L.S. Media Rating ****

Britain’s insatiable appetite for Scandinavian crime drama is forever rumbling away for quality morsels after being fed for months on the fluffy havens of Midsomer Murders and Downton Abbey.  Though the third series of The Killing is still being filmed, for those who love their crime with a gloss of icy cool Scandinavian chic, B.B.C. 4’s latest drama pick The Bridge is the perfect watch.

Mixing Swedish and Danish police forces together seems like a dream come true with obvious comparisons to both The Killing and Wallander, yet in its first two episodes, The Bridge seems a highly original take an already growing genre.  The lights go out on the bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden.  When they light up, the body of a woman is found exactly in the middle of the bridge meaning both Swedish and Danish police forces are made to work together.

Several other plot lines are introduced including a wife fighting for her husband’s heart transplant and a landlord looking after both his homeless sister and an abused mother.  The connections to these people are still vague but with the attention of the killer moving to homeless people at the end of the second episode it appears that a disturbing connection is about to be made.

However the disturbia has already been piled on high with the revelation that the body is in two pieces and the two halves are not of the same person.  A further nail biting climax is added to the end of the first episode with a journalist being locked in his car with a bomb.  However the criminal here is about to exploit this journalist and use him for his malicious ends.

Another refreshing aspect about The Bridge and Scando-Noir in general is its creation of strong individual female characters that are believable and likeable at the same time without truly entering the realm of male fetishisms.  Most of these can probably be traced back to Steig Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander but it’s something that gives the dramas an edge over even the best British crime thrillers like Sherlock or Silent Witness.

The Bridge’s strong female character is Saga Norén, the head of the Swedish side of the investigation.  Though it’s heavily hinted that she has some form of autism, her charming naivety and lack of social skills make her an enjoyable character to watch and is an appropriate heiress to the kingdom of L. Salander.  Pairing her with the stressed and slightly shambolic Rhode, head of the Danish side of the investigation gives us a perfect double team of the Holmes and Watson variety.  The contrast between the two is wonderfully exaggerated, especially when Norén decides to get changed in front of him without a second thought in one of the few scenes of light comedy.

Norén in particular seems so distanced from social relations, contact of any kind needs to fulfil a purpose.  Even when she wants sex, she just goes to a bar and asks a man straight away rather than pretend she’s after anything else.  This further adds to the potential humour of the character who after sleeping with a man she’s just met decides to look at the pictures from an autopsy much to the surprise of the bewildered gentleman.

Within the two episodes, The Bridge is at once additive and compelling Television.  Though it stands alongside some of the most popular crime fiction to appear over recent years, it more than stands its own ground and its future episodes should turn Saturday nights partiers into Scandinavian loving recluses for the night.

Episodes 3 and 4 of The Bridge are on BBC 4 at 9 O’clock, Saturday April 28th.  Episodes 1 and 2 are available on BBC Iplayer.

Adam Scovell

Image from The Guardian