BBC 4 does like to burn through these shows, airing two episodes at a time means that it’s only been 5 weeks since I was a bit apathetic about the pilot, and here I am being a bit apathetic about the rest of the series. Spoilers ahoy.
It turns out the show wasn’t really about what I thought it was, and I remained disappointed for quite a while about that. The whole Denmark/Sweden thing was never really more than the tiniest of sub-plots, not developing into the interesting social/political commentary that I thought was going to be the point of the whole thing. Instead the series was just about a couple of misfit cops chasing a serial killer, that’s not a bad concept for a series at all, I just hoped for something a bit chewier. The border issues turned out to be no more than a plot device to heighten tension, leaving cops without guns in particular situations. Oh, and a very cinematic bridge.
I had a similar disappointment with the motivation of the killer himself. What started out looking like a political activist, highlighting the great imbalances in society and challenging the way that people think about justice and fairness… turned out to be a guy who was bitter because his wife left him and then died in a car crash with their son. After the build up, that reveal just felt a bit “oh, is that it?”. Obviously losing your family is devastating, but turning a previously mostly stable police officer into someone who spends five years planning a series of ridiculously complex murders, all culminating in a single act of revenge against his wife’s lover… just didn’t feel quite as satisfyingly concrete as I might have hoped.
In the end, I’m not convinced that the story actually all held together. If I start to think about it too hard I start coming up with dozens of little questions – how does anyone build a wall that fast? How did a dead officer get a police car without anyone noticing? They may all have answers, and even if they don’t each one is relatively minor, but they combine to a general sense of unease about the solidity of the plot. The way the story developed was reasonably well structured though, the gradual building of the five planned situations, followed by the extended fall out and investigation built up well with a great balance of shock, tension and action. The only real frustration came from the early episodes’ tendencies to spend a disproportionate amounts of time on relatively minor characters (the bloody 70’s porn star social worker I could definitely have lived without).
So I wasn’t completely sold on the destination, but the journey for the most part was entertaining and the company grew on me along the way. Martin and Saga form an entertaining partnership, neither really having the faintest clue what the other one is thinking or doing, but forming a weird trust nevertheless. The problem is that neither character actually should be likeable. Martin is definitely a cheating slimeball, yet somehow manages to come across as more of a loveable rogue. Saga meanwhile struggles back and forth between entertainingly quirky and annoyingly weird. I suspect there’s an element of great actors managing to drag their characters up above some mediocre writing. Saga’s personality in particular seemed to fluctuate depending on whether the writers needed her to be a brilliant detective profiling serial killers motives or a comedy character unable to understand the simplest human needs.
The Bridge may not be the best thing since The Killing, but that’s ok, because it was still sufficiently entertaining. It still looked amazing with plenty of artistic framing and lighting of the grittily dingy Sweden and Denmark (can’t help but think the tourist boards weren’t overly thrilled with the production designers). And the best thing, at 10 episodes, it didn’t outstay its welcome and paced itself well so that stuff happened each week, things were revealed and introduced so everything kept moving quite merrily along. Well, not merrily obviously, because I haven’t really mentioned the fact that’s it’s all a bit bleak and depressing, but if you like that sort of thing, it’s a pretty good way to spend ten hours.