Nordic Saga Ends
♦ Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman takes a look at the fourth and final season of The Bridge, currently on BBC2. Warning: a few spoilers ahead…
The Bridge Season 4
Starring: Sofia Helin, Rafael Pettersson, Sarah Boberg
Directors: Henrik Georgsson, Rumle Hammerich
Produced by Lars Blomgren, Bo Ehrhardt
Scandinavia’s best crime series draws to a close with this final tranche of episodes, and although there are a few too many coincidences involved throughout the run, this is still brilliant television. Few screen characters have been as fascinating as Saga Noren (Sofia Helin), despite her blocking most dialogue and failing to engage on an emotional level with the rest of the ensemble. Thematically there isn’t that much going on, as this season focuses far more about her and her police partner Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt)’s progress, with many previous plot points and markers brought to the fore. A Swedish acquaintance of mine averred that the series had gotten too dark and separate from the realities of Nordic life, even compared to before. But this is Scandi Noir-world, and Saga’s rites of passage in it means greater adversity, with more dissembling misanthropes than ever peopling the grey landscape. Regardless of events ratcheting up even more, it provides a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
The series begins with Saga, like her former partner Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) languishing in prison, wrongly serving a two year sentence for killing her mother – her relationship with her being a key component in this series. A fellow inmate stabs her as she claims that that would prevent her from leaving. However Saga ends up in hospital before being paroled, quickly putting her incarceration behind her as she rejoins Henrik to work on a new case in Denmark. They rekindle their relationship (such as it is), with Saga maintaining the promise she made him in series 3 that she will help him find his lost daughters. They also opt to shack up together, as the action firmly focuses on Copenhagen – her inflexible ways creating predictable tension and division with Henrik’s colleagues. Her nemesis in this instance is Jonas (Mikael Birkkjær), a classic office bully who continually attempts to undermine matters, to no avail.
The familiar labyrinthine story devices are all in evidence, as per usual, with writers Hans Rosenfeldt and Camilla Ahlgren once again opting for a schematic, ruthless serial killer keeping our detectives on their toes. A high-ranking government officer, the director general of the Immigration Service (Margrethe Thormrod), has been stoned to death. The underlying theme here being the inherent injustices of Denmark’s immigration laws (which are certainly tougher than Sweden’s), it turns out that prime suspect Taariq Shirazi (Alexander Behrang Keshtkar) had been connected to Thormrod, as well as being given a mobile phone from two girls that is also connected to the victim’s case. It doesn’t take long when other people connected to the country’s immigration policy meet their ends in equally graphic ways, that the duo realize what’s afoot.
However the ongoing investigation, despite being far closer to the two leads than they think, is almost a backdrop to the psychological trajectories of Henrik, who learns that his wife may have voluntarily left him, and of course Saga, who, regardless of her intense focus on all things forensic, is still relentlessly haunted by her mother’s presence. Having the two of them cohabit provides the odd moment of levity as the odd couple do their best to approximate domesticity, but it’s all a house of cards that proves to be the partnership’s undoing.
All the classic hallmarks are once again present, and indeed correct – the various interweaving plot strands that, for the most part, converge by series end, the red herrings, dead ends and false protagonists, with the real culprits hiding in plain sight. There’s desperate mother and son Sofie and Christoffer (Lisa Linnertorp and Erik Lönngren) on the run from a psychotic ex-husband, who hide away at the behest of Sofie’s colleague Frank (Anders Mossling) in a remote, communal village that clearly is a hotbed for misshapes of every hue, not least the deeply sinister Frank. There’s also the plight of the teenage runaway girls, who serve more than one function in the narrative. Plus there’s an eminence grise in the shape of Red October, a terrorist organization who may be responsible for the death of one of a pair of twins, electrocuted in his bathtub.
Without giving much away, the series does feel like an endgame of sorts, as we witness Saga at least attempting a resolution with her demons. The hapless Henrik, an almost as compulsive character and worthy successor to Martin, also comes within touching distance of closure, despite some new lows for him on the way. Some of the supporting players also have their arcs, but it is Saga who will be missed most of all, as Sofia Helin has confirmed. She has stated in interviews that leaving the character behind is a relief, but she’ll always be within her. One hopes that Nordic crime dramas’ most memorable archetype may be given a retread should Helin and the show’s producers ever change their minds.