The Bridge – Review of Episodes 1 and 2

At the centre of the 7,845 metre Oresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden, lying across the yellow line that marks the border between the two, the lifeless body of a woman is found. Although the victim at first appears to be Swedish, the national juristiction of the case turns out to be far from clear, leading a police officer from each country being assigned to the case. Swedish investigator Saga Noren (Sofia Helm) and her Danish counterpart Martin Rodhe (Kim Bodnia) both soon realise that they’ve been pulled into a difficult, bizarre and highly complex case.

Thus begins the acclaimed crime drama The Bridge/Bron/Broen, whose first episodes aired last night on BBC4 between 9.00 and 11.00pm.

Even from the title sequence, with its beautiful, nocturnal time-lapse photography and haunting theme (‘Hollow Talk’ by the Choir of Young Believers), it was clear that we were in for a treat. By the end of the first two episodes I was fully gripped, as the investigative narrative unfolded and two intriguing sub-plots took shape: a rich wife rushing her husband to hospital for a transplant operation, and a man helping a young woman escape an abusive husband, but with a murky past of his own.

In Saga Noren and Martin Rodhe we are given a classic investigative ‘odd couple’. Saga is a particularly interesting character, whose sometimes unconventional behaviour leads her colleagues to regard her as ‘a bit special’. She is a brilliant and knowledgeable investigator, who is ruthlessly logical and focused, and finds social niceties a baffling waste of time. As already discussed in the comments of an earlier post, it’s possible that she has a form of high-functioning autism. (In terms of other TV characters, she reminded me a bit of Star Trek‘s Seven of Nine!) Martin, by contrast, is more of an old school cop, who has a complicated private life and doesn’t always do things by the book, but who seems to take Saga’s behaviour (such as calling him in the early hours with a fresh lead) in his stride. The dynamic between the two looks promising.

- Hmm, not sure what I make of you.
- Feeling's mutual

Some other random observations at this point:

In contrast to The Killing, there are moments of genuine, albeit dark humour in The Bridge, which worked well for me. Watch out for Saga’s ‘romantic’ date (and make a note of how not to put off hunky Swedes the morning after).

The obligatory autopsy scene allows us to appreciate Saga’s intelligence and investigative focus (and was therefore justifiably included in my view). There are some quite graphic photos from the autopsy featured later on, but I’m hoping that’ll be it for now.

The series has an interesting 70s styling. Its palette of browns, oranges and beiges reminded me a little of the recent film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directed by the Swede Tomas Alfredson. One of the characters (flares, leather jacket, moustache) could have stepped straight out of Life On Mars.

I’m very much enjoying the transnational flavour of the series, which is evident in the Danish/Swedish credits, the characters’ dialogue, and of course the plot itself. And yes, they do all understand one another, but Martin has to repeat himself more s-l-o-w-l-y at one point so that the Swedes can follow him properly!

The murderer’s motives look complex and interesting: ‘if you had cared there would have been no victims’. It looks like the series will follow in the tradition of Swedish crime writing (Sjowall & Wahloo, Mankell) by foregrounding social issues. Mindful of spoilers, I shall say no more.

The Oresund Bridge looks remarkably like the Severn Bridge at times (Welsh-English remake please!).

Tonight’s episodes are both repeated and available on BBC iPlayer.

Below is a handy map with the Oresund Bridge to help with orientation: it joins Denmark and its capital city Copenhagen on the left and Sweden’s Malmo, the third largest city after Stockholm and Gothenburg, on the right.

Looking forward to next week’s episodes already!

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16 Responses to The Bridge – Review of Episodes 1 and 2

  1. An excellent review, Mrs.P! I’m going to have to try to see it if/when it’s available here in the States.

  2. westwoodrich says:

    We recorded last night’s episodes and now very much looking forward to them. Thanks for the review.

  3. Maxine says:

    I daren’t read this as I am recording the series (I hope – just got a new “box” so I hope it works ok). But I think you liked it! Looking forward.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your review – are you going to blog about each episode?

    • Mrs P. says:

      Thanks, wherethebodiesare – I’m very glad you enjoyed the review. I won’t be blogging every episode, mainly because Mrs. Peabody has a non-spoilers policy, and it’s difficult to blog individual episodes without giving too many plot details away. But there will most certainly be Bridge posts here in some shape or form over the next few weeks!

      If you’re interested in weekly posts that go into lots of detail about the plotline, I’d recommend Vicky Frost’s posts in The Guardian. Vicky blogged The Killing on a weekly basis when it was running and did an excellent job. Now she’s getting her teeth into The Bridge:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/apr/21/the-bridge-season-one-episode-one

      Best wishes, Mrs. P

  5. Pingback: BBC4 The Bridge Episodes 1 and 2 « It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

  6. I don’t feel as positive Mrs P. I found Saga’s character not well-drawn at all. Loved the rest though. http://wp.me/p1Jkce-1aG

    • Mrs P. says:

      Thanks, Rhian. I’ve read a couple of comments to the effect that her characterisation was a little overdone, but I liked the attempt at a very different type of investigator. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing how she develops. I’ll pop over to see what you thought of the whole in a minute :)

  7. Sam says:

    I agree Saga has been given, and acts well, an interesting character, bit I wonder if it may be justified in saying she’s well on the way to being sociopathic, like many criminals. Maybe that makes her an effective copper, as well. There often seems to be a very fine dividing line between the criminal mind, and good law enforcers’.

    • Mrs P. says:

      Interesting, Sam, but I didn’t really read her in that way – the implication is more that she is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. But you’re quite right about the link that’s often made between the master criminals’ minds and the best detectives’ minds: characters like Dupin and Sherlock Holmes are able to understand the criminal mind and its thought processes, implying a kind of affinity – two sides of the same coin.

      • NomadUK says:

        As the father of a son with Asperger’s, all I can say is that Saga is clearly an aspy, and it’s obvious that this is the intent of the writer. There’s simply no question about it; the characterisation is spot on. The discomfort that some people here are finding with her is a tribute to the skill with which Sofia Helm is playing her character.

      • Mrs P. says:

        Thanks very much for your comment, Nomad UK. What I liked in particular was the way that Saga’s interactions with others were explored: she sometimes got into potentially hot water (filing a report against a new colleague), but at other times her very logical approach was an advantage (helping to calm the journo in the car). I’m really looking forward to seeing where they take her in the course of the series…

  8. Pingback: Reflections on The Bridge / Bron / Broen | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

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