I began to watch The Bridge (or Broen/Bron in it’s Danish/Swedish form) originally as I thought it would start to heal the True Detective shaped hole in my life. With remakes made in the UK/France and America/Mexico (and apparently more planned) I decided to go for the original, if only to feel like a cultured Times reader. What I was expecting was something along the lines of CSI: Malmo with a little bit of Scandinavian flair and class – that it is not.
Starting with two bodies found on the bridge that links Sweden and Denmark lying exactly on the international line, two detectives from each country come together to solve the case. So far, so buddy comedy. The characters, however, are one of the reasons that I enjoyed this show as much as I did. Martin, the immediately likeable Danish detective, is funny, easy going and simply bemused rather than irritated with the antics of Saga Noren (more on her in a second) which makes you care about him even more, though it becomes apparent that he has some fairly major character flaws. (Another reason I appreciated this show – when characters made mistakes, it made sense that they made them, it didn’t feel like it was purely a plot device.)
Saga, on the other hand, is immediately much less endearing, though this changes with time. She is socially awkward, blunt and can appear unfeeling with her need to constantly obey the rules. In the first episode there is a woman asking to be let across the bridge so that her husband can receive a heart transplant – she refuses. When Martin lets the ambulance cross, she reports him. She also has difficulty lying, which turns out to be more important than could have originally be thought. There are hidden depths to her character though: there is one scene in which Martin comments that she doesn’t care what people think of her, assuming that to be true, and she denies this to his surprise: she cares what he thinks. There is a sweetness to her character as well as a naivety that is slowly pulled out and revealed to the audience, and with Martin her character develops. That is another thing: there is genuine character development throughout the series, and it feels organic and fresh. I also cannot remember a show where I felt so warmly about the supporting characters, in particular Hans, Saga’s boss, a gentle man who seems to genuinely care about her, and Martin’s family – his current wife Mette, their children, and his estranged son August from his first marriage – who suffer throughout the series as a result of his actions, both past and present.
So how does the show spin the solving of two dead bodies out into 10 episodes you ask? Well, the bodies aren’t the main focus – the crazed serial killer is. Brilliant, and seemingly uncatchable, ‘TT’ or the Truth Terrorist is always one step ahead of our duo, claiming to be demonstrating the ills in society by forcing innocent people to pay for them. He reveals himself and the start of his crazy schemes at the end of the first episode, and then is always present until the last, the spectacular finale. Seriously, that final episode is good. There are twists and turns as he kills people with no apparent connection between them. Scary, yes, but so enjoyable.
The first series of The Bridge is currently on Netflix (UK) and I binged through it in about three days. It is addictive and so much darker than I thought it would be. There is only one comment I would make, and this is not on the show but about the subtitles. Danish and Swedish are similar enough that you can speak in one and the other will understand you, which is what I know from my Swedish friends. However, not being able to understand either myself I would have liked to have known when someone was speaking Danish or Swedish, maybe through different coloured subtitles. Usually it doesn’t matter, but there were points when the difference in languages felt important. That is, however, a minor quibble to a very well made and entertaining show.
Though, I might have been put off visiting both cities for a while.