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Review: The Bridge, BBC4 Saturdays and iPlayer

Since the New Year I’ve been busy keeping my one and only resolution, which has been to write something creative every day. This wasn’t so much a resolution as a decision to make time to do what I really enjoy. I think life is much better if we find out what really works for us and do more of those things, rather than trying to spend too much time doing things we don’t really like.

Anyway, yesterday I had a morning off because someone was coming to fit my new oven. I am very pleased because this oven has amazing features no oven in this house has boasted for years. For example it:

- Has a fan
– Has temperature control
– Gets hot

So: Monday morning and unusually I have time to kill.  I decided this is a good time to catch up with this series I have been reading about: The Bridge. I don’t know much about The Bridge, apart from the fact that it’s Danish/Swedish, is said to be good, and has that bleak, spare Scandi-drama look about it.

The Bridge is so called because it is based around crimes that take place either in the stretch of water between Sweden and Denmark, or on the bridge that joins them.  There’s another thing I didn’t know – there’s a bridge that joins Sweden and Denmark!  How crazy is that?   (It’s called the Oresund Bridge and it boasts 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor.)

In this second series, an abandoned ship runs into one of the pillars of the bridge; in the hold are found five unconscious teenagers, three Swedes and two Danes. Detective Saga Noren, in charge of the Swedish side of the investigation drives over to Denmark to find her Danish colleague, Martin, with whom she ran an investigation in Series 1.  Interestingly, Series 2 begins with a catch up summary of Series 1, and many of the plot strands regarding Martin’s character are based around the death of his son in Series 1 and the part Saga played in that story.

Because I don’t know anything about the characters in it either, I’m totally overwhelmed by how grumpy Detective Saga Noren is.  She makes Inspector Morse look like a children’s entertainer.   Even a fictional universe peopled as it is with troubled detectives, Saga is unusually harsh.  She is the grumpiest detective in the world.

On number of occasions, she gets upset when people refer to the ship as a boat; apparently, a ship is defined as a vessel larger than a certain set of dimensions, and Saga can’t understand it when people don’t get this.

The criminal organisation taking responsibility for the shipping accident use the symbol of a golden frog.  Saga points out that it is actually a toad, and frowns at the person who calls toads reptiles; they are amphibians.

When a hopeful underling says that he wants to come out on an assignment with her, “because he wants to get some fresh air,” she frowns and says, “Well, go for a walk then.”

Saga spends a lot of time frowning, looking puzzled at the world.

I decide to do a Google and it turns out that she has Asperger’s, or is an “Aspie”, which explains why, when Martin says “Say hello to Jakub for me”, she says, “But he doesn’t know who you are.”

The use of an Aspie character makes me think a lot about the Aspie friends I have here, and those who live with an Aspie. It makes me wonder how they would see this drama, and whether they would think it was exploitative, using the traits of the character as entertainment, or whether they would think it sensitively and realistically done.

For a start, I do think it can be harder than normal for people with Asperger’s to progress in their careers. People make fewer allowances than you would think for a disability that in many ways doesn’t hinder you from making a contribution to the working world in many other ways. I wonder in real life how tolerant bosses would have been of Saga’s quirks.

On the other hand, the very characteristics that make Aspies different from others can be a positive advantage: Saga pores obsessively over footage and finds crucial patterns, and can even spot lies where people’s patterns of behaviour are wrong, although she is unable to process unmappable behaviours in people.

It’s also interesting that Saga is living with Jakub, her boyfriend, and first proper relationship. I end up worrying for her! Will her partner understand her? Will their relationship survive Saga’s emotional unavailability, and her suggestion that Jakub could keep all his stuff in his boxes instead of unpacking when he moves in with her?

There’s plenty of plot, but also lots of truly interesting interior drama, where a satisfying proportion of the characters’ actions are based on realistic motivations and the subtleties of their inter-relations, all played out by superb actors.  Martin in particular is full of turmoil and uncertainties, balancing Saga’s directness dramatically and also in trying sometimes in te gentlest of ways, and only where absolutely necessary, to explain the effects of some of her behaviour.  And there’s a very sensitive sub-plot involving the young brother of one of the criminals (although I would say that the ability of a person to recover from petrol burns in the time suggested, with no trace of injury, is something of an over-statement regarding the claims of Scandinavian efficiency.)

Denmark, Sweden, the water, the bridge, all look beautiful in the TV shots: sophisticated, pale, with a sleet blue grey wash over it. Everything is very organised, clear and well thought out: the roads, the buildings.

There’s also the most amazing twist ever at the end of Episode 1. Wow. Didn’t see that coming.

Definitely worth a watch.

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20 Comments

  1. Hi Denise – you join my husband as a fan of The Bridge – he’s totally hooked! I have trouble with sub titles and the lack of colour so I tend to do my writing while its on. Each to his own, as they say… :)

    • The lack of colour is quite weird isn’t it? I found myself thinking how do they DO that?

      Hooked is the right word for me too. I used one of the episodes in the evening as a reward for doing some minutes and I’ve never turned them around so quick in my life before.

  2. Have I been living under a rock? I’ve never heard of this show, but your review makes it sound very exciting, Denise. So happy to hear you now have an oven that gets hot…very important.
    P.S.
    I hope you’ve trashed the fire hazard Christmas tree. :) xo

  3. I wonder if this show is available where I am. Glad you found something to get hooked on! I also like this thinking: “I think life is much better if we find out what really works for us and do more of those things, rather than trying to spend too much time doing things we don’t really like.” I think we definitely spend a lot of our youth doing things that we feel we ought to be doing.

  4. Yours is the second blog post I’ve read this week about The Bridge – which I hadn’t heard of before I read the first one. I know exactly what you mean about whether featuring someone with Asperger’s is dubious entertainment or enlightened consciousness-raising. There’s been a huge rush of books with Aspie characters and the same question of representation arises in them all. And yet, what are we asking when we question that representation? Are we saying that authors have to promote the disability in some way? Are we saying that those with Aspergers themselves have to behave in a certain way to be sympathetic? It’s a real moral maze isn’t it? And one for which I have no answers! It’s like wondering if we could ever have a villain in a wheelchair ‘innocently’ again, or whether Stavros or whatever that James Bond one was called, could never be seen on our screens again. Oh and your comments about the oven really made me laugh! I’m so glad you now have one that gets hot. :)

    • I could never make anything that called for a really hot oven before, like crackling, and I am so looking forward to making my oven’s first roast this weekend!!

      I think Asperger’s is a particularly “lit-friendly” condition. It’s distinctive. It has its own world and logic, leading to the ability for an author to create stuff. It has lots of positive characteristics that can sometimes be romanticised, and which can help move a plot along. All this makes me nervous about whether what I am seeing is realistic or not. And as you say makes me wonder whether we are colluding with an image of the “acceptable” Aspie that is not realistic.

      So I am glad to see that Sherri has commented to say that she thinks it is. The issue felt sensitively handled and I am glad to have confirmation that someone with more knowledge than I have feels this way too.

      It’s not a duty of artists to promote the disability, but I do think that if artists can raise awareness at the same time as creating, then that is a good thing. I think about this blog post http://autisticook.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/this-is-autism/ a lot when I am considering the difficulties people with Asperger’s must face. I think there would be many fewer misunderstandings in life if people were just more aware of the way others can think differently.

      • Well I completely agree with you on your last point – yes, when authors can encourage people to see things differently, without prejudice and ignorance and with compassion, then that is one of the best things they can possibly do. And it’s great that Sherri feels the representation is a good and accurate one. Here’s to the weekend roast – it’s clearly going to be fabulous! :)

      • I was doing an essay with Y8 daughter yesterday and she was getting really frustrated about the question “Who owns the island, Caliban or Prospero?” She was getting very worked up about all the “irrelevant” points I was trying to make, until I pointed out that if she was only going to include “pointful” points, her essay would say “The law says this, which means that X owns the island” and her essay would only be one line long.

        I said that sometimes there isn’t just one answer, and that maybe Shakespeare was trying to make us think about the bigger question of ownership of land rather than telling us. She finally took this on board and I hope it helps her enjoy her study of English much more.

        I’m not into writing with a message, but I do like the the idea of a common goal among both those who appreciate and those who create art to explore new, diverse ways of looking at the world.

  5. What a great post this is Denise, and of very great interest to me on many levels, but first, so glad that you got a new oven. I did have a little giggle when I read about the new ‘perks’ of having one :-)
    Secondly, I am a massive fan of The Bridge. I watched the first series avidly. I don’t normally ‘do’ subtitles but this had me from the start to the point that I didn’t even notice them. In fact, they help me pay attention!
    I have been taping the second series and am saving it up to watch as a treat, any time now but I’m glad to read that there is a summary of the first series and so glad that you didn’t give the twist away!
    Yes, Saga is an Aspie and I have been trying to get my Aspie daughter to watch it as she is nuts about all things Danish (her latest obsession is a Danish actor!) but she is busy with other projects online at the moment.
    I could really relate to Saga and the way she acted. In the first series it is very interesting in how she meets and then treats her boyfriend. She seems completely bewildered at first that he is interested in her other than for sex! So for me, I found Saga’s character fascinating and very realistic. I was glad to see a strong character portrayed in this way with her strengths as well as her flaws. Her passion for detail for instance. Got to get it right! That’s my daughter to a tee!
    I can’t wait to watch this series and I look forward to discussing it with you!
    Finally, so glad to know that you doing some creative writing everyday. I am at the point of getting my balance right I think and how I’m able to do what you are doing, more of what I want to do and enjoy and less of what I don’t like. So glad you have found this in your life Denise :-)

    • I’m glad the portrayal of Saga rings true with you. It felt warm and sympathetic to me, even though you would hardly call Saga herself either of these things.

      I’ve actually been wondering if I should rent the first series too, even though I know what happens at the end now. Basically the character of Saga is so fascinating. There is definitely a feel good in seeing someone succeeding through their strengths and merits as Saga does. I also like seeing the relationships between her and Martin. It also makes me feel good to see two people so different getting such a lot out of their very differentness.

      I am off to do some writing now :-)

      • Must just tell you that I watched episode one of Bridge II last night and I wasn’t disappointed. You must watch the first series if you can as it shows how the relationship between Saga and Martin grows even though it isn’t always pretty. The ending of series one was gut-wrenching and watching the brief summary of it last night brought it all back.
        I find Martin’s character fascinating too. The first series also goes into the depths of the complexities of Martin’ relationship with his wife and family. The death of his son August was absolutely heart-wrenching. I found the way Martin had the need to see his killer in the new series very troubling. This is what this show does to you!
        Well, I go could go on and on. Just wanted to let you know you inspired me to start watching it and now I’m hooked all over again.
        Great twist too!
        I must get on with some writing too, hope yours is still going well :-)

      • Yes yes yes I agree about Martin and the need to see the killer. I don’t see what he has to gain out of it. It was a lovely example of the way Saga is good for him as well, bluntly and wisely saying what is obvious to all of us.

  6. That sounds interesting. I have to confess I also never heard of it. But I will give it a try. Thanks Denise! And All the Best on writing every day! Go girl :-)

  7. I almost never watch television, but I was interested in this. Wikipedia says it’s an American series based on a Swedish series by the same name. So are you watching it in Swedish, or do you get the American version? I’m sure I’d prefer the Swedish version–which doesn’t seem to be available here.

    I’m glad you have an oven! Wishing you a wonderful hearthy-feeling in your home!

    • It’s the Swedish one and totally irreplaceable! I love the cold, clean colours and architecture, and the sound of the language is both amusing and direct, just like the character of Saga. For example I now know that the Swedish for “pneumonic plague” is the evocative “Lungepest” and for breast implants, it’s “brostlift.”

      • I don’t think I’d like the American version very much. Those who copy foreign films/series for an American audience seem to have a great ability to take the art out of the film….

  8. I really must start watching this, everyone is raving about it. Love the sound of your daily creative writing efforts, and look forward to hearing more ;-) You must be chuffed to have a new oven too! Makes life so much easier…

  9. Christoffer

    I think you should definately watch series 1. Even if you know how it ends, there is still much to gain from it. For instance, you will see how Martin and Saga’s relationship developed (as he did not seem to think much of her in the first couple of episodes but duly warned up to her).

    • Wow, what a recommendation! To watch even though the ending was already revealed in series 2… that’s the magic of The Bridge, in the pull of the characters and how much you warm to them.

      I’ve put this on my Lovefilm rental list.

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