The Bridge S2 E1-6 (BBC4)

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I’ve become uncomfortably aware that I haven’t written anything about the latest series of The Bridge, which started its run on January 4 and has just passed the halfway point this weekend.

My discomfort arises in case the lack of a review here in any way suggests that I’m no longer interested in the series or am somehow disapproving of it, or that it’s implying that season two is perhaps not adequately meeting some notion of a quality threshold for inclusion in Taking The Short View. So let me make my position on this quite clear: The Bridge is probably the single best thing on television at the moment. In fact I’m probably enjoying it too much to want to sit down and start deconstructing it in detail afterwards; I simply know that it is fascinating, gripping and engrossing and has some of the most compelling characters currently to be found in modern drama in any language.

More practically, it’s actually quite tricky to talk season two without accidentally giving far too much away in the process. Even reintroducing the characters of Danish detective Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) and his Swedish counterpart Saga Norén (played by Sofia Helin) runs into spoiler territory since to do so rather requires giving away the shocking climax of the first season, which I would hate to do in case some people are still watching either the original production or else the UK remake (The Tunnel) and its US equivalent (starring Diane Kruger) for the first time.

The ending of season one made it difficult to see how a second series starring the same characters could be undertaken, and the first triumph on show here is just how simple and natural the reteaming of Martin and Saga proves to be for a new case after all. Things start when an abandoned freighter runs into the Øresund Bridge that connects Copenhagen and Malmo but quickly moves on from there to a terrorist campaign that involves a mass food poisoning incident and a fuel tanker being blown up.

This second season of The Bridge doesn’t seem as coherently plotted as the first – it’s going off in all sorts of directions, taking time to tell breakaway stories that appear to have little to do with the main investigation and some of which finish up in a literal dead end well before you would expect them to. It gives the wonderfully juicy feeling that there’s so much more going on underneath than we currently perceive, while also leaving enough of a clear central thrust to the proceedings (who is the mysterious figure behind it all known only by their online chat identity ‘Mother of Three’?) to keep us thoroughly hooked and compulsively guessing. There’s still plenty of time for the grand scheme to come together at the end that will make sense of everything; or maybe it won’t, in which case we probably won’t actually mind by then.

That’s because the show is really all about the characters, and not just the central duo. There are some very interesting suspects (shifty shipping magnate Marcus Stenberg, coldhearted pharmaceuticals CEO Viktoria Nordgren and her pallid brother Oliver, EU environment summit meeting organiser Caroline Brandstrup-Julin, her philandering husband Alexander and her sister Bodil – the latter played by Forbrydelsen star Lotte Andersen) and also some engrossing office politics in the police team (Martin’s ‘will they, won’t they?’ dance around Pernille Lindegaard while estranged from his wife Mette, and inept junior detective Rasmus Larsson growing increasingly at daggers drawn with Saga).

But yes, very much at the heart of things once again is the dynamic between Martin and Saga themselves. The latter is firmly established once again as one of the most compelling and unique dramatic creations of recent years, right up there with Forbrydelsen’s Sarah Lund. There was a danger that Saga could very quickly become a one-trick pony, but Helin’s audaciously alien portrayal coupled with some very intelligent writing actually makes her endlessly surprising. The way that she treats others and how she seems to be trying to fit in more with ‘normal people’ including her newly acquired live-in boyfriend Jacob are completely new sides to her; and while it seems that only Martin really ‘gets’ her, you can see moments when even he has to take a step back and bite his lip over some of the things she says and does. At the same time, when he talks with her after she’s been viciously insulted by another member of the team, it’s her response – “He’s not the first … to think I’m incapable of getting hurt” – that suddenly brings into focus a whole new perspective on Saga both for Martin and for the viewing audience as a whole, since we too had been guilty of underestimating the depth of feeling beneath the outwardly automaton persona.

So all in all, a brilliant continuation of the series, and I think I’m enjoying this more ambitious second season even more than I did the knockout first. Now, having set the record to rights, please excuse me if I go quiet on the subject again in order to extract the maximum amount of enjoyment from the remaining four episodes that are left …

The Bridge is currently airing in two-episode double-bills from 9pm on Saturdays on BBC4. The DVD and Blu-ray release of season 2 is on Monday February 3, 2014.

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