The Bridge — Killer TV No 19

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Danmarks Radio/ Sveriges Television, series 1 2011; series 2 2013; series 3 2015

‘She’s Swedish, and the car came from Sweden. I assume I’m in charge.’ – Saga Norén

‘OK.’ – Martin Rohde

Sofia Helin (Saga Noren), Kim Bodnia (Martin Rohde), Dag Malmberg (Hans Pettersson), Lars Simonsen (Jens Hansen)

Identikit: Two detectives – one from Sweden, the other from Denmark – form an uneasy partnership when they must work together to investigate a murder scene right on the border between their two countries on the Oresund Bridge.


logosThe series that gave us the unforgettable Saga Norén, the blonde Swedish detective who has a laser-focus in solving crimes, but all the emotional intelligence of a Vulcan. She seems to be on the autistic scale, so that her idea of chit-chat is to come out with non-sequiturs like this in mixed company: ‘I started my period today.’ Or to ask a man who smiles at her in a nightclub whether he wants to have sex back at her flat. When it comes to breaking the news to a victim’s husband that his wife is dead, Saga has all the delicacy of an elephant on a flowerbed. ‘How many ways are there to say it?’ she asks her boss when he tells her to tread carefully. Saga, with her Porsche and leather trousers, is locked in a captivating partnership with Danish counterpart Martin Rohde, a shambles of an unfaithful husband who operates a lot on instinct, as they try to track down an ingenious, bitter serial killer who has attacked victims from both sides of Oresund Bridge, linking Denmark and Sweden. The investigation begins when what appears to be the body of a female Swedish politician is discovered straddling the national borderline on the bridge. The perpetrator has managed to plunge the bridge into darkness and staged the murder scene, so clearly this is a killer with huge resourcefulness and cunning. In truth, the plot involving the ‘Truth Terrorist’ staging various outrageous crimes to highlight perceived social problems is far-fetched. But, as with the key to many brilliant dramas, it is the principal characters who pull the audience in. Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia are two stars on a roll here, as characters who, despite their epic differences, slowly develop an off-key but somehow harmonious partnership. Across 10 episodes the tension builds slowly but remorselessly and with some stunning twists. And at the end, the killer is a lot closer to home than Saga and Martin – and the viewer – can ever have imagined. So highly regarded was the drama that the formula was immediately pinched by networks in the US and Britain/France, whose remakes are decent tributes, but certainly don’t outshine the original. Series two of the original came back, however, and developed the characters beautifully, with Martin struggling to come to terms with the murder of his son in series one, and Saga attempting to blend into normal society more – all against the backdrop of bio-terrorism crimes and incestuous lust among the rich. It ends with a heartbreaking cliffhanger and the two detectives divided and alone just when it seemed they were more bonded than ever. Sadly, Kim Bodnia did not appear in series three, and Thure Lindhardt stepped in as a new Danish partner, Henrik Sabroe. Next up for Bridge writer Hans Rosenfeldt is a thriller series for ITV called Marcella, starring Anna Friel.

Classic episode: The opener immediately and subtly establishes the character clash between Saga and Martin, while creating an eerie and perplexing mystery on the stunning Oresund Bridge. It is beautifully photographed, creating an alienating nightscape of highways, streets and the bridge.

The Bridge 2 – the best show on TV

Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), BBC4
Unbridgeable gap? In season two Martin and Saga have grown closer. Pics: BBC

As second series of The Bridge has now reached its shattering climax on BBC4, and fans of the drama flock to London to see its stars at Nordicana – the growing annual festival of Scandinavian crime/thriller screenings and panels with the actors and authors – now is a good moment to celebrate what made Saga and Martin’s latest outing so brilliant…

Jens (LARS SIMONSEN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), BBC4
Confronting his past – Martin (right) visits Jens in prison

1 Saga and Martin

Series 2 pushed Saga and Martin into new areas and challenges. Watch dramas such as Midsomer and Lewis, and the characters never develop or grow. They just face a new chalk outline every week. In The Bridge, Martin struggled with the murder of his son by Jens, at the end of series one, through every episode. He also came to understand his Spock-like partner better, learning about her mistreatment as a child. And as Saga tried to have a ‘normal’ relationship with Jakob and had bust-ups with Rasmus in the office, we realised she did have emotions and could be hurt. The writer Hans Rosenfeldt says in a revealing blog on the BBC’s site, that the car and elevator scenes between Saga and Martin are his favourites to write, because that is when we get to learn a lot more about these two people. Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia have great chemistry, and the combination of their acting and the fine writing are what make The Bridge so superior to most TV crime dramas.

2 Humour

And the car/elevator scenes have been a joy. Saga quizzing Martin about whether he was sleeping with Pernille was very funny. ‘You spend a lot of time with her and she’s always touching you…’ ‘– It’s been a long time…’ ‘How do you cope? You used to have sex with people all the time.’ There was also the hilarious scene in which Saga clocked the dead gigolo’s penis and commented on its smallness – ‘Women don’t fantasise about men with small penises.’ Perfect logic to the end, so to speak.

Hans (DAG MALMBERG), Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), BBC4
Hans, Saga and Martin

3 The minor characters

There are no cardboard cutouts in The Bridge. Each character is fully fleshed out with some dramatic life. The sad end for Pernille, thwarted in her feelings for Martin, was given plenty of space in the final episode, which it deserved. But others, such as Martin’s wife Mette, were figures we came to know well. And of course Rasmus grew to be more than just the gofer he first appeared. Again, three cheers for the writing, which wove together such intricate but rich overlapping storylines.

4 Death in a cold climate

Scandinavian countries are often voted the most happy and contented in various bits of research. So it is nice to see they have a dark side, with splits in the fabric of their well-ordered way of life. And there’s the constant fascination of the simple otherness of the setting – the chilly gloom, Viktoria’s weird minimalist white house, the starkly beautiful Øresund Bridge, the odd colours they paint their Porsches and the suicidal, grey monolithic buildings of  Malmo and Copenhagen. The series must work wonders for the Caribbean tourist industry. Anyway, it’s a most atmospheric backdrop to these tales of alienation and subterfuge.

Viktoria (TOVA MAGNUSSON)
Viktoria, the human weapon

5 The plot was a gripper

Series one’s intrigue – with Jens as a super-evasive terrorist – stretched credibility at times, but series two was a shifting and fascinating story, with the twisted relationship of Oliver and Viktoria a great premise for the crimes. ‘You’ve no idea what I’ve done for you,’ Oliver said to his ice cold sister, sounding and looking like a crazed Nazi camp commandant. But despite all the bio-terrorism and killings, it was fitting that the heartbreaking finale should ultimately come down to Saga and Martin again. ‘You’re my only friend,’ she tells him. But sadly, not for long… (However, series three is being written, so the Swede and the Dane will be reunited somehow).

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The Bridge 2, BBC4, with Sofia Helin, Kim Bodnia PREVIEW

Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA) in The Bridge 2
Back on the case – Saga and Martin in The Bridge series 2. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 4 January, 9pm

Story: Thirteen months after the events of the first season, a coastal tanker leaves the Öresund waterway and heads straight for the Øresund Bridge.

THE FIRST series had such good leading characters in Saga and Martin, against such an atmospheric story, that it’s already been remade twice – by the Americans (set on the US-Mexican border) and Sky Atlantic (as The Tunnel).

So, the question with this follow-up is the usual one that hangs over sequels – will it match the original, or will it, in this case, be a bridge too far?

On the evidence of the opener, it does keep up the fine standard of series one. If anything, it heightens the emotional tug as the icy Swede and devastated Dane are reunited over an investigation into a crewless tanker that crashes into Øresund Bridge.

Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN) in The Bridge 2
She may not show it, but Saga is a bit of a softie for Martin

Moving reunion for Saga and Martin

This crossing between the countries obviously has to link the two leads, and it got the mystery rolling in series one and was the setting for the emotionally shattering finale. To recap, the madman Jens had killed Martin’s son, Augustus, and Martin was only stopped from killing Jens by a wounding bullet from Saga’s pistol.

All the characters have moved on in series two. Saga has a boyfriend and reads books on ‘Relationship Skills’. Martin is in a trial separation from the wife he cheated on, Mette. He has also gone grey and is on some boring police duty following the trauma of his son’s murder.

When Martin and Saga meet again, it packs an emotional punch. Knowing how socially challenged Saga is, with her Asperger’s-like behaviour, it’s quite touching when she goes out of her way to see him personally on a flimsy pretext after 13 months of silence. As Martin says, he could have emailed over the info she requests.

Five hostages chained below deck

Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), Martin Rohde (KIM BODNIA), Victor (JUSTUS RAGNARSSON) The Bridge 2
Martin and Saga question one of the tanker’s captives

The unspoken conclusion we draw is that, despite her having the emotions of an Easter Island statue, Saga obviously has some feeling for her old partner.

And Martin, around whose grief everyone treads carefully, is almost in tears to be sitting alongside the woman who treats him as bluntly as ever. In one moving scene, they are crossing the Øresund Bridge in her baby-shit green Porsche when Martin is overwhelmed to be near the scene of their disturbing confrontation with Jens. Saga’s inept response is to turn on the radio.

The plot here is an intriguing backdrop to their story, as the mystery tanker is found to have no crew but five captives chained below deck – three Swedes and two Danes. They all seem to be drugged, hampering Saga and Martin’s attempts to work out what happened.

Series two of The Bridge is mysterious and affecting

But when one of them dies, the stakes are raised. And the opener concludes with a shocking discovery about the cause of death.

Once again, the story is beautifully filmed, with the bridge and sea looking eerie and mysterious. The story is compelling and the writers have had the courage to move the characters forward, making them more affecting then ever.

Cast: Sofia Helin Saga Norén, Kim Bodnia Martin Rohde, Dag Malmberg Hans Petterson, Sarah Boberg Lillian, Lars Simonsen Jens Hansen, Puk Scharbau Mette Rohde, Rafael Pettersson John Lundqvist, Vickie Bak Laursen as Pernille, Henrik Lundström Rasmus Larsson, Tova Magnusson Victoria Nordgren, Sven Ahlström Oliver Nordgren, Camilla Bendix Gertrud Kofoed, Fredrik Hiller Marcus Stenberg

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