BBC Four’s The Bridge – episode 1 reviewed – If you liked The Killing….tune in!

by Matt D

Last year there was one programme that came out of nowhere to be one of the most talked about programmes in recent memory which spawned a US remake, got everybody buying jumpers and even found a famous fan in the Duchess of Cornwall. I’m talking of course about the Danish crime thriller The Killing, which more than gave us an appetite for another Scandinavian imports such as the brilliant political drama Borgen and tonight The Bridge a co-production between Sweden and Denmark.

The bridge in question is the Oresund Bridge, the ten-mile structure that connects Sweden with Denmark, and is the first thing we see as a car drives across it stops on the border line between the two countries, before the lights on the bridge go out for 45 seconds. When the lights come on again a body is found and is quickly identified as that of the chairperson of the Malmo City County Council Kerstin Ekwall. With the body being found on the bridge both countries send a police officer to investigate the murder that has baffled both of them.

The Danes send Martin Rohde a dishevelled unshaven figure who is a likeable chap with a terrific sense-of-humour. Martin has recently had a vasectomy, due to the fact that he has fathered five children by three different mothers, with a running gag throughout being that he can’t sit down due to the pain his nether regions. Martin would’ve taken the time off work but it is revealed that he couldn’t afford as he and his present wife have taken on the care of his son August, who presumably was the result of an earlier affair. The fractured relationship between Martin and August is demonstrated by the fact that he son won’t even respond to his father when he enters his room to say goodnight.

Martin’s personality and family problems are counter-balanced by the Swedish detective Saga Noren, someone who doesn’t have any social skills and can’t see the point of having children. A lot of people will be quick to make comparisons between Saga and The Killing’s Sarah Lund, as both are female detectives who prioritise work over personal life, however I feel they are completely different.

While Sarah does have some trouble fitting in social situations Saga doesn’t seem to have any tact whatsoever and finds it hard to spot sarcasm in people’s tones. A case in point is when Martin lets an ambulance pass through the crime scene, with Saga criticising this situation saying the man wasn’t dying and when she is asked if she is a doctor, she replies ‘no I’m a police officer’, without any sense of irony in this answer. There is a general lack of self-awareness in the character, such as one scene where she just decides to change her T-Shirt in the middle of the police station with none of her colleagues batting an eye-lid, as if this were a regular occurrence.

Talking of fashion whereas Sarah Lund had the iconic knitwear, Saga’s outfit looks very mismatched almost as if she hadn’t paid any attention at all when picking her clothes out of the wardrobe, however people may pick up that she does pull off a pair of leather trousers fairly well. It is evident that those around her are aware of her nature as one of her co-workers describes as ‘a bit odd’ however that is putting it mildly and her partnership with Martin is certainly one that you would dub as an odd couple.

The pair are forced to work together following further discoveries of when they remove the blanket covering Kerstin’s waist, they discover that she has been cut in half. When the body is looked at in more detail it is revealed that only the torso belongs to Kerstin, while the legs have been in deep-freeze for over a year. After a brief background check they are believed to be belong to Monique Brammer, a young Danish prostitute, who went missing over a year ago and was a case that Martin was involved in, so it is decided he and Saga have to share the investigation.

As far as the police-work goes in this episode the duo have to decide why the killer would want to finish off both a prostitute and a councilman, the latter of whom only seems to have angered bookworms over a bill to increase library fines. The investigation also involves a journalist Daniel Ferbe, who is shown as very vain and rude but writes a column that Saga finds amusing if she doesn’t seem to like it very much. Daniel’s involvement comes from the fact that the car found on the bridge belonged to him, however he had been working all night so someone seems keen to link him to the murders. The connection between politics, the media and the drug addicts will obviously be explored in upcoming episodes but for now I don’t want to ruin the ending of the episode for those who haven’t watched it yet.

The Bridge, like The Killing, also follows other characters who seemingly aren’t part of the main investigation but will obviously have some link to it as the plot progresses. The connection between Goran Soringer and his wife Charlotte is apparently given as they were the couple in the ambulance that Martin lets through the police barrier, so he can have his long awaited heart transplant. As we follow their story there are several complications as first Goran is too ill to have the transplant, then the family of the heart donor are blocking their son’s organs from being used. I feel though that there is more of a connection than just the fact they have passed through the bridge, as we learn Goran owns a successful business which is profitable enough for his wife to buy a CT Machine for the hospital, as way of bribing them into performing the operation on her husband. I feel that big business would be the logical target for a killer who has targeted politicians and journalists.

The connection between the murders and young mother Veronica is yet to be revealed although I do have my suspicions. Veronica is about to be evicted from her flat after her husband Soren spent the money given to her by the shadowy Stefan Lindberg on drugs. Veronica brings her two sons to visit Lindberg and appeals with him not to leave them homeless, however he said she needs to make grown-up decisions. After the family are evicted Soren attacks Lindberg, who convinces Veronica to leave him and takes them to an isolated house where he essentially tells her that he has the upper hand in their relationship. I’m not quite sure what to make of Lindberg he certainly is dodgy, wearing a string of suspicious jackets as well as having a porn-star moustache… because of this I thought that these scenes were set in the 1970s that was until people started using mobile phones. For now I’m going to suggest that Veronica has some links to the dead prostitute Monique, just based on the fact both of their stories are drug-related but I may well be wrong.

My main problem with The Bridge was the segments in which the investigation or the police detectives weren’t involved mainly because, at the moment at least, they I have no connection with the central mystery in addition I was given little reason to care about these characters. I feel this criticism though is a positive in terms of the characterisation of both Saga and Martin, who I instantly connected with despite the former’s complete lack of social awareness.

Sofia Helin lends herself to the long line of superb Scandinavian actresses who have been discovered in these shows, as all of Saga’s mannerisms and words are perfectly delivered to create a full-rounded individual with a multitude of issues. Her performance is balanced nicely with that of Kim Bodina as Martin, who is the more relatable of the pair in terms of his personal life as well as through his jovial personality. I feel it would be easy to represent Saga as the genius and Martin as the by-the-book policeman who she constantly has to prove wrong, however that doesn’t appear to be the case as early on it is Martin who notices that the newly constructed body has been placed in a way so that each part is the same distance over the Sweden/Denmark border line. As you would expect the scripting is generally fantastic, though I felt it lapsed into clichés a few times during the Veronica storyline, with some stand-out one-liners my favourite being Saga’s ‘don’t jump to conclusions on my wages based on my car.’

Stylistically there are the usual grainy shots and everything looks very grim indeed, apart from the clinical shots in the hospital scenes. I also noticed that there were many shots that were framed either looking in or out of windows and I took this to mean that the killer was on the outside looking in but maybe I’m reading too much into this. The Bridge also has a hauntingly beautiful opening theme tune entitled Hollow Talk by the Danish group Choir of Young Believers.

So if you are fan of The Killing will you enjoy The Bridge? The answer is I think so as both have involving central mysteries, well-drawn characters and are both filmed in a way that do draw the viewer in. It took me a while to really relax into watching The Bridge but after 20 minutes or so I was completely hooked on the murder mystery if nothing else. Going by the first episode alone I don’t think it’s surpassed the first series of either The Killing or Borgen in terms of quality but it’s still early days however it is true that Sarah Lund may’ve been trumped in the distant female detective stakes by the truly strange Saga Noren.

Did you watch The Bridge? Do you think it matches up to The Killing? Leave Your Comments Below.

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1 Comment

  1. growltiger on May 16, 2012 at 1:19 am

    I’m totally hooked on this one because of Saga. She’s a riot – the way she walks, the way she answers briefly and with total certainly. The way she takes everything on board with no visible emotion. Jagger said it: she’s a gas. As for being on the ‘spectrum’ I’d hazard that she’s 3/4 along it and very likable for all that. Martin may be normal but if that’s what normal is well… he seems to have fewer clues than anyone about what’s going on. I’m not used to Nordic languages so rely heavily on the subtitles and am slow at realizing what’s happening with the plot but this thriller series is much easier for me that the Lund cycle and far more gripping, fast and tense. I love it though I usually like stuff like Montalban and Poirot with lots of background. By the way I’ve loved all of Brenda Blethyn’s work EXCEPT` Nora or whatever she’s called. She talks like a whining foghorn and is so revolting in her ways that I can’t watch 2 minutes of the program. A wonderful job of acting perhaps but a disgusting creation to have to endure.

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