The weekend is here, the perfect time to binge-watch for the first or fourth time the brilliant Nordic noir crime thriller The Bridge (Bron/Broen).
Given the plethora of TV series from around the globe available in the United States, the number of shows that I have watched more than once is relatively small, especially since I started covering international television in July 2012. There are only so many hours in a day/week/month that I can devote to telly, so when I do re-watch a program, it is well and truly an outstanding one in my book.
Such is the case with The Bridge (Bron/Broen), the excellent Swedish-Danish crime thriller that has so far spawned five cross-border remakes, including ones set between the US and Mexico, the UK and France (known as The Tunnel), Estonia and Russia, Malaysia and Singapore, and Germany and Austria (known as Pagan Peak (Der Pass)). As of last week, I have watched each of Bron/Broen‘s four seasons at least three times. It doesn’t matter that I know who the villains are and how things turn out in the end, the stories are so intricate and compelling, the lead characters so magnetic, and the productions so engaging that, for me, they have warranted multiple viewings.
The original Scandi noir series (which takes its name from the Øresund Bridge that links Sweden and Denmark) follows Saga Norén (Sofia Helin, Atlantic Crossing, Mystery Road), a Swedish detective based in Malmö, Sweden. Despite being socially-challenged, needing order in all things, and operating in systematic ways at work and in her personal life, owing to (what we can presume to be) Asperger’s Syndrome, Saga is a brilliant and effective detective. She ends up partnering with a Danish detective from Copenhagen following the discovery of a cross-border crime in each of the show’s four seasons.
In Season 1, a dead body is found on the Øresund Bridge, placed dead center across the Swedish-Danish border. But the corpse is actually comprised of the top half of a Swedish woman and bottom half of a Danish woman. As such, the case requires the involvement of police from both countries. Saga, the lead detective for the Swedish police, is already on the bridge when Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia, Killing Eve, The Letter for the King), a friendly, easygoing Danish detective with a great laugh, arrives at the crime scene. Their partnership starts off on rather rocky footing, but over the course of the investigation, they develop a good, solid working relationship as well as a close friendship.
The gruesome discovery on the bridge is just the beginning of what becomes a complex case with numerous victims — one that will involve an egoistic journalist, a kind social worker, homeless people, wealthy investors, innocent school children, and individuals known to the investigators. It is also a sick cat-and-mouse game for the multiple murderer behind it all.
Season 2 opens roughly a year after that oh-my-gawd! Season 1 finale, with a tanker drifting directly into the Øresund Bridge and no one on board answering the radio calls from the bridge command center. As it turns out, the vessel has no crew, but Saga does find a few people aboard — three Swedes and two Danes — who are all chained, unconscious, and looking to be in really bad shape. With Martin back at work following a major trauma, Saga asks both her boss and his, Hans Pettersen (Dag Malmberg, Spring Tide) and Lillian Larsen (Sarah Boberg, Below the Surface), to let Martin join her on the case. Their investigation leads them to a group of eco-terrorists who are responsible for multiple deaths. But an unexpected development turns the case sideways, forcing the detectives to consider a different possibility about who is really behind the attacks and what the motive could be. What they don’t realize is that a much deadlier attack is in the offing.
Meanwhile, Saga has left her days of random sexual encounters in the past and is adjusting to having a loving live-in boyfriend at her Malmö apartment. Over in Copenhagen, Martin is hoping to reconcile with his wife, patch up their marriage, and be one big happy family again, while concurrently engaging in his own kind of intervention with a prisoner. People, though, feel and see things differently when confronted by the truths both within them and staring them in the face, and such is the case in the lives of Saga and Martin. (During the last two episodes, certain scenes were so utterly devastating, my insides were tied up in knots trying to prevent an ugly cry from coming on.)
Opening roughly a year after Saga did one of the most difficult things in her life in the Season 2 finale, Season 3 finds Saga paired up with a resentful female colleague of Martin to investigate the murder of a Danish national, found posed in a ghoulish family tableau at a construction site on Swedish soil. But an unexpected incident requires a change in the cross-border team. Enter Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt, Seaside Hotel), a capable and attractive but pill-addicted Danish detective who is haunted by the unsolved six-year disappearance of his wife and two young daughters.
The first murder victim will not be the last, and someone close to Saga also gets caught in the killer’s web. This development alone is difficult enough for Saga to handle, but when combined with the return of her estranged mother after twenty years, and her police career in jeopardy, Saga teeters on the edge like she never has before. (As an aside, I didn’t think any character could ever take the place of Martin Rohde, but Henrik Sabroe is totally mint and perfectly paired with Saga, and I adore him.)
Season 4. The final season. The one I couldn’t wait to watch when it debuted in the US in 2018, and the one I didn’t want to end, knowing that there would be no more of The Bridge coming after the closing credits.
Set two years after the Season 3 finale, it opens with Saga waiting to learn her fate while Henrik and his crass and boorish partner, Jonas (Mikael Birkkjær, Borgen), investigate the barbaric stoning death of a government official at the foot of the Øresund Bridge in Copenhagen. More victims follow, and with Saga joining the investigation, the detectives realize not one but two key things that link the homicides — and the murders to come, unless they find the killer first.
But things between Saga and Henrik move from copacetic to unworkable, at least for him, so her attempt at making amends and making things right leads her to a much-hoped-for find. Meanwhile, the case they thought they had solved has a big gaping hole in it, as evidenced by another person being in the up-close-and-personal crosshairs of their killer-to-be. Ultimately, Saga and Henrik go their separate ways, not just back to their respective parts of Sweden and Denmark, but in both their lives and their paths, too.
(For as much as I wanted Saga and Henrik to come together as a proper couple, the way the writing team, led by series creator and lead writer Hans Rosenfeldt, closed the series made me feel okay that they wouldn’t. And, by the way, I totally cheered during the final scene.)
Over the course of its four seasons and thirty-eight episodes, The Bridge delivers some of the most well-crafted stories of crimes and personal dramas available on telly today. On multiple occasions during the show’s run, I was tempted to pull out pen and paper and create a flowchart to keep track of all the clues, characters, and incidentals in each season (kinda like when I watched Line of Duty), but decided each time to just go with the flow and enjoy what was on screen.
Similar to many other Euro TV series, The Bridge features numerous actors who have become familiar to us from their work in this and other series. A game I’ve played while watching this show (as well as others) is seeing which actors I recognize by name (if not exactly, then as close as I can get) and then naming a show I’ve seen them in. Here’s the list from my most recent viewings, in which I was successful in both parts: Lotte Andersen (The Sommerdahl Murders), Fanny Bornedal (Equinox), Sarah-Sofie Boussnina (Black Lake), Nicolas Bro (The Killing), Charlotte Fich (Unit One), Thomas W. Gabrielsson (The Protectors), Johan Hedenberg (Johan Falk), Melinda Kinnaman (Modus), Maria Kulle (Miss Friman’s War), Tova Magnusson (The Restaurant), Anders Mossling (Love Me), Adam Pålsson (Before We Die), Louise Peterhoff (Blue Eyes), Julia Ragnarsson (Spring Tide), Lars Ranthe (Seaside Hotel), Sonja Richter (Follow the Money), and Reuben Sallmander (Irene Huss).
So, if you haven’t seen The Bridge yet, give it a go. You might find that, after starting it, the sun has come up by the time you’ve finished that evening’s (now the previous one’s) viewing session. If you have watched it before, perhaps it’s time to get reacquainted with Saga, Martin, Henrik, and the rest of the gang on The Bridge.
All four seasons of The Bridge (Bron/Broen) are available for streaming in the US and Canada on Topic and its apps and digital channels, including Topic on Amazon. (Season 4 is currently exclusive to Topic.)
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