In these early episodes, Welcome To Sweden feels a little too tied up in plot. It’s refreshing to see Emma in her work life and helps develop Emma outside of her relationship with Bruce—something that was missing from the first season. But these first two episodes have really focused on establishing what Emma and Bruce are up to in their professional lives and not really why. “Searching For Bergman”/“Ljuden” has plenty of plot but few emotional throughlines to make us care about what’s happening.
Emma flails around in a plot about trying to impress her CEO that never really finds its footing, as Bruce runs into a few professional obstacles of his own in trying to become “the guy” of Sweden, which basically entails wining and dining American celebrities when they visit. As a plot choice, this opens up plenty of opportunities for the show to bring in guest actors, which could lead to some really strong comedic moments, like Will Ferrell and Malin Akerman’s appearances last season.
But whereas last season explored some of Bruce’s anxieties when it comes to his job—or lack thereof—in “Searching For Bergman”/“Ljuden,” the whole “the guy” story is mostly filler, setting up what will presumably keep Bruce occupied during the day as we move forward but not really providing anything by way of real character development or motivation. Hey, most sitcoms are very fuzzy when it comes to their characters’ work lives, unless their work factors into the premise in some way. So the fact that Welcome To Sweden spends time on Bruce and Emma’s work lives in addition to their relationship gives the show a sense of realism.
There’s definitely some cogent symmetry between Bruce and Emma’s storylines here, but it’s all just missing an emotional thread to tie it all together. Welcome To Sweden’s greatest strength has been its believable relationship dynamics and emotionally complex characters, but that doesn’t always come through in the beginning parts of this second season. That would perhaps be forgivable if the episode were hilarious, but while it has its moments, it’s not a laugh-out-loud episode overall.
The funniest—and most Swedish—recurring gag throughout “Searching For Bergman”/“Ljuden” involves Bruce learning the different “sounds” of Swedish. In particular, Bengt’s explanation of the sound for “yes” in Northern Sweden—slightly different than the sound for “yes” that Emma uses—is a perfect example of how confusing the different Swedish dialects can be. Even as Bruce’s Swedish improves, he still has a lot to learn. It’s also just great to see Bengt again, as Per Svensson is one of the most consistently funny actors—up there with Lena Olin—on the show.
- Gustav: “I’ve been to Norway once. There were a lot of Norwegians there.” It’s not really the sort of Norwegian joke I’ve been waiting for from this show, but I still laughed pretty hard at this.
- Gustav is out of his parents house and crashing with Bruce and Emma, making him sort of like a Swedish Matt Bevers, only a little more likable and a little less disgusting.
- I do love that this episode continues the disconnect between Bruce and Emma about marriage. When Bruce says they should call his parents to tell them the big news, she assumes he’s talking about her work accomplishments when he’s really talking about the wedding.
- Bruce slices up bread in the morning while talking to Gustav, so it looks like he has taken to breakfast like a true Swede.