~ Posted by Robert Butler, May 18th 2012
By 11pm tomorrow, the million viewers who have followed "The Bridge" on BBC4 will know who has committed the fiendishly sophisticated murders that started—for the viewer, at least—with a dead body on a bridge that connects Denmark with Sweden. "The Bridge" is the latest foreign-language crime series, after "The Killing" (1 and 2), "Spiral" and "Borgen", to have won a devoted British audience. In this case it's two foreign languages, as the characters speak Danish and Swedish, and only one set of subtitles. The opening premise—the dead body lies across the border between the two countries—compels the two police forces to work together and the series' most notable aspect is the characterisation of the Danish female detective, Saga.
As Rebecca Willis blogged two weeks ago, Saga—an icy blonde in leather trousers—has Aspergers and, early on, her unexpectedly frank reactions left some viewers uneasy as to whether we were laughing at her or with her. But as the series has developed, Saga's take on events, which looked as if it might be merely an eye-catching character detail, has become a strand of the main theme.
Saga has no side. She won't intimidate a witness in the interview room. She won't give false hope to a mother whose child has gone missing. She introduces a man who comes to her apartment as, "This is Anton. We have sex". As with Alceste in "The Misanthrope", who scorns la politesse of the 17th-century French salon, or Cordelia in "King Lear", who loves her father according to her bond, the absence of social niceties throws the lies and evasions of others into stark relief.
In "The Bridge", the murders are perpetrated by the "Truth Terrorist", who claims to have plotted these crimes to highlight social injustices—from homelessness to child labour. He deliberately sets out to expose certain types of hypocrisy in society. More subtly, Saga exposes others.
Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life