Everything goes back to the beginning… Some Thoughts on ‘The Bridge’ after Its Fourth Season

The fourth season of The Bridge (Bron | Broen) is over, which means that one of the most successful Nordic Noir TV shows has ended. Season 4 is comprised of some fantastic and many forgettable moments, however, the fans are going to be happy as everything goes back to the beginning…

Looking at all the seasons of The Bridge, one can’t help but name the third one as the best. That was the point when the series really found itself, meaning Saga Norén became the ultimate heroine. Despite starting out as an inter-Scandinavian communication course, the show has never really been about Denmark and Sweden but about a strong woman who has her inner demons but is capable of fighting them and using her talent to save others. We got to know her better in the fourth season, and that storyline works perfectly, but the other has its flaws; there is just too much going on and too few hours to tell everything.

In a way, season four plays a secure game and pampers its fans by bringing back the witty remarks on the differences between Danes and Swedes. Nonetheless, it also aims at telling the genesis of Saga Norén, Länskrim Malmö: where she comes from, what decisions and situations have shaped and influenced her personality as well as what drives her as a detective. And the scenes mapping Saga’s identity including therapy sessions, conversations with Lillian, Henrik and others certainly add to the saga and works well. Sofia Helin’s performance is absolutely stunning, she shows a scale of emotions in an always moderate way of using body language, especially facial expressions. As the plot advances, more and more revealed about her poignant past, and everything falls into its place. Saga might have been described as a know-it-all and an annoying person as she tends to lack social cues, but she is not immune to change. Her moral compass still dictates her what to do, but sometimes she lets her emotions take over and control her brain. In other words, her slightly robotic existence becomes more and more human as she interacts with the people she trusts. In the end, she finds peace with and probably forgives herself as well as transforms into being only Saga Norén…

Whereas Saga’s personal storyline is built up carefully, so probably lots of thoughts were invested in it, the storyline around the new case and investigation feels clumsy and filled with a series of unbelievable coincidences. Yes, Scandinavia and even Europe is small, but a conspiracy theory has more key players than the fourth season of this beloved Nordic Noir crime series. This specific story of a former detective named Tommy possibly was destined to serve as a parallel origin story, but it’s more like a forced march towards an end. Some new characters join the core crew such as Jonas, played by Mikael Birkkjær. He reminds us of Martin, Saga’s Danish colleague from season one and two. In contrast with Martin however, he does not give any room for small talks with Saga; he is aware of the consequences and he does not even hide that. When doing some questioning together, he makes comments on Saga’s way of doing things and recommends her not to say so much and let him handle things. Strongly attached to this storyline, Henrik also gets his own background story unfolded through the investigation as everything points at his former colleague Tommy, played by Paw Henriksen. He finally arrives at the sea of peace, as one of his daughters is still alive, only kept hostage or raised by someone else. In fact, nearly everyone from the main crew, John, Barbara, Lillian, walks away from this case with some hope and happiness.

Of course, this does not necessarily mean happily ever after. The Bridge belongs to the realm of Nordic Noir, so an American-type of a happy ending can never happen. Compared to the Danish The Killing, its ending surely carries more of a positive tone but that can change in any minute. That is indeed one of the core characteristics of the genre, so along the way Martin’s son dies, Martin goes to jail, Hans dies, etc. Seeking the truth requires sacrifices also from the best detectives ever, and, without those, The Bridge would be just a crime series but not a Nordic one. The dark tone, the accentuation of the personal and the driven detectives all contribute to the winning formula of Nordic Noir; a formula that has paved the way for other successful series and opened up doors for Nordic cinema and TV on a global scale.

Some voices are claiming the glamour and cleverness of the genre are gone. Unfortunately, that lies not so far from the truth. What kept and will keep The Bridge alive is its multi-layered, three-dimensional main character named Saga Norén, who was born at the right time. The concept, namely producing a show with the participation of Denmark and Sweden, actually rhymes with how film and TV productions are made nowadays. They might not follow the tradition The Bridge started that is to come up with an international or regional plot, but they all enjoy the financial support coming from countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and most of the times Germany. With The Bridge ending the genre is provided with the chance to reinvent itself, the only problem is that the Nordics are not that far anymore so the secretive nature of this particular world infused by its natural landscape might not be of so much help in the future.

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.