The Bridge - Best Nordic Crime TV Review
A crime between two cities
The (first) body is laid out at exactly the half-way mark on the bridge between Sweden and Denmark.The series opens with our two cops meeting on the imposing bridge over the dark waters. At first, the Swedish police claim jurisdiction, but then we find that the body is actually composed of two bodies sawn in half. We are confronted with two crimes, in two countries and two investigating police forces.
The show continues to surprise as the body count mounts and we have an elusive serial killer on our hands.
Saga Noren - Sofia Helin
Saga Noren - Sofia Helin
Why is The Bridge so good?
Copying is the greatest form of flattery - this series has been copied by the US and also by the British. However, as with many such copies, the original is the best.
Firstly, the characters are complex, unusual, deep and interesting. Our two leads are not your run of the mill crime cops. Swedish detective Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) suffers from autism spectrum disorder which makes her abrupt, rude and completely unempathetic to her colleagues and to victims of crime. An enigma, she is also an extremely rational, logical police officer with what could be an eidetic memory.
Danish Homicide Superintendent Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) is a total disaster in his personal life - a man who has affairs and cannot stay married to one woman. In fact, he has five children to three women and that's only at the start of the series. This aspect of his character leads to all sorts of horrific complications - complications that are cleverly interwoven into the plot. Despite his shortcomings, Martin is a very good man and it's easy to develop a great deal of sympathy for him early on. Saga's complications also appear in the plot in creative ways when least expected. Her unpacking is one of the central themes of each series with the final series containing the big reveal - no spoilers here.
Next, the scene makes for attractive and interesting TV. I felt I got a real sense of what it's like to be in Malmo, Sweden and also Copenhagen, Denmark. The gorgeous stark architecture, the Swedish design and just how extremely cold it is over there all came through for me. The two cities are compared and contrasted in ways that let me indulge in local culture and even get caught up in the rivalry between the two police services.
Also, the series displays contemporary themes including environmental terrorism and sexuality as well as the things we all know and love such as relationships, ethical policing and the nature of evil. The crimes are a little over-the-top at times and the body count is alarming, but that doesn't distract from the enigmatic characters and their development through the series.
Lastly the plot and the quality of the writing are superb. This show kept me on the edge of my seat. Unanticipated twists and turns present credible challenges to our flawed, but individually brilliant detectives, with ruthless frequency.
The Bridge is an action thriller that also has enough introspection and personal development for viewers with a more internal focus. I like action, though and the pace clipped along nicely for me. Along with the requisite evil antagonists, gorgeous scenery and a real sense of place, this series were whodunnits that kept me guessing most of the time.
Along with the requisite evil antagonists, gorgeous scenery and a real sense of place, these series were whodunnits that kept me guessing for most of the time.
The Bridge Season One Trailer
Saga Noren - the leading protagonist
Saga Noren is clearly on the autism spectrum (at least as far as I am concerned), an unusual leading lady but a compelling character. The series producers have refused to give her a diagnosis and she has been labelled with Asperger's Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the like by several reviews. It's never clearly revealed what her malady is, a tactic which only adds to Saga's appeal as a character.
At first, I found Saga annoying and difficult to like. Impossible as it seems, Saga is even more dysfunctional than Sarah Lund. But it wasn't long before her stark vulnerabilities became clear. Soon, I was completely captured by her. I found myself cheering for her successes and cringing at her clunky attempts to make sense of the relationships in her life.
Saga seems unaffected by trauma in a way that everyone who works in crime wants to be. Imagine being able to interview a child victim and not have it affect you? If only. Saga comes across as cold and heartless - as if she doesn't suffer at all. But then we get to see exactly how much she does suffer. That revelation grabbed me and I was struck by just how vulnerable a person on the spectrum can be. Saga is brilliant in ways that I couldn't aspire to, but managing the most basic emotional context is beyond her grasp without a great deal of support. Lucky for her, she has her boss Hans and Martin, who offer her a great deal of encouragement and also shield her from the bullying of other police at times.
Saga is far and away one of the most fascinating characters in the world of crime TV.
Saga and Martin
Martin Rohde's pain
Martin Rohde - the first two series
Martin disappears at the end of the second series for reasons you will have to discover for yourself. But while he's around, his warmth is the perfect counterpart to Saga's flat unemotional manner. He' s a down to earth, old-fashioned, instinct-driven copper. Not as smart or methodical as Saga, he nonetheless has many things to teach her and becomes a sort of mentor in her life.
We get to watch as Martin's life crumbles around him and the choices he makes, although not always the rights ones, are the perfectly understandable course that a broken man might take. Martin's pain is intense and raw and surprisingly, he is able to get the best support from Saga. I found myself clutching the edge of my chair at times as I watched Martin's attempts to heal his pain and saw the inevitable consequences play out.
Leather pants and getting dressed in the office
Like Sarah Lund, Saga Noren has her clothing-related quirks. They do not involve expensive hand-knitted sweaters. Instead, we see Saga wearing leather pants much of the time and frequently changing shirts in front of her colleagues at the office. I suppose if you never actually go home and basically work 24/7 then you'd have to have a supply of clothing at work. I liked the look but often wondered if she ever got those pants dry-cleaned.
The Bridge Season Three Trailer
Saga's dark past
Saga Noren is what she is for a reason. The third season finds us exploring Saga's past and being confronted with yet more darkness and evil. Without giving anything away, the third series is grim but yet again, excellent.
Buy The Bridge Season One
Well worth watching
I'm a big fan of Nordic noir - on TV and in books. The Bridge is the most interesting offering yet to grace my screen - not so much because of the crime. Serieal killers are common fare these days. It's down to the character of Saga Noren. She's changed my understanding of people on the spectrum and opened my eyes in a way that reading about something simply can't do. To be clear, I don't think that everyone with the condition ought to be crime-solving savants. Rather, Saga showed me just how vulnerable people on the spectrum can be when engaging in ordinary social interaction - something I knew but hadn't witnessed from the persepctive of the affected individual.
Well done to the production team for proving fantastic entertainment and at the same time, teaching me something so very important.