When it was announced that Martin Rhode, played by Kim Bodnia, would not be reprising his role in Series 3, ‘The Bridge’ lovers around the world wept at the loss of a great actor and character. Although the imprisoning of Martin seemed definitive for his departure, it was too much to ask for fans to be in the least bit happy about the duo being disbanded. It was hard for me, and the audience, to find a version in which Martin wouldn’t be missed: his warm, fatherly attitude; his hair slowly turning grey with each episode; his ability to bring out the best in Saga. However, I can say with such heartwarming relief that Series 3 is successful in not only its ability to replace Martin, but crafting the show in a way that progresses the series onward.
Series 3 begins with the discovery of a dead woman on a building site in Malmö hauntingly depicting as a clown around a dinner table. The woman is identified as Hele Anker, a fertility nurse from Denmark, prompting the Danish police to collaborate with Saga (Sofia Helen) in order to find the killer. Up steps Hanne Thomsen (Kirsten Olesen) to help with the investigation – a fierce cop who sours the relationship with her hatred of Saga. Hele’s death, with the added information of the plan to build a gender neutral pre-school, seems connected to the way she was murdered – the family scene aggressively depicting what a normal white family should look like.
Further on we are introduced to a few possible suspects: Lise Andersen the female blogger who publicly denounced the building of the school; her creepy cleaner whose obsession is bordering on psychotic; The shipping factory manager who trucks were seen near the murder scene (who turns out is married to Lise the blogger); Aleks the newly released criminal with a grudge against the police force. We even begin suspect Morten (Hele’s war hero son whose experience in Afghanistan has strained his mental well-being). Saga and Hanne arrive at his home only to be injured by an IED attached to his door. Saga, luckily, escapes with only minor injuries. Hanne, unluckily, takes the brunt of the damage and is rushed to hospital. In the absence of a Danish detective, Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt) replaces the incapacitated Hanne in the investigation. As the days go by more and more bodies are gruesomely displayed with various parts missing. Are these the calling card of a serial killer with something to say?
Henrik is a fascinating character – a tall, ginger bearded Dane with plenty of professionalism. The first impression we get of the detective is that he is a caring father and loving husband as well as a police detective. But things become a little more complicated when he leaves to go on a date. His wife wishes him good luck – rather strange behavior for a lovingly married couple. Again we are surprised by Henrik when he wakes in the morning for his first day on the investigation. He gets into his car and – just like you or I would take a paracetamol or vitamin – pulls a bag from his glove box and consumes two small white pills. These are some sort of illegal drug that he isn’t supposed to have, yet his ritualistic and casual consuming of these suggest he has been using them for a long period. The revelation that his wife and kids are manifestations of his own grief don’t come as much of a surprise for some, but his acceptance over the later episodes do provide us with a real sense that Henrik is a compassionate but broken man.
A comparison between Henrik and Martin is difficult since they are two characters who are seen as two different men in Sagas life. Whilst Martin is seen as the educator and father (teaching Saga to be more socially active and emotionally aware), Henrik is seen as a very gifted detective and, in later episodes, a lover and friend. It’s these differences that propel the series to follow a slightly different narrative path than under Martin’s presence. As we could see in Series 2, Martin was expanding Saga’s universe to encompass more friends, more colleagues, and a life outside of work. Henrik is the complete opposite, persuading Saga to take up the case involving his families disappearance shrinking the world so it is just the two of them. Whilst we don’t see him as a negative influence in Saga’s life, the next season will undoubtedly be a lonely one for both of them.
We are also introduced to Saga’s Mother for the first time – a storyline fans have hungrily anticipated since the revelation of Saga’s sisters suicide. Like I said here in my ‘preview to series 3’ post, fans have really wanted to see a progression in the story and Hans Rosenfeldt (creator and writer) has graciously allowed us to uncover the truth. The storyline begins with her mother being released from prison and visiting her at work begging her to visit her dying father – to which she refuses. Interestingly enough Hans sets up the narrative in a way that convinces the audience that the mother has changed and will become a positive aspect in Sagas life. And whilst doing that, it shifts the audiences view on Saga depicting her as a paranoid woman who may of actually blamed the parents for something they haven’t done. It even begins to affect her police work in a way which is so uncommon for her. This ‘unhinging’ becomes a permanent factor for the degradation of her mental and physical state throughout the series.
It’s pivotal to stress the importance of Martin’s imprisonment. Whilst it may seem that it’s irrelevant in this series, it’s anything but that for Saga. The lack of Martin’s presence is part of the reason for Sagas disintegrating mental state. If you analyse Saga in stressful one-to-one situations (like, for example, her conversations with the new Swedish police chief) her eyes begin to dart around the room, frantically running from the eye line of her superior. And whilst she does this she tries to convince everyone she is fine. Whilst her voice my sound normal, her body movements and fidgety mannerisms tell another story of a woman who is under unfathomable stress. This is presented beautifully by Sofia Helen who understands that Saga is sinking into a mental breakdown and who further promotes Saga as a strong but flawed female character.
Much has been said about Saga’s attitude and the apparent link between her and Asperger’s Syndrome. Whilst Hans never intended for the character to have any kind of Autism, Sofia researched Autism as a means to build the character. I don’t want to discuss it to a large extent, rather urge you to read a fantastic article published by the BBC and written by Lucy Townsend on “how The Bridge’s heroine became a role model for women with autism”. It’s a brilliant article for addressing the stigmas and misconceptions. It also gives thanks to The Bridge for including Saga’s apparent Autism and showing the condition in such a humanistic way – observing the good and the bad aspects of the condition.
This series, whilst a beautifully crafted drama, is not without its flaws – most noticeably in its choice to pick and drop storylines very quickly. One example of this is Hanne who we do not see after episode 1. I find it counter-intuitive to bring in a replacement officer only for her to feature for such a small period of the series. Another example is Aleks, the recently released prisoner who kidnaps Hans as a form of revenge. Not only does he die in the first half of the season, the money, kids, and wife’s affair are all unaccounted for. It’s frustrating as they obviously spent time building the narrative and the characters, however they completely abandon them later on. Perhaps the biggest criticism is the cleaner who murdered the people mentioned in Lise Anderson’s blog. Whilst we eventually rule out these as ‘copy cat’ killings, it takes Saga and Henrik multiple episodes to make that link. Also, when he disappears into the night, at the start of the series, he never makes a return. It’s these many loose strings of narrative that let the series down. Whilst I appreciate that these can be picked back up in Series 4, you can’t fully expect the audience to be content with all of these random and unanswered storylines. I think it would be too difficult to express my thoughts on the apparent suicide of Saga’s mother. I can only add that in some ways it feels as if series 3 is a filler which is only used to set up season 4’s narrative.
The Bridge, once again, shows the dominance of Scandinavian drama. The surrealistically macabre killings raise so many questions but provide little answers – just like all the great detective series. To its credit, I haven’t even mentioned half of what I want to discuss. Saga’s mental transformation is one of my personal highlights of the series and Sofia Helen’s performance is even more exemplary of a complex character than in previous series. The addition of Henrik was a tricky solution to the lack of Martin, but Thure’s performance is just as convincing. His storyline was emotional, well balanced alongside the main narrative, and made me want to delve into the past to find out more about his families disappearance. Breathe easy, The Bridge fans, this series is just as good as the past two.
Series 4, you say? Well Hans hasn’t decided yet. Seems quite strange to set up all of these narratives for series 4 without actually deciding whether he wants to continue writing for the series. Hans, wherever you are, don’t keep us in the dark for too long!