Tripwire continues its list of its Top 30 Crime and Police shows, selected by its editor-in-chief and senior editor. Counting down to its first choice at the end, here’s its 4th entry, SVT1/ DR1’s Gomorrah…
4. The Bridge
Creator: Hans Rosenfeldt
Stars: Sofia Helin, Kim Bodnia, Thure Lindhardt
After Wallander and The Killing, Scandinavian Noir reached its apotheosis with The Bridge, a Swedish / Danish detective series that encompassed far more than typical straight whodunits, with social realism, psychodrama, political intrigue and conspiratorial cabals all on the agenda. The action centres on Malmo detective Saga Noren (Sofia Helin), a character who is on the spectrum, and her two Copenhagen-based partners in the series – the bluff, somewhat cavalier Martin Rohde in the first two series, and the deeply troubled Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhart) in the final two. The interplay between the two men and Saga provides a motor for much of the drama, with the introverted, unconventional yet extremely efficient Saga a frustrating and challenging prospect for each of them.
Unlike its Scandi predecessors, The Bridge is a pacier, tightly-plotted affair, with the focus far more on forensically graphic detective work. From the first instalment onwards, the tropes are all present – unseen manipulative forces, the big bad lurking in plain sight, contemporary themes about immigration, racism or political extremism, and the overbearing bleakness of both city’s nightscapes. The seemingly diffident Saga has to navigate through the enshrouding urbanism, her own backstory, office politics, and some particularly shrewd and dissembling villains. What is remarkable with Hans Rosenfeldt’s production is how all the labyrinthine plot strands, themes and relationships (the first season’s reveal is very clever) all dovetail by the final episode. There are the expected narrative dead ends, and each time the two protagonists are spent from battling all the demons within them before they can neutralise their nemesis – this is at times a relentless, challenging experience, regardless of the odd contrivance.
At times The Bridge veers into hyperrealism, but it is such a polished, cinematic effort that it barely registers. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent, the script economical, acerbic and razor sharp, while the blend of light humour (especially between Saga and her dowdy co-workers) and the constant existential threat works very well. There is little time for sentimentality in this series, with all the characters at the behest of determinism and the cruel indifference of fate in what is a very claustrophobic setting. The show exudes this with a toned down, muted palette, which adds to its imbalanced undertow – no-one, bar a few, is innocent here.
All of this of course would have been a lesser affair without Saga Noren – her two co-leads are authentically damaged and compelling in their own way, but it is Sofia Helin’s turn that is unique as far as the genre is concerned. One couldn’t say that her performance is towering considering her role, but it is unusually intuitive and brilliantly nuanced – she brings so much to such an enclosed, hermetic character, her bubbling inner conflict etched onto her facial expressions, notably when she is forced into making an impossible decision or confronting her inner terror. The Bridge is an exemplary, ground breaking show that walks a tightrope but confidently succeeds on all levels, daring as it does to leave certain subplots open ended, while Saga Noren is deservedly Nordic Noir’s number one icon. One of the best shows of the last decade in any genre.
The Bridge is on BBC and BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Hulu in the US now