DR, the Danish state broadcaster, has a very limited budget for drama and therefore operates some pretty tight quality controls – and what do you know? They’ve done it again! Well, to be honest, this one was a team effort.
A co-operation between DR and SVT, Bron/Broen (“The Bridge” in Swedish and Danish, the title being rendered that way on screen) is a bilateral murder mystery that takes place in both nations, using both languages – they’re mutually intelligible.
When a woman’s body, or rather two halves of two different bodies, is found on the 5 mile long Øresund Bridge that links the two nations, right on the border, a pair of chalk-and-cheese detectives, one from each country, team up to investigate. A serial killer calling himself the “Truth Terrorist” is engaging in fiendish murders of society’s most vulnerable ostensibly to highlight social problems and the body count is mounting.
The two leads in this show are rotund, recently vasectomised Danish detective Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) and icy, somewhere on the autistic spectrum, Swedish investigator, Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) – I believe there’s some playing with stereotypes going on here. While Martin, a thrice-married man with five kids and a dark secret that proves pretty important, is well developed and nicely played, the focus is largely on Saga.
Saga Norén is a Swedish combination of Temperance Brennan, Luna Lovegood and Parker from Leverage. A woman with very little social skill (her attempts at small talk are pretty funny), a penchant for casual sex before looking at gruesome crime scene pictures in front of said partner and a matter of fact way in terms of everything, she steals pretty much every scene she’s in. In a contest between her and Sarah Lund from The Killing, Norén wins every time – she’s a more interesting character than the rather dour Lund.
This being a Nordic drama, we don’t just focus on these two – a whole slew of ancillary characters turn up and we follow them as they intertwine with the story. From slimy journalist Daniel to property developer widow Charlotte to social worker Stefan and his 1970s porn star moustache, we find ourselves feeling for these characters – especially when some of them don’t make it out of the story alive.
The overall plot twists and turns grand-stylee, but it’s arguably a lot more clichéd than The Killing. I’d say more, but that would spoil the major twist of the tale. The murders genuinely are pretty fiendish and the climax, which appropriately enough takes place on the bridge itself, is simply superb. The social issues raised in this are arguably pretty much universal and a reflection of a common theme in the Scandicrime sub-genre; the reality as opposed to the image of the Nordic welfare states. Also, the theme tune, the English-language “Hollow Talk” by The Choir of Young Believers, a Danish band, is wonderfully melancholic.
Mind you, there’s a distinct dragging in the middle and this could have done with some overall tightening,
All in all, we have another Nordic hit. It’s not as good as Borgen and The Killing, but when Season 2 comes in 2013, I’ll definitely be tuning in.