NOTE ON SPOILERS: If I didn’t include some spoilers, there would be nothing to discuss, so if you haven’t already seen this on BBC Four, please be forewarned. However, I have tried to be as brief as possible and avoid any major plot spoilers. The problem, of course, with that is that it may appear to some that nothing much happens, and nothing could be further from the truth…
Loss, grief, lies, sadness, stalking, mutilation, drugs, child porn, affairs, darkness, murky pasts, kidnapping, gambling, ghosts, suicide and of course murder. The Bridge is back!
Whilst this season sees the return of Saga, Martin is a no show, mainly due to him being incarcerated at the end of series 2. Is he missed? No, probably not. At least not as big a loss to the series as it would be if Sofia Hellin left, but he is certainly mentioned quite a bit in the early episodes, presumably to set some kind of undertone of guilt at his situation. In fact, with one of the key themes being ‘the past’ in this series, Saga is shown to be just as affected as the victims and suspects, and Martin isn’t the only aspect of her past that comes to haunt her…
In keeping with the partnership between Denmark and Sweden, Martin is duly replaced by an equally as unwilling Danish successor who doesn’t last long before being catastrophically removed, and replaced in turn by Henrik, a man who seems a better match for Saga. A man who, on the face of it (and we should know the Bridge well enough by now to know that everything is not always as it seems) has a very odd relationship with his young family where he can go out at nights and meet (and sleep with) strange women.
Plot-wise, the case itself kicks off early with a murder and macabre staging of the body of a gay-rights promoter. It would appear there is a killer intent on promoting traditional family values (of the sort generally trampled upon by protagonists and antagonists alike in this programme) above all else. But with the Bridge, we know that red herrings appear as much in the plot as on the plate.
All the way through, there are gory and grisly murders that weave together the characters who so often come and go. You really have to pay attention, and it is easy to miss details that become important later on.
The setting is typical Bridge – night is dark and day is washed out. The absence of primary colours is highlighted neatly by Asa Holst’s utter objection to a green room in an otherwise completely white house. Speaking briefly of Scandinavian décor, epitomised by the Holst’s mansion, the Bridge seems to be telling us that the neater and more orderly everything seems to be on the surface, the more unhappy and flawed people seem to be.
The pacing is very fast, just like Saga’s car, which is so perfectly suited to the character. It’s fast, functional, beautiful in an unconventional way, and certainly not glamorous. The car which of course conveys our lead frequently across the eponymous Bridge.
Speaking of the Bridge (which we must, briefly), surely everyone knows by now it is half a bridge and half a tunnel – if you haven’t already, look it up on Google maps – you see a bridge disappearing into a hole in the middle of the sea. It’s fascinating, and of course looms large over this series.
At any rate, the fast pacing along with the large number of characters and subplots that seem to have nothing in common do make this an exercise in paying attention. It also seems to be dark most of the time and I cant always tell if we are in Malmo or Copenhagen unless the twisty tower or the circular forecourt (of the Copenhagen police) are shown. And with the languages sounding awfully similar to my ignorant ear, it is difficult to tell which characters are Swedish and which are Danish.
But whichever language is spoken, the performances are all top notch. Sofia Hellin as Saga is excellent, with twitchy facial movements reminscent of Claire Danes in Homeland. That aside, she seems to have become colder, more determined. While her bluntness, particuarly with Henrik, leads to some of the most cringeworthy (the singles club) and funny (My Little Pony) scenes in the series, it is when, with her new boss, she is on the receiving end of the same brand of bluntness that we see Hellin’s finest scenes.
While the subplot of Saga’s sad past is driven by the presence of her mother, this relationship also drip-feeds us more information and more insight into Henrik’s sad situation, so much so that it is these stories on which we end, once the case is wrapped up. Henrik is given a part resolution which of course only makes matters worse and the most important part of Saga’s life is about to be taken away. As a result, a common purpose sets them off on a road together, the road in question of course is the one that goes across the Oresund Bridge.
Disc extras include an hour-long documentary including earlier series, so of course Kim Bodnia is included (which is actually a lovely nod to the theme of ‘past’ in this series). There are interviews and behind-the-scenes with lots of chilly-looking people including the creators. It gives interesting insights into themes, setting and cinematography.
There is also an “audience with Sofia Hellin” – a live stagechat in English (held in London although bizarelly with an American interviewer). Again, fascinating insights particularly into Saga’s characterisation, but it is really wonderful to see Hellin’s real facial expressions which unsurprisingly include more smiles and far fewer frowns. While I sincerely hope there will be a fourth series, I feel pleased that Sofia Hellin will get some respite from the constant frowning!
The Bridge Series 3 is fantastic gripping stuff. Slow, thoughtful yet quick paced and no filler. It is one of the best crime dramas out there, from any country. Even if you have seen it on BBC Four already, I guarantee you will pick up more from a second watching on disc. I will certainly be watching it again without the distraction of writing notes and the pressure of writing a review – as I said before it is so easy to miss important details.