Friday, August 17, 2012
After falling in love with Borgen I decided to take the advice of others who loved it and watch more series that fall under the umbrella of Nordic Noir, in particular series from the Danish TV company DR. I know a lot of people really liked The Bridge and so it was my first choice. (since The Killing US was a remake of Forbrydelsen it's harder for me to muster the enthusiasm for it though I will be watching it soon)
Like with Borgen I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I am so burned out on anything resembling a procedural and The Bridge is a murder investigation. It's not a week by week case at all, but I usually think I don't like mysteries. But as often happens when I read a good mystery, I'm reminded that they are about so much more than the crime itself and The Bridge felt like that...like reading a truly great crime fiction book. I almost hate the way procedurals have ruined me for mysteries--they feel like quick superficial snapshots of what truly great crime drama can be. So if you're wondering...yes I loved it. I loved it. It was worth the hefty price I paid (in gift cards!) for region 2 dvds and I'm pretty sure these Danish TV shows are ruining me for all other television. (I know that not all of their TV is this good, like I'm seeing the very best, but stillll)
The Bridge opens with a body found on the border of Sweden and Denmark. Details that are quickly revealed ensure that this will be an investigation that must be shared between the two countries and the two detectives assigned are Martin Rohde and Saga Norén. Martin is sort of a dead beat dad that's just had a vasectomy (and so is in some pain) while Saga is a socially awkward rule abiding detective. Most reviews of the show say she lands on the Autism spectrum, though the show never outright says so. The idea of socially awkward, yet brilliant is not exactly new, I was a fan of Bones, too. But Saga Norén is a character in her own league, I fell fast and hard for her. Her attempts to navigate the social landscape of her workplace and to forge a working and pleasant relationship with Martin endear her to the viewer tremendously, and the writers were not afraid to use a light touch with her either. I had several laugh out loud moments --moments that were necessary in the otherwise bleak atmosphere of the show. It's important to note, though, that I never feel like the show looks down at Saga for being this way (like I so often thought Bones did with Temperance Brennan). She is written and acted with empathy and realism. So basically all the things I love best about this show are Saga Norén. I did not love Martin in the same way since his moral failings are indefensible to me, but I loved their relationship. And that's what the show is ultimately about, it's about these two detectives and how they work together and build a bridge. And that sounds painfully cheesy to me, but it's really not--trust me. Jace Lacob probably said it better than I can, Just as Saga tries to forge an emotional connection with her partner, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), the show itself parses connections between a personal guilt and societal complicity, between the past and the present, the bridges between countries, cultures, and individuals.
Anyway, the murder on the bridge is only the start, they are dealing with a serial killer with an agenda. He comes to be known as the Truth Terrorist...a man who is enacting violent crimes to deliver a social message. And he does some pretty violent and gruesome stuff. The show can get pretty violent and graphic at times, but I don't feel like it's consistently so. (however on the off chance anyone seeks this out on my recommendation I'm just warning there is a little explicit sex and some violent stuff)
The show is in both Swedish and Danish and watching Martin and Saga navigate their working relationship, their different approaches to policework and private life is the most fascinating and interesting part of the show. The mystery is there as well and you are given, I think, the most essential pieces you need to know what will happen. I mean, to be honest, the way the finale ties everything together made me realize just how carefully plotted and written the show was, how important all the beats in characterization are. Like as I was watching, I remember feeling like..."whut" to some stuff, but once I'd seen the entire show I realized how essential they were. Ugh, this is just really really good stuff. And the final two episodes are full of plenty of suspense and surprises with the logical through line to the emotional arcs of the characters.
Some of my favorite moments are the show are smaller moments, like when Saga first suggests the killer is Danish and Martin takes offense. She totally doesn't get it, because to her it is simply the most likely scenario. She is not bothered by any sense of nationalism, so when they switch gears and think perhaps he is Swedish instead and Martin points out she first thought he was Danish, but oh she's wrong!, she's like..."yeah" Saga may not be savvy in social situations but she's aware of her own limitations, deciding she's not cut out for leadership, not because anyone told her that, but simply because she knows. She also thinks she wouldn't be any good at being a girlfriend and watching her pick up a man for sex alone and his reaction to her is one of the fun amusing side stories. Her brusque attitude and social ineptitude don't mean she doesn't care though, Saga cares a great deal what her boss thinks and what Martin thinks.
I also love the title sequence to the show, I didn't think I would at first, but it really evokes that feeling of twilight/dusk. I don't know why but that time always feels different from any other part of the day to me. And the theme song "Hollow Talk" is now on repeat for me, I've grown to really love it. It casts the exact right mood.
If this sounds like an amazing story, you're right it is. And FX recently announced they are developing a pilot based on it that would take place in US and Mexico. And unlike with Borgen where I was all "ugh DNW" I'm intrigued by and cautiously optimistic for an American adaptation. I actually think FX is the perfect place for The Bridge. I also think the cultural differences in law enforcement and almost...strained relationship between the US and Mexico could lead to some really good material. I think in order for it to be successful, though, they need to really and truly adapt it for an American/Mexican audience while still keeping some of the original spirit of the show.
For example, all sorts of big political issues come up in the course of the investigation and I think they'd need to avoid becoming really preachy about them. In fact, it would be essential. The things the Truth Terrorist cares about create enough of an opportunity for reflection without the show trying to use them as well. I'm kind of really concerned about this because I feel like it's something I never see done particularly well on American TV.
I also hope they'll do the dual language thing with both English and Spanish. But most of all, I hope they'll place characterization above all else because ultimately that's what makes The Bridge so successful. One thing I'm sort of hopeful about is the difference in viewing experience. I watched this show over the course of a week so I never had to really stop and think about things, it was all fed straight to me. But watching week to week would give me more time to mull over the ideas and the mystery (which they would maybe change up?) and I think that would be really awesome.
And apparently there's also a British/French version in the works! I think this story in particular is so appealing because no two countries have the same relations and so the possibilities seem limitless. I'm hopeful for both of these adaptations. But mostly I'm looking forward to the second series of the original, not set to air in Denmark/Sweden until fall 2013, sob.
TV: The Bridge (Bron/Broen)