Saturday SkandiKrime: The Bridge 3 – episodes 1 & 2

It’s been a long wait, far longer than mortal man should be expected to endure, but we are once again immersed deeply in the deep and compelling world of The Bridge. Sofia Helin is back as Saga Noren and, despite the absence, probably permanently of Kim Bodnia as Martin Rohde, despite the inevitably changed dynamics, from the moment the show got on the road it was clear that this was going to be very very very good indeed.

Blogging something as good as The Bridge is considerably harder than it is hapless fluff like Arne Dahl: the depth, the detail, the intensity, the intricacy of the writing, the performances, the direction. It’s a whole order of being different, because there is so much to watch for, so much to take in, so much that prompts speculation as to where this might lead, what effect it might have.

For instance, the series pulls a brilliant trick on us in just the first episode, a lovingly disguised punch. A woman is dead, a Danish citizen murdered in Malmo in bizarre circumstances. A prominent LGBT campaigner, promoting gender-neutral pre-schooling, she has had her heart cut out and, with emoticons painted over her face, has been arranged in a tableau of the nuclear family, sat around a table, mannequins creating this set-up.

Saga has to work with a Danish counterpart, but Martin is in prison, six months into a ten year sentence for last series’ off-stage murder, so Lillian – the Danish Police head who is now three months married to Saga’s boss, Hans – appoints Hanne, an older, female detective. We smile to ourselves, prepare to adjust to the changed dynamic, we watch Saga try to institute small talk with her customary air of bafflement at other’s reactions, we laugh at the awkwardness, we settle in for en episodes – and a trap blows Hanne’s right foot off just before the end.

Danish involvement in the case shifts to Henrik, a thirty-something, handsome, slick guy, who wants the job because it means working with Saga.

More about Henrik shortly. Let’s dial it back to the first episode. We have the murder, and the lack of any real leads or motives around it. On this spine, the series starts to build a mosaic, of people who, initially, we don’t know, doing things that have no apparent bearing on our case, about whom we start to wonder.

For instance, there’s Lisa Friis Andersson, played by the considerably attractive Sonja Richter. There’s a young guy helping out at her home who steals a necklace, which he puts on. Her daughter Karen’s being bullied at school, which is being spectacularly ineffective about combatting it. Lisa’s teaching her daughter to hit back. She’s married to Lars Andersson, in one of whose containers, on his Malmo site, the murder victim was found.

Oh yes, and then there’s Lisa’s video blog. It appears she’s a fundamental Christian, with a strong conviction that she freely expresses. That the victim was a lesbian, trying to destroy the difference between genders and therefore the basis of the traditional family, is something to be welcomed. It’s nasty stuff, that Lisa defends as free speech. So too’s the calm, polite but vicious blog against the priest who conducts Denmark’s first same-sex marriage. Lisa points out that if he’d done that back when the scriptures were written, he’d have been stoned to death: rhetorically, she asks why people think the old  days were bad?

It’s sleek, nasty, inciteful stuff, which Lawyer Lisa denies incites action. So is it a coincidence that, in episode 2, someone strangles the priest, paints his face with emoticons and leaves him dressed up to be found in a playground?

Though she’s not necessarily that Christian: our Lisa would like a pair of leather trousers like Saga’s, because they look hot. In a less involving series, I’d be rooting for her to get them, because Sonja Richter looks like she could seriously rock them.

And there’s Henrik. Long before he’s named, long before we discover he’s a Police detective, he’s acting pretty strangely. He appears to be married, with two girls, but he’s out picking up an attractive, dark-haired thirty-something at a Singles Club, takes her home, has sex with her. But when he gets back home, he’s describing the woman, her name, her apartment to his wife, a scene that sets the nerves jangling with the implications.

He’s a damned good detective too, spots a number of things Saga misses in the second episode, but he’s also trying to pull with her. Young master Henrik is one mother of an enigma. Not to mention a regular pill-popper…

The second half of the second episode is dominated by Hans being kidnapped, at gunpoint. His assailant is Aleks, an armed robber just released from prison, who hwants revenge on Hans for allegedly forcing him to grass up his associates (who don’t appear to be all that forgiving) or else see his wife Samira roped in as an accessory, their kids taken away. Aleks wants money to set up his family, but the loot’s been stolen, Johnny denies taking it but sets him up to be killed.

Unfortunately, Aleks discovers that Johnny has also taken Samira and the girls. He’s about to kill Hans rather than ransom him, when the Police, following Henrik’s deductions, raid his place. The Police miss the concealed basement. But someone following up, with a bloody big gun, doesn’t. Aleks goes down but the mysterious, leather-jacketed rescuer doesn’t free Hans but instead knocks him out with Chloroform. Just like the Clown Killer used on the first victim…

Like I said, it’s harder to blog The Bridge than feeble stuff like Arne Dahl, but the comparison is unfair to begin with. The Bridge has ten hours of story to tell, and demands you look and watch every second, whereas the Arne Dahl‘s only have two hours to begin with. Even if they were good enough to summon up two hours worth of story, there’s simply no basis for comparison between the two.

But of course The Bridge 3 is Saga Noren, is Sofia Helin. What of her? On the one hand, little has changed: Saga does not do change, she does not do any variation on her intensely focussed devotion to her duty. On the other, she has changed. Others keep referring to what she did to Martin, trying to get into her head over her shopping him. Hans is convinced that she must be affected by the loss of her friend, by guilt at not going to see him.

But he’s a murderer, and Saga cannot socialise with a murderer. In 9 1/2 years, when he’s released, she’ll see him then.

But she’s different. There’s a beautifully incarnated extra fragility to Saga. She acts more like a ‘normal’ person at times, having absorbed the need to do so, but there is no real warmth to it, but she is more and more puzzled at its failure, at everybody’s failure to react as they, conventionally, should. Helin’s momentary rigidity indicating a trapped feeling, an urge to fly, her eyes darting around, seeking an escape, these are more intense, but the degree is subtle.

And there is a personal pressure on Saga too. Her mother has reappeared after 20 years, to tell her her father is dying, to try to drag Saga into reconciliation, to ask her to read the medical records of Saga’s sister, Jennifer, who took her own life after years of abuse. Saga is convinced that her sister was driven to her death by Munchausen’s by Proxy, but her pathologist colleague, whom she trusts, tells her that there is no evidence to support that. And he and she trust in evidence.

This is heady stuff. It’s too soon to fully judge, but this is already the best thing to happen to Saturday night since The Bridge 2, and in four more weeks it might very well be the best thing in television all year, and since The Bridge 2 for that.

Four weeks. Just think of it. Only four more weeks.

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