Hello beautiful human. Yes, it is true that I often feel, especially early in the morning when I stare bleakly at the screen with the bleary eyes of the restless non-sleeper, that I am an alien from some other place in the universe who somehow got stranded here on Earth, and that my task (which I have had to accept regardless of what the dude* in Mission Impossible had to say about it) is to schmooze with this planet’s inhabitants, meaning that I am doing a terrible job so may as well get started afresh with a well-deserved compliment. I hope you are doing very well indeed.
Anyway it is a fresh morning in the small town in New Zealand where I live. It is a very nice town that was originally settled by Scandinavians from Norway, Denmark and Sweden though there have been plenty of others jostling for their place in the community history and consciousness, among them the alien! It is a coincidence that I have settled here and that I am a fan of “Scandi” film and television, but it is a nice coincidence. A recent post in this blog was about The Killing, a Danish “noir” series that had three seasons. After finishing that harrowing excursion into the genre, I picked up almost by accident The Bridge, a Swedish-Danish co-production.
The Bridge has had three seasons and its creators promise a fourth, to be released next year. There will be endless elaborations in other countries – there has already been an American spin-off – of the adventures of Swedish detective Saga Noren and a Danish counterpart as the usual line of Scandinastian villain does ever more horrific things to a string of victims who surely, whatever their faults, did not deserve to be treated in that way.
Like The Killing, the storyline of The Bridge is mind-bogglingly elaborate, full of herrings red and otherwise. It may or may not be a sign of my own incisive mind that I picked the villain out from the lineup on first appearance, just like that.
Whodunnit is not, however, what is attractive about this series. Nor is the ever more inventive gore. Saga Noren steals the show, taking The Killing‘s Sarah Lund-style fractured personality and developing it into the most deeply read and sensitively realised portrayal I have ever seen. The Bridge might not be television as it ought to be, but it is nonetheless better not only than The Killing, but also the Swedish Wallander.
Arguably this is the result of the extended development of Noren’s personality. My usual complaints of TV series are present in The Bridge – the apparent need (presumably financial at root) to have a template that is repeated each episode may begin as something eye-catching and even heart-clutching, but after a few instalments is merely irritating.
What is amazing about Noren is the development of a personality that at the outset is already extremely intense. The actress portraying her, Sofia Helin, has said that the character she has brought to life so tellingly is autistic in some unspecified way. Noren is fascinating, and it is a tribute to the actress and to the producers that the character can not only be individual and well portrayed but change and develop through 30 episodes. As her relations with those around her become increasingly complex and the pressure goes on, her responses are heart-wrenching. One can imagine the whole of humanity, plus one alien, cheering her on.
The Killing ended ambiguously (sorry, no spoiler) and the fourth series of The Bridge may follow suit but I hope it doesn’t. Saga! Triumph over all! We are on your side!
*The man who told the star, Peter Graves, that the tape would self-destruct in five seconds. Graves had a choice, though it seems he always accepted the challenge. See however “You don’t wait ages for a post, and then. . .” on this blog, wearing if you feel the need a tinfoil hat.