The TV Room: Welcome to Sweden Season 2, by David Bax
On the one hand, it’s not hard to understand why NBC pulled the plug on Welcome to Sweden just four episodes into its second season. The show never, at least in the episodes we saw, found its voice. It went back and forth between broad, slapstick humor and low-key absurdism. And, as an international coproduction, it tried to pander to both its Swedish and its U.S. audiences. On the other hand, however, it’s a bummer to see the series cut down just as it was starting to address these issues and become a better show.
Season one was mostly about Bruce (Greg Poehler) adjusting to his newfound life in Stockholm and struggling with whether he’d made the right choice in moving there. The little we saw of season two was focused on Bruce and Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) together, a couple who were committed to where they wanted live and now need to figure out how to define themselves as a unit.
Upping Emma’s status also led to filling in more colors to her life beyond her relationship with Bruce. Some of the best scenes of the season are those set in Emma’s workplace in the administrative offices of a bank. The clash between the reserved Scandinavians and the new, American head of public relations, played by Neve Campbell, bore more laughs than most scenes between Emma and Bruce ever did. One of the biggest disappointments in the series being canceled is that we won’t get to see more of Campbell and her character’s tendency to use the name Sven as a hypothetical placeholder for any possible example of Swedish dullness despite the presence of an actual colleague named Sven in every meeting.
Poehler’s Bruce, conversely, was woven more into the fabric of the show. It would be wrong to say he grew much as a character between the two seasons but the decision to focus less on him directly allowed for the much welcome scaling back of tired, fish out of water premises. In return, we got an (also much welcome) increase of scenes featuring Emma’s brother, Gustaf (Christopher Wagelin), the only character who’s more of a doofus than Bruce.
Emma’s parents, meanwhile, played by Lena Olin and Claes Månsson, continued to be the show’s secret weapon. The competence and chemistry of these two veterans would be enough to sustain a show of their own. And their dexterity both with jokes and with the heavy mix and resentment and affection that defines a long term relationship often made their scenes more compelling than those between the show’s central couple.
NBC has happily made the remaining six episodes of Welcome to Sweden available to stream on Hulu. I will be sure to watch them but it’s (no pun intended) cold comfort that those will be the last we get from a show that was rapidly improving.