affair than The Bridge. With hand-held camerawork and none of the more preposterous elements of The Bridge, it was resultingly blander.

The whole show is based around Bergman, who, it has to be said, is a dick who gets perilously close to raping someone at one point. Few of the supporting characters get much to do beyond spiral around Bergman and his antics, although no one is an idiot and everyone gets to contribute something. Unlike Wallander, there’s also extensive emphasis on proper police procedures, and as always, it’s interesting to note the differences between the UK and Swedish laws.

Thankfully, there was an actual mystery to solve here, with clues to be picked up on, and no master criminal behind it all, simply people with normal motivations. But it’s not a great mystery: virtually all of it was signposted and obvious, beyond the killer’s final identity, which was only hard to guess because he’d not been in it much at all (did I blink and miss him? I know he’s mentioned a couple of times, but I don’t remember seeing him). If you’re a big fan of crime dramas, particularly ones with psychological profilers, you wouldn’t have learnt much here, but at least, as the story went on, they went below the obvious surface stuff to look at deeper issues.

There was the twist at the end (spoiler: the female detective who hates him is a long-lost daughter he never knew about) that makes the whole thing a lot more Wallander-esque. What they’ll do with that next week remains to be seen, but after a reassuringly uncontrived mystery story, it was a shame to see the episode devolve into a pretty improbable coincidence. A necessary coincidence for the sake of dramatic tension, but a contrived one nevertheless.

On the whole though, I enjoyed it and I’ll be tuning into BBC4 next Saturday to watch part two (why only two parts? I don’t know). It’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s still good.

PS I noticed yesterday that both the Krister Henriksson Wallander series are now available on Netflix, as is the Kenneth Branagh version. No sign of Borgen, The Bridge or The Killing yet, but that’s at least a promising sign that Netflix is going to be getting some decent content soon.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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