Scandinavia needs to get more credit for producing some really cool stuff. They have spawned incredible bands over the past couple of decades that never really get the fame or applause from North American audiences, and now they have started to create some really good, dark, and interesting television.
Probably starting with the original version of The Killing, they have struck again with the simple and ominous The Bridge. This is a review of the original Danish/Swedish show, not the American version (which I have not yet seen).
The story begins simply enough, with a body being found on the bridge that connects Copenhagen to Malmo (the bridge itself is impressive, and huge). The first twist of the show is that there are actually two bodies out there, and since it was placed directly on the border between Denmark and Sweden, it requires a police investigator from each country to help solve the crime.
Our two leads in the series are Saga (played brilliantly by Sofia Helin), the Swedish investigator who is abrupt and to-the-point, as she has a mild case of autism, and Martin (played by Kim Bodnia), the Danish family man who has a history of poor relationships and choices with women. The two of them, right from the start, manage to play off one another perfectly, creating for us an excellent team that is always entertaining to watch.
The Bridge doesn’t stop with one murder, however. The killer expands his reign of terror, and wants to point of five problems in the world, and create anarchy on the streets of the two usually quiet nations. It is interesting, and there are some moments where you feel like the great film Se7en served as inspiration.
Saga and Martin run between the two countries, following their leads, trying to break the codes left by the “Truth Terrorist,” all while dealing with issues in their personal lives.
It makes for often riveting television.
In all honesty, I felt that the show sagged a little bit towards the end of the first season, after they had identified who the killer is, and are simply trying to find him. This was quickly pulled back together, and created a riveting ending to the first season of the show, again with some influence from Se7en. Not a rip-off, but some of the questions that were raised by that film are revisited in the show, and it is done quite well.
The Bridge provides us with an interesting killer, one whose grand plan is not dissimilar from one of the villains of Dexter, but it is always done better. Cold and calculating, he influences the people of Denmark and Sweden, making some question if he really is a villain or not.
Overall, this was an excellent show. I may not have been as captured as I was on another recently watched foreign crime show, Broadchurch, but it was still excellent stuff. One warning to viewers on Netflix…you will have to read subtitles. I realize this is a huge turnoff for many viewers, but it is well worth it. The Scandinavian languages are pretty interesting and fun to listen to, and the reading never interrupts major action scenes or anything. Like any movie with subtitles, you get used to it quickly, to the point where you never notice that you are reading the dialogue.
The portrayals of both Copenhagen and Malmo are fantastic as well. Beautiful places are made haunted by the social issues that are prevalent not just there, but all over the world. The creators do a great job of showing us the dark, seedier side of places that are normally seen as fantastic. Also, the music excels in this show. From the haunting opening theme, to the score of the series, it is always understated, and adds a chill to the scenes on the screen.
All of the action and plot aside, The Bridge can also be seen as a show about people working together, and making their lives right. The characters of Saga and Martin are very strong, with a lot of depth and development. It makes the show a strong character sketch, and aside from the intensely interesting murder mystery, they help drive the show forward and keep us glued to the screens.
While The Bridge was not my favorite crime drama, it is definitely in the running. The darkness and simplicity of the setting fits perfectly with the complexity of the story. A very good show.