Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 1 & 2)
Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 3 & 4)
Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 5 & 6)
Television Review: The Bridge (Episodes 7 & 8)
Guardian interview with Sofia Helin (Saga)
All 10 episodes still available on iPlayer at the moment of writing
The worse thing’s the anger. You need an outlet for your anger. I work on it every day. – Jens
That dinner you offered. I’m hungry, I’m up for it now. – Saga to Anton
The final episodes of The Bridge delivered a brilliant and tragic conclusion to a drama that had me counting the days to next Saturday. Jens turns out to be Sebastian, who worms his way into Mette’s affections, and impersonates Frida, August’s ex-girlfriend, when he thinks he’s chatting with her online. Because August tells her the police are looking for Anja, Jens is able to track her down first.
Martin is the catalyst for Jens’ grotesque and bizarre revenge. By falling for Jens’ wife, Mikaela, he sets in motion a sequence of events that culminates in the death of August, and Martin’s confrontation with Jens beneath the Oresund Bridge. Along the way, Jens kills numerous people in order to carry out his plan of killing the individuals he felt had injured him – Kristen Ekwall, Daniel, Henning, Emil, Bjorn, and finally August. You might think he would kill Martin, but no. Mikaela was already lost to him, fleeing with their son, Rasmus, to Malmo when the accident on the bridge claimed both lives. Jens lost his son, whose body was never recovered, and he sets out to inflict the same misery on Martin by depriving him of any knowledge of August’s death. All the concern for social justice, as expressed in the five problems he sets the police, is a twisted rationale for carrying out a complex, meticulously planned revenge. As August says, he’s a “fucking psychopath,” who poses as Frida to engineer a closer understanding between son and father, just so the pain will be all the more intense when he rips them apart.
And yet, Jens was a good cop and a good human being, someone with the capacity to be anything he wanted. The energy and brilliance of his revenge points to man who could legitimately have done whatever he set his mind to. The charm and empathy he so calculatingly deploys would have made him loved by all if it were genuine. You can see the emptiness of this moral vacuum of a man in his house – absolutely no personal effects, everything laid out as if for a prospective buyer, nothing even in the bookcase. That’s chilling. His whole life is in the basement, a war room with neatly pinned up plans and data pertaining only to the progress of his revenge. As he tells Mette, in a seemingly innocent context, “The worse thing’s the anger. You need an outlet for your anger. I work on it every day.”
At one point in an earlier episode, Saga tells Jens, “I understand you.” He replies, “It takes one to know one.” But while Saga and Jens share the ability to harness logic and rationality in pursuit of their goals, they’re moving in opposite directions. Jens has catapulted himself out of the orbit of human warmth and empathy, and he’s lost, driven only by cold revenge. Saga is travelling inward, drawn by the strange spectacle of human interaction. She has friends – Hans, Martin, August, Anton. Hans opens the door and provides a supportive environment, so she can be “a wonderful police officer.” But he’s resigning, moving to Gothenburg, so what will happen to Saga now? One of the two most touching moments was the tear running down her cheek after he told her the news. As Hans says to Martin, “She means a lot to me,” who replies, “You mean a lot to her.” The other moment is her clumsy gesture of putting her hand on Martin’s as he hyperventilates and shakes with stress at the thought of Jens hurting Mette and the children. Tellingly, this is the first ever physical contact between them.
Martin is easy-going – essential for the continuation of their professional relationship – but also caring enough to try to make her understand how other people react to her personality. Saga responds to some of his suggestions, learning to praise her team for their good work. “Well done. I mean it. Good job, everybody.” She also learns to sometimes lie in order to comfort people, as when Anja is dying. You can tell when Saga is lying. The “tell,” in the poker sense, is a slight hesitation before she comes out with the lie. Jens, on the other hand, lies through his teeth and you’d never know. But for her friends, she tells the truth when it’s important. So she tells August that Mette and the children are “probably” dead. But it’s the lies about Martin’s relationship with Mikaela and his meeting with Jens that really hurt. You can see the distress in her face, and of course Hans picks up on it right away.
Saga: I don’t know where he is.
Lillian: Saga, if something happens, it’s your fault.
Hans: You’ve never been much of a liar.
Saga: But I’m getting better, right?
Saga saves Martin from destroying his life by killing Jens on a live broadcast, but only by disregarding all the rules she has internalized about police procedure. The old Saga would not have insisted on protecting her colleague, to the extent of forcing her way onto the bridge and shooting Martin so he could not kill Jens. She arrived at her understanding of Jens’ motivations through logic and rationality, something she shares with him to a high degree. And she cannot avoid telling Martin the truth that August is dead – a friend deserves no less, even if it means he will try to shoot Jens.
When Saga visits Martin in hospital, she blames herself for August’s death, despite the fact that he would never have been found if she had not noticed the clues in the kitchen – plaster in the sink and builder’s twine in a drawer.
Saga: I’m sorry, I was too late.
Martin: You did all you could.
Saga: It wasn’t enough, I let you down.
In fact, that’s what human beings do all the time, Martin in particular, with August, Mette, and their children. The important thing is to do your best while recognizing that you’re not perfect – August says as much to Jens when describing Martin. Saga has started on a journey into the world, perfectly expressed in her reaction to Anton’s phone call. “That dinner you offered. I’m hungry, I’m up for it now.” And Martin has been shaken to the core, so he will now have to re-engage with a different world.
The Bridge has to be the best crime drama I’ve ever seen, and I’m really glad there’s going to be a sequel. Needless to say, Saga has to team up with Martin again for further adventures in crime and humanity.
Thanks to Steve Thomas for posting this clip of Hollow Talk in the comments for Episodes 1 & 2.