A joint Swedish and Danish TV production originally titled Bron | Broen reflecting the bridge that joins the two countries and providing the setting for the opening scene, The Bridge aired on BBC4 last night. If tempted to merge those Scandinavian countries into a generic smörgåsbord, think again. One of the driving forces of this series is obviously the mêlée that arrives when these two countries are forced to join in an investigation.
If the series opened with a well-established cliché – amply gloved hands directing the wheel of a car – we soon received something different. With the lights of the bridge out for less than one minute, a corpse was left right on the territorial line between Sweden and Denmark. Before the first episode was over, we realised that the corpse was not one body but two different halves assembled across the line. (Not so new a ploy in the plotting world as P D James had the Met at loggerheads with the City of London Police before Dalgleish won out on one case, but the grande dame kept to just one body.)
Thus we have two investigating cops on the case. Taking charge is the Swedish side led by Saga Noren (Sofia Helin), while Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) pitches up for Denmark. In that fine world of genetics, both prove that DNA is well-dispersed. Saga is played as someone with (never confirmed) autism, with a very heavy hand on the paintbrush of depiction. Quickly proving her intense focus on the case and its practicalities, a viewer’s suspension of disbelief becomes paramount regarding her other activities and reactions over personal aspects. A line of credibility may have been passed over here; time will tell. It’s just a little too hard to accept someone in charge of investigation who:
Martin is more par for course as a detective, albeit with five kids via three wives and a recent vasectomy to call a halt to his impressive procreation tendencies. Both shared one thing over the course of the first two episodes: hand to groin scenes. Get used to it; there’s a third one by the end of episode two.
Alongside the case in hand, The Bridge also presented two strands of story that firmly sat on the periphery for now. A wife on the bridge at the time of discovery of the body was prevented by the rules-abiding Saga from taking her in-transit husband to Denmark for a life-saving heart transplant. Saga was lost to humanity in her need to preserve the crime scene. Martin later vetoed, leading to a report from Saga to the authorities, but the heart transplant couple’s story kept coming back with no link to the case. Ditto for a 1970s styled ‘social worker’ – we can only guess at the authenticity here – who re-homed an addict’s family in the middle of nowhere. It was a delightful picture postcard setting for a new home, if only he had not been instrumental, leading to the creepy. But how on earth do these stories connect to the main?
Then, heading back into cliché territory we have the (immoral) journo with whom the perp connects and communicates. And when the messages – by whatever means – come into play, you know this thing is escalating …
The Bridge thus far is not breakthrough or groundbreaking TV, but it is exceedingly compelling. Within just two episodes we have gone from corpse-on-the-bridge to motivated campaign for something concerning matters of social justice. Well worth a watch and the ensuing Saturday night dedication.
See Mrs Peabody for more commentary on the opening night.