2016.70: The Bridge: Season One (Blu-ray)
The Bridge (or Broen/Bron in its original language/s) is a Scandinavian crime thriller set primarily in Malmo and Copenhagen, using the titular Oresund Bridge connecting those two cities and respective countries as a major setting/plot device and thematic core. When a dead body is discovered at the exact mid-point of the bridge, two officers from the two seperate departments either side of the bridge, Saga Norén from Sweden, and Martin Rohde from Denmark, lead an investigation into an increasingly complicated and insidious series of related murders and stunts.
The Bridge was recommended to me a few years ago, as I had greatly enjoyed The Killing. As I’d unfortunately missed the first episodes that had been aired, I didn’t see the series on its original screening here in the UK in 2012-instead I later bought the Blu-ray set when I noticed it in a sale on Amazon and… well, it gathered dust on the shelf ever since. Like so many others.
Still, if nothing else, 2016 is the year I’ve consciously started wearing down the ‘to-watch’ pile whilst endeavouring to not be adding to that pile (regular readers will have noticed most of my reviews these days are via streaming rather than newly-bought discs). So anyway, the nights are starting to draw in, and it seemed the perfect time to see what all the fuss was about.
The Bridge is certainly a well-made and effective thriller. I watched the ten episodes comprising this first series in just a few days, caught in the drama and mystery and the -just-one-more-episode-before-bed trap that binge watching tends to force on us (the freedom of watching a show when we want being just another trap when the next episode is just a few seconds away).
The problem with The Bridge is the crime thriller equivalent of CGI in films: the theory that bigger/more= better. It’s the tendency to over-complicate things and sensationalise what would otherwise be a conventional procedural thriller. Maybe its a post-Seven thing (the shadow of that film hanging large over this show and so many like it). On the whole it’s a great, tense and effective series, but it suffers from just going too big and stretching credulity. These things never feature realistic villains/criminals; these guys are super-intelligent, devious perfectionists that befuddle our heroic cops with monstrously intricate and fiendish crimes. Towards the end of this first season, when the identity and modus operandi of the villain is finally revealed, it feels a bit of a cheat. Its just too neat. Even when the cops are on the right track, the face of the guy they are hunting is the wrong one because, well, he’s had an incredibly successful plastic surgery that has left him looking like someone else entirely, stretching the hunt for a few more episodes.
Most annoyingly, something goes wrong with the passage of time over the last episode or two, with the last victim hidden (and eventually perishing) in a manner wholly unconvincing. Buried alive in a coffin, the victim dies of dehydration/starvation as if over a space of weeks, but it appears only hours have gone by. When the cops reach the murder scene, they don’t notice a false wall in a garage that would have been built and painted only within the last day or so; there is no dirt, masonry dust or smell of wet paint which should have been dead giveaways (sic). The wall that the victim is hidden behind looks to have been there for years, not weeks (let alone hours or days).
What saves The Bridge though is its leading characters. Saga (played by Sofia Helin) is a fascinating, dysfunctional character who is a very effective detective (if single-minded to a fault). Slowly over the course of the series we start to see what makes her tick and whilst she’s never exactly warm and perfectly likeable, she is none the less a compelling character. Sort of a female Vulcan, I guess and inevitably as enchanting to male viewers as Spock was to female viewers in the ‘sixties, although she does turn to sex (if only for stress relief). Her partner, Martin, is played by Kim Bodnia, who is a perfect foil for Helin. Martin is warm and open and mischevious, quite the opposite of Saga, which makes for a great professional chemistry (there is never the hint of any romance, thank goodness) and genuine humour. They make a great team and lift the show above its few pitfalls- indeed the irony of this show is that it doesn’t need such a devious and horrific series of crimes; the two of them are enough and the crime mystery could have been quite mundane, the show wouldn’t have suffered for it.
So anyway, although I was abit disappointed by how the show concluded, I did rather enjoy it and look forward to (eventually) getting around to the show’s second series (three have been made with a fourth and final series mooted). What I’m looking forward to is more of the central characters, rather than another convoluted mystery thriller. It remains to be seen what series two shapes up to be though.