The Bridge

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05/01/16

Since the success of The Killing, Scandi Noir has become something of a TV growth industry – it seems the viewing public can’t get enough of lurid crimes in snowy landscapes – and out of all the series that followed the adventures of Sarah Lund, perhaps The Bridge is the most assured. It incorporates fiendishly twisty (and it has to be said, highly unlikely) plots with a hist of fascinating characters. Most intriguing of all, of course, is Sofia Helin’s remarkable turn as police inspector Saga Noren. I could probably fill a book with praise for Helin’s creation. Saga is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, (it’s never really pinned down) which means that her responses to social situations can be somewhat inappropriate and often, wildly funny, a device that cleverly undercuts the series’ visceral story lines, which would otherwise make relentlessly grim viewing.

In Season One, the corpse of a woman is found lying on the Oresund Bridge – or rather, two corpses, since the top half belongs to one victim and the bottom half to another. (Yes, I know. It’s a trope of this series that no killing is ever straightforward). As the corpse has been deliberately placed at the halfway point between Denmark and Sweden, Saga is required to collaborate with Danish copper, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), an affable married man with serious commitment problems (when we first meet him, he’s just undergone a painful vasectomy). The pairing of the two characters is a masterstroke, creating some ‘odd couple’ interplay that powers the first ten episodes to a suspenseful and heart breaking conclusion. Unlike their American counterparts, the Scandis never shy away from tragedy and Martin in particular is put through the emotional wringer.

In Season Two, Saga and Martin are reunited when a tanker heading towards the Oresund Bridge is found to be without a crew, apart from five drugged youths, who have no idea how they came to be there. The story cleverly links back to Season One and we’re on for another ten episodes of fascinating crime drama, as Saga and Martin try to unravel the ensuing mystery. Martin is called upon to confront the criminal mastermind who tortured him in Season One, Saga tries to establish a stable relationship with spectacularly awkward results and just to up the stakes, there’s a potential outbreak of a killer plague virus…

Season Three presented its fans with a potential problem. After a disagreement with the show’s creators, Bodnia walked, leaving author Hans Rosenfeldt to do a frantic last-minute rewrite. It’s absolutely to his credit that he not only manages to pull it off, but that the introduction of Saga’s new, pill-popping male partner, Henrik (Thure Lindhardt), gives the series a whole new lease of life. It soon becomes clear that Henrik is not the kind of character we have initially assumed he is and in fact, has his own, complicated and tragic back story. (There’s a moment where the rug is pulled out from under us with an unexpected revelation, that is quite frankly, brilliant). Meanwhile, we learn a lot more about Saga’s troubled family background. This new case kicks off with the murder of the owner of Copenhagen’s first gender-neutral pre school and leads to another incredibly complicated series of murders, which involve the recreation of contemporary paintings, using corpses as the raw material. Once again, it’s all rather ridiculous and yet the brilliance of the characters makes you accept what’s happening, no matter how bizarre the events. Against all the odds, the Bridge delivers a third slice of compelling television.

Will there be a fourth season? I certainly hope so. The Bridge is engaging stuff and there’s no indication that Hans Rosenfeldt is running out of ideas. If anything, he’s upping his game… so my advice is to tune in to Netflix and gorge yourself on one of the best crime dramas of recent years.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

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