Saturday SkandiCrime: The Bridge 3 – episodes 9 & 10

I’m not sure I have the words for this right now, but then I’m not sure I will have the words ever. What follows is an exploration of an experience that is I think unquantifiable.

The third series of The Bridge came to an end in a manner that verged upon the melodramatic, as opposed to the tragic inevitability that drew the second series to a close. There will be those who will criticise certain elements of the final half hour, and I suppose that if I were capable of objectivity at this point, I might join in such carping. In working its way to the still point that came to exist between Saga Noren and Henrik Sabroe there were things dismissable as cliches, and as unpardonable sentimentality.

But to paraphrase myself some thirty years ago, there are many things that are foolish and fallow in and off themselves that are given strength by context, and by the end I was as deep within The Bridge as was Emil Larsson in his painting that, at the last he attempted to recreate in the deaths of Freddie Holst, Jeanette’s baby and himself.

Yes, Emil Larsson was the murderer, leaving me exposed as right about it not being Creepy Annika and wrong about it being the miserable bastard Claes. Now was the time for the plot to be worked out, and the story burned with a clear light as all the red herrings, the misleading actions, the characters whose relevance to the story turned out to simply be that they were too near at the wrong time, were left by the wayside and episode 9 became a linear, focused story at last.

The opening scene relieved me of my worst fears: Jeanette gave birth, naturally, and the baby was taken. Yes, she was left to bleed out to death, and would have died but for Freddie having placed a controlling tracker in her mobile phone and found her just in time. But when you consider where they could have gone with the extraction of the baby – I am minded of issue 87 of 100 Bullets at this point – this was far less gruesome to watch.

So the hunt was on for the missing baby, and for Creepy Annika, and suspiciously missing Claes, whilst the Police tried to keep Freddie, in his monomania about his son, from throwing himself into the hands of the killer.

Police, in this instance, included Saga, whose suspension was almost laughably short. Speaking of laughably, Linn the Troll actually put the idiot Rasmus up as her replacement, which Henrik treated with the appropriate contempt and, as soon as it was ‘all resources’ had Saga back immediately.

As an aside, I had a hope that Rasmus would confound expectations and prove to be competent, but no, he was still crap. And Saga’s distrust of his combing of the scene of Jeanette’s discovery led to her and Henrik going back and finding a padlocked room, inside which a drugged Creepy Annika was held. This led to her and Claes being cleared in pretty short order and Annika being pretty swiftly punctured by the news that Claes had not reported her missing but seemed rather relieved that she’d gone! There are times when you really don’t want Saga to learn any social niceties, though she was sweet in her awkward apologies to John over his daughter being wounded, and even bought the girl a self-help manual to help her cope with crises!

With all leads cut off, Morton Anker came back into the picture, having tried to get into Fredie’s some months back with a friend who didn’t show. That re-directed suspicions back towards Freddie as an absentee father, which in turn led to investigations at an artificial examinations clinic. No, there were no records for Creepy Anna’s mother Renata, and without a name, the only way to get information was with a code. A code… Henrik’s got one of those and it opens the door. To donor Freddie Holst and mother Anna-Marie Larsson: mother of Emil, who, we rapidly realised, was so far out of sight of sanity that even Jodrell Bank couldn’t locate the echo of him.

Appropriately, a horribly drawn out situation leading to a seemingly inescapable last round of deaths was prevented by Saga and Henrik arriving in the nick of time, though Saga was none too quick to keep Emil, killer of Hans, from strangling to death. The final scenes took place on a small, flat, almost deserted island, Sandholm, adjacent to the Oresund Bridge (I now have the dream of one day driving across that Bridge): midway between Denmark and Sweden.

So the plot is done, but we all know there’s more to come. Linn the Troll complements Saga. Saga asks Henrik to come with her to Hans’ funeral tomorrow. Henrik has seen his girls around the house again but not Alice, his wife. Lilian arrives at his home with news Henrik tries to reject, with panicky intensity that sparked tears: a skeleton has been dug up, after being in the ground six years. For all he tries to void listening, Lilian is implacable. It has positively been identified as Alice. But, oh horror of horrors, she is alone. The girls are lost.

Henrik’s manic attempt to reinvestigate the whole thing overnight, whilst stuffing himself with uppers and downers till he passes out, ends with him in hospital. When Saga visits, he admits to using narcotics, non-stop since the disappearance. It’s a crime that will have to be reported… And in the echo Saga faces, she reminds Henrik of why she doesn’t let people get close to her.

But the spiral begins. At the station, Linn reports that Emil is dead, wrists slashed by a paperclip, stolen from the statement Saga wanted him to sign whilst she was distracted. Instead of reporting Henrik, Saga reports herself. Worse is to come: though Linn the Troll generously says she believes Saga didn’t touch her mother, the forensics mean an investigation will be made. Saga is cop enough to know that the evidence is bad for her, though she’s innocent, she’ll be convicted.

Henrik though discharges himself from the hospital. Lillian won’t allow him to work his daughters’ disappearance either officially or by giving him leave, so he resigns from the Denmark Police. Crossing the Bridge, he finds Saga’s desk cleared, is updated by John. He can’t find her anywhere, but she’s down at the train tracks, where her younger sister committed suicide. He finds her there, tries to talk her round, even starts towards her but she pulls a gun on him and, as the train races towards thrm, she moves, and it’s like Holy Mary, Mother of God, Jesus Christ, she hasn’t, they haven’t, no they couldn’t…

And I really feared, but instead Saga is on her knees, weeping uncontrollably, and I nearly was too, and hell’s bells, but she looked a completely different woman with her face that way, and Henrik puts his arms round her…

The very last scene is them reading the Missing Persons’ file. Henrik discovers a clue, a car stolen, not ten minutes from his house. It’s a lead. It’s also a six year old car theft that’s unlikely to lead anywhere. But they’ve neither of them anyhing better to do…

And yes, you can see for yourselves all the things that people will use to tear down this ending, but I can’t go there, I can never be that objective about it. The game has changed, and if there’s to be a The Bridge 4, which I sincerely hope there will, I haven’t a clue where it will go, but I will superglue myself to the screen if that’s what it takes to ensure I see it.

What did you think?

Saturday SkandiDrama: 1864 – Parts 1 & 2

Peter, Laust and Inge

It’s been a long while since there’s been any decent Danish drama on BBC4 at 9.00pm on Saturday night, but the new historical series 1864 looks well placed to make up for that drought. It may not be a crime series, but then neither was Borgen, and that was none the worst for that.

As usual, there are two episodes, back to back, and I’m assuming that 1864 follows the traditional Danish template of ten episodes, though on the evidence of the first two, a lot of ground is going to be covered and it’s going to be interesting to see if ten hours is going to be enough to complete everything that’s been started here.

For most Britons without an interest in European history, the date, 1864, will be meaningless. It relates to what the Danish call The Second Schleswig War, which will automatically trigger memories in those of us who studied History A Level in the early Seventies and who cannot help but add the companion word Holstein. We know it as the Schleswig-Holstein Question, an obscure point of complex claims about which the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, once claimed that there were only three men in Europe who understood it: one was dead, another had been driven mad, and the third, Palmerston, had forgotten the answer.

But whilst this may seem an obscure and irrelevant point of history to us, the Second Schleswig War is part of a chain of historical events that sent the history of Europe on a course to where we are now. Where the Danes had defeated Prussia in the First Schleswig War, 1848 – 51, in the Second they experienced a crushing defeat that saw the Duchy of Schleswig absorbed into the German Confederation, only a few years before the Unification of Germany under the dominance of the heavily-militarised Prussia, a Unification that would lead, in due course, to the two World Wars of the Twentieth Century.

So yes, the subject might seem of little importance, it is in fact a key step in how Count Otto von Bismark manipulated the fate of Germany.

But this isn’t going to be a purely historical drama, relating the facts of the War. The first episode, in particular, divides its time between 1851, 1863 and a so-far puzzling strand set in 2014. This is because a major strand of the drama is going to centre upon the three-side romance between Inge, the Estate Manager’s daughter, and Laust and Peter, twin-but-very-different sons of Tolger, a tenant of the Baron who returns from the First Schleswig War with a suppurating leg wound that will not heal (and which kills him at the start of episode 2).

Also back from the war, physically wounded but obviously traumatised, is the Baron’s heir, Didrich. Didrich is going to be a problem, which becomes most clear as he attempts to start a seduction of Inge, who is only about 11 here.

Whilst this picture of a genuinely idyllic childhood, shadowed but lightly yet by the aftermath of a war that Denmark has won, goes on, the story alternates with the political build-up in 1863 to the Second War. This centres upon the political Liberal leader, both an enthusiast for the beginnings of modern democracy and an uber-patriot, Bishop Monrad, whose flagging energies are restored by acquaintance with the passionate actress Mrs Heiberg.

And in the twenty-first century, an unpleasant young woman, a self-centred, cynical, weed-smoking slacker who genuinely believes that the world owes her a living is pretty much abandoned unless she starts acting as a Meals-on-Wheels cum Housekeeper for a wheelchair-bound old man who is the contemporary Baron. He’s nearly as offensive as Claudia, though her self-entitled attitude puts her well ahead on points as far as I’m concerned.

The opening episode meanders composedly between these varying elements, making no effort to tie them into a structured story, confident that we will stick around to see how the pieces go together. And it’s not just the reputation of Danish drama that keeps us in place for a second episode, in which a sense of purpose does start to grow, and 1864 starts to feel like something genuinely great.

The second moves the historical action temporarily into 1863, Laust, Peter and Inge growing into young adult roles and still inseparable friends, though sexual interests are beginning to make themselves felt. In Copenhagen, Monrad, encouraged thoroughly by the now-widowed Mrs Heiberg, starts driving Denmark, God’s own, privileged country, towards a war that will unite Schleswig within the boundaries of the country and force its preponderence of German speakers to speak the holy Danish language only.

In Prussia, Bismark begins to prepare a response that will both crush Denmark and advance his plans for German Unification.

And on the Estate, the Baron acts to separate Inge from her friends, sending Peter and Laust into the Army.

In 2014, Claudia is continuing to visit the Baron, though only with an eye for stealing from him things that can be sold to provide herself and her even more offensive boyfriend with money that isn’t theirs. In a chest, she finds and pockets some jewellery before being disturbed by the present day Baron, but she also finds the book, the thick, handwritten book that is Inge’s memoirs and which is being used to narrate the series: her reading from the book underpins the narrative of episode 2 and the draw to bring her worthless ass back for episode 3.

Before which, Laust and Peter return on leave in the midst of a country dance for which Inge has donned an overlarge soldier’s uniform, and smeared her face with a greasy black moustache that draws Didrich’s eye. But instead she goes off to the woods and the shore with her two closest friends. There, stood with them in the water, she kisses Peter first, but it is Laust with whom she loses her virginity, enthusiastically. We will see where this leads.

Given that Denmark’s talent pool for actors and actresses is not very wide, it’s hardly surprising that there are a number of familiar faces on show here, fleetingly distracting you with the shadow of prior roles: LarsĀ Eriksen (The Killing), Pilou Asbek and Sidne Babbett Knudsen (Borgen) and Nicolas Bro (The Killing 2) this far, whilst the trailer for next week reveals that they will be joined by Soren Malling (The Killing and Borgen). Not to mention a face familiar from non-Scandinavian television and a great favourite of all of us here, the wonderful Barbara Flynn.

Given the complete mess made by Fortitude in trying to put together a Skandi-influenced mysterious series, just the first two episodes alone are enough to make me wonder aloud about why Britain, with its much greater resources, can’t do anything half as good as this? I may say that again, several times, during the next four weeks.