Following the utterly gripping and nail-biting finale of The Bridge, it’s time for a few reflections on this ground-breaking Danish-Swedish production.
In line with Mrs P. policy, there are NO FINALE SPOILERS (if that’s what you’re after, do head over to The Guardian‘s ‘Bridge blog‘).
The Bridge vs The Killing
Before The Bridge aired in the UK, a number of people who’d seen the series said they’d liked it even more than The Killing. Although I’ve enjoyed The Bridge hugely, I’m not yet prepared to go that far: the first series of The Killing remains my top crime-drama viewing experience and Sarah Lund still edges it over Saga and Martin’s (admittedly great) investigative duo.
This preference is mainly due to the depth of characterisation in The Killing. In the first series especially, the focus was on a small number of characters whom you got to know very well, whereas The Bridge had a larger cast and, with the exception of Saga and Martin, had less time to dig deep. Compare, for example, the picture we were able to build up of Nanna Birk Larsen as the murder victim in The Killing 1 and those of the politician / prostitute at the beginning of The Bridge (merely the first of many). And there were a number of interesting characters who featured heavily in early plot-lines of The Bridge, but then simply faded away. Their disappearing acts may be a reflection of the reality of investigations – people make their contribution or are ruled out as suspects and then the team moves on – but some of their stories felt incomplete and I’d liked to have known more.
Fabulous biting humour
Those minor quibbles aside, The Bridge was a top-notch Scandi treat that had me gripped throughout, and became increasingly assured as time went on. The last four episodes were absolutely cracking.
One particularly fine quality was apparent right from the start of the series: a biting and at times splendidly irreverent humour. Much of this was generated by the interplay between the odd-ball Danish-Swedish investigative couple, and also provided a way of managing the audience’s reaction to Saga as a character on the autistic spectrum (we’re invited to see her behaviour as ‘endearingly odd’ rather than ‘threateningly weird’). There’s been some debate about the suitability of this strategy, but I felt it worked extremely well, and that the writers kept the balance between the humour and the more serious elements of the drama just right. Episodes 7 and 8 were superb in this respect.
In sum, The Bridge is high-quality crime drama firmly located in the tradition of socially-engaged Scandinavian crime fiction, with a wonderful pair of detectives and more twists than fusilli pasta. If you haven’t yet seen it, you’re in for a treat.
And, for one last time, a link to the wonderful title sequence, featuring the sublime ‘Hollow Talk’ by the Choir of Young Believers.