For those who haven’t spent the last five Saturdays devouring the second series of Scandinavian crime-drama The Bridge, which concluded on BBC4 last night, you need to embark on a ten-hour iPlayer binge, pronto. The Swedish/Danish co-production, in which two detectives from either side of the border partner up to solve an increasingly complex series of gruesome murders, is simply the best thing on telly right now.
Partly this is because the setting is incredibly beautiful, especially the eponymous Øresund Bridge which always seems to be ominously shrouded in mist – this, along with the icy blue hue that bathes every scene, greatly adds to the inescapable sense of foreboding. But it’s mostly down to Sofia Helin’s fantastic performance as brilliant cop meets autism sufferer, Saga Noren.
Invariably upfront and honest, Saga’s difficulty in understanding what is socially acceptable is actually what makes her such a compelling character, allowing her to ask the kind of uncomfortable questions, like if a man’s dead daughter worked as a porn star, that more ordinary cops like Martin would shy away from. But there is far more to Saga than asking inappropriate questions and unabashedly stripping off in a busy office when she thinks her shirt is too smelly, and in series two we are treated to a more vulnerable side to Saga.
Over the course of the series we learn more about Saga’s difficult upbringing involving a sister who committed suicide and a mother who suffered from Münchausen syndrome. We also get to witness Saga embark on her first proper relationship when new boyfriend Jakob moves in, something which provides rare comedic moments as Saga tackles the relationship in her own way, escaping to a hotel when she needs her space and asking for sex when his mother is in the next room. These glimpses into her personal life add a subtle sense of vulnerability making her far more engaging than a simple socially oblivious detective, and it’s quietly devastating watching her reaction to the end of her relationship: “It’s sad I failed as a girlfriend.”
Saga is paired up with Danish detective Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), who is carefully attempting to re-build his life and marriage following the death of his son, August, in series one. This mostly consists of visiting August’s killer, Jens, in prison to torture him with old case files and takeaway coffee. As a fairly ordinary man, Martin is our entry point into Saga’s world, often acting as the audience’s shocked, dissenting voice to Saga’s social faux pas. What’s interesting about their relationship is that it’s one completely devoid of sexual tension. Even with serial-humper Martin on the scene, there’s never a suggestion that their relationship is anything more than platonic. They simply seem to compliment each other perfectly, with many of the series’ highlights coming in the frank, open conversations they share during regular jaunts across the bridge in Saga’s hideous vintage Porsche.
Obviously, there’s a crime to be solved and, as is always the case with Scandinavian dramas, it’s an excellent example of how to maintain tension during a slow burn reveal. It all starts when a ship runs aground beneath the bridge and is found to be carrying seven dead bodies. This is one of many attacks orchestrated by a quartet of animal masked wearing eco-terrorists who are offing as many people with corporate fruit baskets laced with a new strand of the pneumonic plague.
There’s a shade of the Truth Terrorist in their Bob Dylan-inspired YouTube videos, but the group is not the big bad of the series. True to form, the writers keep the audience guessing and our suspicions fall on everyone from cancer-stricken business woman Victoria Nordgren and her pervy brother Oliver to Caroline’s weirdo husband who desperately wants her to have breast implants so that he doesn’t have to shag her sister anymore. Of course, the real culprit is the one person we never suspect, or even really notice, as the plot builds to the big finale, or graduation as the still unknown Mother of Three calls it, that somehow manages to pull all these seemingly unconnected plot strands together into a satisfying, and plausible, conclusion.
Series two of The Bridge is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and features the kind of dark, twisty-turny plot that only Broadchurch has come close to matching in this country. With series three already confirmed, and this series ending on a dramatic cliff-hanger with Martin’s life taking yet another turn for the worst, there’s seemingly no chance of the Scandinavian invasion of our screens losing pace any time soon.
Click here to watch the trailer for The Bridge – Series Two