Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 1 & 2)

Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 3 & 4)
Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 5 & 6)
Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 7 & 8)

I am hooked on the latest Scandinavian noir crime thriller from BBC FourThe Bridge features the most extreme pairing of “odd couple” detectives I’ve ever seen – Saga from Malmo in Sweden, and Martin from Copenhagen in Denmark. Connecting them is the Oresund Bridge, on which is found a composite female body – the top half of a Swedish politician and the bottom half of a Danish drug addict – neatly joining together the two national halves of the bridge.

Saga is single, fixated on her job, and can’t imagine any other condition. She probably lives somewhere on the autism spectrum, albeit high performance. When a potential witness is trapped inside a car booby trapped to explode, she calls him on the phone to answer questions. As you would. Bit of a pain in the arse is Saga, but she’s fascinating to watch. Her facial expressions remind me of Data from Star trek: The Next Generation when he’s confronted with a particularly odd human concept, the difference being that Data is at least prepared to consider the idea on its merits.

Martin, on the other hand is your average, slobby bloke – an overweight family man who just had a vasectomy and can’t afford to take time off work. He’s clever, though, and willing to cut corners where necessary, something that visibly shocks Saga. More importantly for their professional relationship, he doesn’t take offense, even when called upon to sit on his day-old vasectomy stitches, just because Saga is irritated by him standing up all the time.

There are also a couple of intriguing subplots. One involves Charlotte, who ruthlessly violates medical ethics to ensure a new heart for her husband, only for him to pop his clogs seconds after telling her the marriage is over. I’m not sure where it can go from there.

Then there’s Stefan the social worker, who at first I thought was the killer, since he looks like a 70s porn star and hangs out with prostitutes and drug addicts. The actual killer may be the dimly seen figure looking down on Malmo from a luxury high rise apartment. And I have high hopes of August, Martin’s asocial computer geek son, being involved in some way.

The Bridge is a slick, chilling, and intelligent drama, with a murderer who seems to be killing to highlight social and political problems, feeding a tabloid reporter links to statistics relating to the crimes. It’s also blackly funny in places, as when the bomb squad gives up on freeing the reporter from his booby trapped car and one of them shrugs, as if to say, “That’s life!” And Saga’s reactions to the weird things her colleagues do – like calling someone just to hear their voice – are very enjoyable. Can’t take my eyes off the lass.

Given that Denmark and Sweden have different cultures, I’m probably missing a whole subtext that Scandinavian viewers would pick up on quite naturally. But even without it, the intriguing plot, clean, spare production values, stunning photography, and the fascinating relationship between Saga and Martin, kept me watching.

61 thoughts on “Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 1 & 2)

  1. I do understand the languages as spoken in The Bridge. However, I find the characters rather daft and unbelievable. As an example: the sex scene in episode 2: it didn’t fit into the story line at all and was totally unnecessary. I was a little disappointed as this is what programme makers put in when they’ve run out of ideas – hoping they’ll keep the viewers watching. I am sorry – but I nearly couldn’t be bothered to watch the following episodes, as I didn’t expect it to be particularly thought challenging. I did watch the next episodes – but although not as bad as I thought it could still be improved. Although reasonably good dialogue I find the acting stilted in some places.

    • You mean when Saga picks up the unnamed chap in the bar? She does hook up with him again in episode 5, and even learns his name (Anton). Then, in episode 6, Anton spots her across the street and looks meaningfully at her, so I suspect he’s getting worked into the plot. And the plot is expanding week by week to encompass more characters. These encounters highlight Saga’s dysfunctional and completely focused social relationships, so they’re interesting for that as well. Wish I did know Swedish and Danish to understand the nuances. As to the acting, I don’t find it stilted, except for Saga, who would naturally hold herself stiffly. She never fiddles with anything, and always carries her hands at her sides unless she’s actually using them.

      • Yeah…I do understand Saga’s character…only problem is…Scandinavians would never employ someone like that as a detective. They take madness very seriously :-)).
        Her Danish colleague is quite comical though, and I can see Danish humour filtering through – and the role is played very well. Fortunately dialogue is kept short, so that those who need to read subtitles can catch up. The opening episode was good, but It’s just that the story line jars somewhat – it doesn’t hang together after that. I much prefer Wallander to this one – but I’ll see it through to the end anyway.

      • I believe Saga is autistic. I think it’s rather clever to put such a character in the role of a police officer and see how people around her react. Autistic people can’t read peoples’ expressions, understand sarcastic humour, are very rigid in their actions and movements – Saga displays all these attributes and more.

      • Autistic people usually have problems communicating with others, which is why I find Saga’s character out of place – certainly would not have been employed by the police.

        As for the story line, I think a much better plot could’ve been hatched.
        1. One half each of two very different women were found on the dividing line between two countries. Top a Swedish politician – bottom a Danish prostitute.
        2. It’d have been more interesting if we’d learnt more about the background of each woman – how did they get to doing the jobs they did?
        3. Then, finding parallels, eventually converging, to give a picture of how women are perceived in society, and how they are used by men, regardless of status.

        I know a woman who left her business employment and started her own business – primarily because as she said – she did all the work, while the man took the money, thereby ‘pimping’ on her. I have seen it all the time – there’s a lot of material to draw from this kind of scenario. Make the story line and plots more of a ‘brainer’ and leave out the dreadful sex scenes, which are totally unnecessary and doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

    • I thought this was an exceptional drama made all the better for not succumbing to the conventional style of ending. I thought Saga was brilliant and Firefly (last person to comment) has it wrong, I’m afraid, the Scandanavians do employ people on the autistic spectrum within the Police. Be careful about your language. Autistic people are not mad, but working in that environment would probably send you in that direction, it’s true to say. Anyway, we need more quality drama like this. Well done BBC for showing it.

  2. I have no little niggles about this exciting drama. I love Saga and it is refreshing to have a character who is so unfeeling, cold, and who can’t understand the social niceties that some are obsessed with. It is also strange for me to watch something with sub-titles but I don’t find it a hindrance at all.

  3. It’s a little unfair to call her unfeeling and cold, Pam. She is quite clearly affected by Asperger’s Syndrome – which is quite an interesting touch from the writers. The first giveaway was her offering the breath freshener to Martin in one of the early scenes and the more obvious signs such as her reluctance to break rules, observe social niceties and, quite , where she picks the guy up in the bar without making any pretence as to what she wanted, I’m not sure that this would prevent her from being a detective; in some ways it could be an advantage, although I agree that, she would be a complete pain to work with. I’m rather enjoying it, overall.

  4. By the way, apologies for the terrible grammar and punctuation in my comment above; this page is rather bright, isn’t it?

  5. They have portrayed saga as having AS very crudely but missed out the main emotion she would feel if she had AS which is anxiety and fear of unpredictably which is why this does not add up.

  6. Do you suppose the facial scars that have become evident in the last two episodes below Saga’s nose are real or are they going to be worked into a future storyline?

  7. Ah, I was wondering that…so I wasn’t the only one who noticed!! Has she ever changed her clothes (apart from in the office in Ep. 1)?

    • I think the scar is her own – I’ve seen something like it in other photos of Sofia Helin. Saga probably has many identical sets of clothes, since it wouldn’t be rational to buy anything different when you’ve found something you like. Do you remember Jeff Goldblum’s character in The Fly? When he opened his wardrobe there was a row of identical suits.

      • Those with A S are not interested in fashion. Clothes feel uncomfortable. I wear my clothes like a uniform…same sets worn always. I abhor shopping for clothes and I dislike tight clothes and patterns near my face.

  8. Only 2 episodes left, I have absolutely loved this series!! Getting this silly nervous feeling, what am I going to watch after The Bridge?????????????????????

  9. Thank You for the link. I can’t wait until Saturday, now that I know there is more to come, in 2013 :)

  10. Brilliant! what a treat after The Killing and Borgen. Not sure why i should like these Scandinavian dramas but I do. The music is haunting and Sofia Helin (saga) plays her autistic role just great.
    Thanks BBC for non pleb TV.

    Another link for the theme

  11. Was really looking forward to the last two episodes but what a disappointment. It was almost like they didn’t know how to end it. All those strands – what happened to Sven the social worker? How on earth did the killer manage to either brick up a wall or plaster an entire wall in the garage in such little time? Help……!

    • I thought the ending was brilliant. Jens had plenty of time to construct August’s coffin because he had it all planned out beforehand – he just had to deliver August. Saga spotted the architectural drawings in his basement. Stefan was arrested for the murder of Soren.

  12. Saga is one of the most original creations I’ve come across in years. For a region noted for its gloominess the writer has taken a character with a ‘disorder’ and made them intelligent and independent, but also accidentally hilarious because she relates the facts as they are and in whatever situation she finds herself. The concept of tact is alien to her as it would be to someone who demarcates her world into fact/fiction; truth/lies. The plot can be traced back to several recent story lines (Seven is immediately apparent) nevertheless the treatment is far better constructed than the first series of ‘The Killing’ for example, which despite having another womdrous central female character, did tend to go round the houses in an attempt to spin the plot out over 20 episodes. One does wonder how much the Scandanavians are paying for this quality drama. They are surely getting better value that we are for £145 a year from the dreadful stuff (Sherlock excepted) emanating from the BBC writer’s room.

  13. The first and last episodes were excellent, with regard to originality – I just wish the middle had been too, but the story line right through was muddled and difficult to follow – even when you do understand the languages. Again, Saga’s character was unrealistic, and although I’m sure people with her personality problem are working in all sorts of communal offices, NHS and the like, in this country – she’d not have held a position as a police officer/detective in the Scandinavian countries – nor this country, come to think of it. A lot more realism could have been spun from the original idea.

    • I think you will find we are in all aspects of employment…me…???…I worked in Occupational Therapy.
      Jane Austen, 1775-1817, English novelist, author of Pride and Prejudice
      Béla Bartók, 1881-1945, Hungarian composer
      Bobby Fischer, 1943-2008, World Chess Champion
      Michelangelo, 1475 1564 – Italian Renissance artist
      Erik Satie, 1866-1925 – Composer
      Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German/Viennese composer
      Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922, Scottish/Canadian/American inventor of the telephone
      Anton Bruckner , 1824-1896, Austrian composer
      Henry Cavendish, 1731-1810, English/French scientist, discovered the composition of air and water
      Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, US poet
      Thomas Edison, 1847-1931, US inventor
      Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, German/American theoretical physicist
      Seth Engstrom, 1987-Present, Magician and World Champion
      Henry Ford, 1863-1947, US industrialist
      Benjamin Franklin,1706-1790, US polictician/writer
      Kaspar Hauser, c1812-1833, German foundling, portrayed in a film by Werner Herzog
      Oliver Heaviside, 1850-1925, English physicist
      Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, US politician
      Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychoanalyst
      Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, Czech writer
      Wasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944, Russian/French painter
      Abraham Lincoln,1809-1865, US Politician
      H P Lovecraft, 1890-1937, US writer
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      Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1868-1928, Scottish architect and designer
      Gustav Mahler, 1860-1911, Czech/Austrian composer
      Marilyn Monroe, 1926-1962, US actress
      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791, Austrian composer
      Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, English mathematician and physicist
      Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, German philosopher
      Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, British logician
      George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish playwright, writer of Pygmalion, critic and Socialist
      Richard Strauss, 1864-1949, German composer
      Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943, Serbian/American scientist, engineer, inventor of electric motors
      Henry Thoreau, 1817-1862, US writer
      Alan Turing, 1912-1954, English mathematician, computer scientist and cryptographer
      Mark Twain, 1835-1910, US humorist
      Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890, Dutch painter
      George Washington, 1732-1799, US Politician
      Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1889-1951, Viennese/English logician and philosopher
      Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941, English Writer
      Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992, Russian/US writer on science and of science fiction, author of Bicentennial Man
      Hans Asperger, 1906-1980, Austrian paediatric doctor after whom Asperger’s Syndrom is named
      John Denver, 1943-1997, US musician
      Glenn Gould, 1932-1982, Canadian pianist
      Jim Henson, 1936-1990, creator of the Muppets, US puppeteer, writer, producer, director, composer
      Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980, English/American film director
      Howard Hughes, 1905-1976, US billionaire
      Andy Kaufman, 1949-1984, US comedian, subject of the film Man on the Moon
      L S Lowry, 1887-1976, English painter of “matchstick men”
      Charles Schulz, 1922-2000, US cartoonist and creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown
      Andy Warhol, 1928-1987, US artist
      Tony Benn, 1925-, English Labour politician
      Pip Brown “Ladyhawke”, 1979-, New Zealand Singer/Songwriter, Musician
      Charles Dickinson, 1951, US Writer
      Bob Dylan, 1941-, US singer-songwriter
      Joseph Erber, 1985-, young English composer/musician who has Asperger’s Syndrome, subject of a BBC TV documentary
      Bill Gates, 1955-, US global monopolist
      Genie, 1957-?, US “wild child” (see also L’Enfant Sauvage, Victor, )
      Crispin Glover, 1964-, US actor
      Al Gore, 1948-, former US Vice President and presidential candidate
      Jeff Greenfield, 1943-, US political analyst/speechwriter, a political wonk
      David Helfgott, 1947-, Australian pianist, subject of the film Shine
      Garrison Keillor, 1942-, US writer, humorist and host of Prairie Home Companion
      Paul Kostabi 1962-, writer, comedian, artist, producer, technician
      Kevin Mitnick, 1963-, US “hacker”
      John Motson, 1945-, English sports commentator
      John Nash, 1928-, US mathematician (portrayed by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, USA 2001)
      Keith Olbermann, 1959-, US sportscaster
      Michael Palin, 1943-, English comedian and presenter
      Oliver Sacks, 1933-, UK/US neurologist, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings
      James Taylor, 1948-, US singer/songwriter
      Robin Williams, 1951-, US Actor
      Jamie Hyneman, 1956-, Co-host of Mythbusters
      Seth Engstrom, 1987-, Magician and World Champion in Sleight of Hand. The best man with a deck of cards that the world has ever seen.
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      Captain Matthew Webb (First to swim the English Channel),
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      Dan Aykroyd (Leading Musician/Comedian, Blues Bros – formal diagnosis?),
      Alfred Hitchcock (Horror-movie Sub-genre Creator),
      Bobby Fischer (Greatest Chess Player Ever),
      Daniel Tammet (Smartest Man Alive Today – formal diagnosis),
      Les Murray (Greatest Living English Writer/Poet Alive – self diagnosis),
      Gary Numan (Greatest Industrial Synch-pop Musician Ever),
      Craig Nicholls (Lead singer of top Australian group The Vines – formal diagnosis).
      John Couch Adams
      Joy Adamson
      Hans Christian Andersen
      Sherwood Anderson
      Archimedes of Syracuse
      Hans Asperger
      Julian Assange
      W. H. Auden
      Sir A.J. Ayer
      Dan Aykroyd CM
      Charles Babbage FRS
      Stefan Banach
      Syd Barrett / Roger Barrett
      Béla Bártok
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      Jeremy Bentham
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      Tim Burton
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      King Charles XII of Sweden
      Bruce Chatwin
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      Henry Darger
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      Glenn Gould
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      David Hilbert
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      Edward Hopper
      John Howard (1726-1790)
      Peter Howson
      Stonewall Jackson
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      Muhammad Ali Jinnah
      Irene Joliot-Curie
      Sir Keith Joseph CH PC
      James Joyce
      Wassily Kandinsky
      Leo Kanner
      Immanuel Kant
      Andy Kaufman
      Alfred Kinsey
      Stanley Kubrick
      Ladyhawke / Pip Brown
      Paul Laffoley
      Joseph Louis Lagrange
      Oscar Levant
      Charles Lindbergh
      Nikolai Lobachevsky
      Deborah Locke
      Courtney Love
      H. P Lovecraft
      L.S. Lowry
      James Clerk Maxwell FRS
      Darius McCollum
      Herman Melville
      Gregor Mendel
      Michelangelo
      Reg Mombassa / Christopher O’Doherty
      Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein KG GCB DSO PC
      Caiseal Mor
      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
      Les Murray
      John F. Nash Jr.
      Craig Newmark
      Sir Isaac Newton FRS
      Craig Nicholls
      Nico / Christa Paffgen
      Moe Norman
      Gary Numan
      George Orwell
      Patrick Pearse
      Grigori Perelman
      King Philip II of Spain
      Henri Poincare
      Enoch Powell MBE
      Willard Van Orman Quine
      Srinivasa Ramanujan
      Charles Richter
      Bernhard Riemann
      Paul Robeson
      Peter Mark Roget FRS
      Bertrand Russell
      Carl Sagan
      Erik Satie
      Solomon Shereshevskii
      William Shockley
      Boris Sidis
      William James Sidis
      Adam Smith
      Vernon L. Smith
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      Spinoza
      Richard Stallman
      Lawrence Summers
      Screaming Lord Sutch / David Sutch
      Jonathan Swift
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      Daniel Tammet
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      Henry David Thoreau
      Alan Turing
      J. M. W. Turner
      Maurice Utrillo
      Eamon de Valera
      Michael Ventris
      Louis Wain
      Robert Walser
      Andy Warhol
      John B. Watson
      Simone Weil
      Orson Welles
      Herbert G. Wells
      Opal Whiteley
      Norbert Wiener
      Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins
      Ludwig Wittgenstein
      Jack B. Yeats
      W. B. Yeats
      Bill Gates

      • Interesting and surprising list, with some of my favourite people on it. Jane Austen in particular, who I would love to have met. Where’s a time machine when you need it most?

  14. Yet another successful Scandinavian thriller. It didn’t really disappoint me. The realisation of what the the villain was actually aiming to do was, I thought, well controlled until Saga’ moment of realisation. I found the professional relationship between the two central characters was excellent and did much to help the working of the plot. Both central characters were interestingly dysfunctional and this contributed much to my enjoyment. Like one of your earlier contributors, I wonder why we cannot have similar quality British drama regularly on our screens. Too much money spent on programmes like The Voice perhaps?

    • Too much money spent on programmes like The Voice perhaps?

      I’m inclined to agree. “Reality” and talent shows are the lowest form of televisual entertainment. That said, I loved Maestro, about 4 untrained slebs vying to conduct opera. But they were actually competent and opera is brilliant.

  15. I think the water and the urban landscape play as large a role as Saga and Martin. (I do wonder whether the place is as empty as its portrayed.) Music matches the atmosphere perfectly too. Loved everything about the series.

  16. I really enjoyed this series. I have mild AS and it upset me to see Saga doing and saying things that I do…and watching the reaction from people as she walked away. I’m sure this has happened to me but to watch it on screen was sad. My Husband,Bertie, kept saying ” you do that “…or laughing when she said something inappropriate in public….it takes all sorts…he means well. Roll on the next series.
    ;o)

  17. Fantastic series and Saga was just brilliant, bringing a touch of humour to what was a rather dark tale. I do think though that the end slipped as August was shown lying in his coffin and kicking at the base but when it was dug out of the wall it was upright. And was there really time to built it into that wall? Still a great show and look forward to seeing more.

  18. Yes this series has been spellbinding and I was heartened to read that there may be a sequel but horrified that the Americans may make it. Please tell me this is incorrect info.

    • Here’s the relevant bit from the Sofia Helin interview.

      While viewers in the UK are still waiting for the mystery of the drama to unravel, Helin will start filming a new season of the hit in October. When asked if The Bridge is likely to follow in the footsteps of The Killing and be remade in the US, she lets slip a tantalising mention of plans for an adaptation set in the UK and France.

      I read that as saying the sequel set to start filming in October will be a proper Scandinavian Noir with Sofia playing Saga, but there’s a possibility of UK/French adaptation with a different actor. Thankfully it doesn’t mention a US adaptation – that would be the kiss of death. And I certainly wouldn’t watch it without Sofia. Her portrayal of Saga is the heart of the drama.

      • Can’t wait for the next series – Saturday nights won’t be quite the same. If any French/Uk adaptaion was as gripping as “Engrenages”, Spirale in Uk version – it could be quite something.

  19. I was really saddened when Saga heard that her understanding boss was moving on and that a new manager (I don’t know Swedish police rankings) was to be appointed.
    I felt her loneliness and isolation with the loss of her protector. Great series.

  20. A wonderful wonderful spellbinding series however some inconsitencies towards the end. Did any one else get the impression that Jens shot Saga in the HEAD and top left shoulder at Martin’s house. It was just about fesaible she could carry on from the shoulder wound – but in the head? Also after she returned to work she kept dabbing at a wound on her lower right stomach – where did this come from?

  21. Did I miss something regarding Stefan Lindberg. Was it only that his sister was raped by the other dodgy coppers and that he murdered that other chap. Who was the other chap and what was the relevance of him/his wife that Stefan rehoused?…

    • I don’t know if Sonja was raped – at least I don’t remember that being mentioned. Stefan spirited Veronika and her child/children (?) away to a house in the country to get them away from Soren, her abusive, drug addict husband. It was Soren who attacked Stefan in his flat, and Stefan killed him.

  22. That’s great thanks but why in the story?
    What’s the relevance to the main story?
    I’m all for subplots but they need to tie in somewhere

    • I think for a couple of reasons. Stefan was the prime suspect for a while, due to his contacts with the homeless, and he represents the “moral murderer.” As opposed to Jens, for all his fake concern with social problems. Stefan really does care, as shown by his devotion to his newly-found sister, and his determination to give Veronika the chance of a decent life away from Soren.

    • I was hooked from the start – my first Scandi Noir. Well worth getting the DVD. I’m sorry for giving away the ending, though I watched them all again with equal enjoyment to pick up the clues and subtleties I missed first time round.

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