The Bridge: Season 1

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.

The whole first season is available on iPlayer at time of writing or on bluray or dvd.
A second season will broadcast late in 2013 according to wikipedia.

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    • David Bentley
    • May 30th, 2012

    Hm, you have to suspend disbelief with these things. You might have mentioned that Saga and Martin wear pretty much the same clothes throughout all 10 episodes if you’re going to nit-pick (not that I wanted Saga to dispense with her leather trousers and boots). I did too, about Sebastian’s wall for August and the police car but ultimately the Bridge was carried by great acting, terrific atmosphere, and the bridge itself.

    • There’s a balance between suspending disbelief and undermining your plot. I’m generally OK up to a certain point, but The Bridge came a bit close to the line where it impacted the logic of the investigation. I think many of the issues could have been resolved with just a few tweaks. But you’re right, I’ll forgive them because I did enjoy the show.

      I hadn’t thought about the clothes – it’s particularly interesting that they made a point of Saga changing clothes, but she only ever seemed to go back and forth between a very limited number of tops. Maybe she just bought multiples of everything – actually, that would be a very Saga thing to do!

    • wwabbitt
    • June 2nd, 2012

    Can anyone tell me how the killer knew that Martin [from another country!?] would be investigating the killings, seeing as the whole story hinged on his solely wanting revenge against Martin? Did I miss something crucial along the way?

    • Oh wow, that’s a really great point! I don’t have an answer for that one.

      I think it’s probably best to try not to think about these things. ;)

      • Richard
      • June 5th, 2012

      The killer didn’t know that Martin would be the lead investigator. But his revenge plan would have worked anyway; the fact that Martin was the investigator was (from the killer’s point of view) just a bonus.

      Bear in mind that all the initial murders in the first 7 or so episodes were aimed at revenge against other people who’d let him down, the killer didn’t need Martin’s involvement in them, neither was it essential that he had investigated them for the killer to make his final revenge against Martin.

      A slightly bigger hole is – The killer, as Sebastien, needed to get close to Mette. That could only happen because of Martin’s infidelity, but there is no way the killer could have made that infidelity happen. (His IM chat with August could have helped him improvise that approach, but then we established early on that he likes to plan, not improvise).

    • kermit
    • June 14th, 2012

    I’m surprised no-one’s mentioned Aspergers, which is clearly what Saga is afflicted with. I agree that Martin is a deeply flawed character though relatively normal, but Saga displays the classic symptoms of Aspergers – the inability to empathise and pick up on the subtleties of interpersonal communication.

    I’m not sure she would be accepted in any police force anywhere, not because she can’t do the job, but because of stringent psychological entry requirements. Martin, on the other hand, though pretty useless as a cop, would qualify without trouble.

    • Leslie
    • July 16th, 2012

    I have to say that I was completely smitten with The Bridge and I am not normally a series watcher. I know someone like Saga and she was brilliant in the role. Excellent!!

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