Director(s): Morten Arnfred, Henrik Georgsson, Kathrine Windfeld
Screenplay: Hans Rosenfeld
Starring: Sofia Helin, Kim Bodnia
Running Time: 60 min (x10)
BBFC Certificate: 15
'Nordic Noir'; It’s the latest craze in TV and Film. Since The Killing came along and introduced us to inappropriate knitwear and a Danish crime underworld, our appetite for Scandi drama is bigger than ever. The latest, and arguably greatest, addition to the Smörgåsbord of Scandinavian imports is The Bridge, taking it’s title from the Øresund Bridge which links the Danish capital, Copenhagen, to the Swedish city of Malmö.
In series one we witnessed the body of a woman sawn in half and laid precisely on the border of Denmark and Sweden. Enter into the frame Martin Rohde and Saga Norén, homicide detectives from Denmark and Sweden respectively, and with it a legendary TV relationship was born.
Fast forward 13 months and the haunting choral theme and bleak opening titles are back, setting us up for another traumatic thrill ride on one of the most successful foreign TV imports to hit UK screens. Before I go any further though; a warning, The Bridge series 2 starts with a HUGE spoiler to series 1. If you haven’t managed to see it yet, I urge you to catch up before embarking on the second outing. Regardless, Saga and Martin have been off our screens for too long and fans are hungry for another Danish/Swedish crime mash up to bring them back together.
The main problem with naming a TV series based on a first episode plot point is what do you do come series 2? Ignore the issue? No, you ram a unmanned ship carrying 5 youths chained bellow deck into the bridge of course. It feels very tenuous but frankly I don’t care, the ship has Danish and Swedish victims on board and that means only one thing, Saga and Martin must reunite to solve this mysterious case…
The Saga and Martin of Series 2 are very different people to those we met on that fateful night on the bridge 13 months prior. Martin’s home life is in disrepair, he is haunted by his son’s killer and is stuck reassigned to a job he no longer enjoys. Saga hasn’t changed quite so much, she’s now in a relationship; not a normal one (it’s Saga after all) and she’s trying be normal in social situations, although she’s still got some work to do on that front! This is a woman who reads ‘manuals’ on having a relationship and who’s idea of breaking silence in public is “I got my period this morning”, we may cringe at her awkward social moments but it provides the only element of humour in the show. As the series develops, we glimpse a greater emotional depth in her and some explanation to why she reacts in the way she does around people.
The plot takes an inevitable number of inconceivable twists and turns along the way (the 3 min recaps help the more casual viewer keep up) but is based roughly around the exploits of a group of ‘eco terrorists’ wanting to spread their message via a series of online videos dressed in animal masks (think You’ve Been Framed meets Question Time). Throughout the series we get sub plots including a lesbian love story between a teacher and pupil, an awful lot of sunken boats, a fuel tanker exploding, poisoned apples, poisoned steak, bodies identified through a breast implant (who knew they had serial numbers?), a school kid setting himself on fire to gain friends, oh, and another lesbian sex plot for good measure. Naturally.
Despite the strangled plot lines at times and the usual mid season dip around episodes 5-7 the series still manages to be compelling, entertaining and thrilling throughout. The final 2 episodes quickly deliver answers to some of the more unusual aspects of previous episodes while gearing up for a showdown that was genuinely surprising, intelligent and emotionally shocking.
Although the series is a crime thriller, at it’s heart, it’s a relationship story between Saga and Martin. They need each other, not only in order to solve the case but to fight through their personal lives. There’s a gender role reversal in many Nordic Noir series, we first saw it with Sarah Lund taking on the entire Danish police force and showing up all her male counter parts, in this case Saga is very much wearing the trousers (leather of course) and let’s not forget the car, a green vintage Porsche 911.
The emotional backbone comes from Martin, the only person who seems to get through to Saga the ‘human’, but is dealing with his own tragedies, pretty badly and with increasing consequences for everyone dear to him. Each episode contains a sequence of the two leads alone in a lift or in her Porsche travelling over the bridge. These scenes give the only real insight into their true personalities, you may only get a raised eyebrow and an awful lot of silence from Saga, but thats all you need from her. She's a compelling screen presence with a form of Aspergers evident, although never confirmed.
Overall series 2 is a great follow up to a solid first outing which is no mean feat in itself. There is enough character development to keep you intrigued and involved. You do begin to really care for Martin and Saga, making the finale ever more poignant. Although not all the episodes hit the general high standard and at times focus on some odd tangental story lines, they are always entertaining and I challenge anyone to restrain from ‘just another episode’.
Series 3 is on the way, what could possible happen on that bridge next? Whatever it is, I for one can’t wait.
The Bridge Series 2 and Series 1 and 2 box set set are available on DVD and Blu Ray now.