The Bridge: The Complete Series DVD Box Set Review: The Saga of Saga

After a four-season, 38-episode run originally broadcast between 2011-2018, the full story of Swedish detective Saga Noren is now available in one comprehensive U.S. DVD box set. The title refers to the Øresund Bridge linking Sweden and Denmark, the site of a plot setup so inspired that the rest of the series struggles to measure up. Thankfully, Saga emerges as a totally fascinating protagonist due to Sofia Helin’s indelible performance, gradually steering the show from a bonkers whodunit to a rich character study.

Buy The Bridge: The Complete Series DVD Box Set

In the unforgettable pilot episode, a body is dumped on the bridge exactly on the border between the two countries, necessitating the involvement of both police forces. The Swedes assign the robotic, emotionless Saga, while the Danes send Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), a gruff but empathetic veteran detective unafraid to color outside the lines to get results. The murder is even more complex than first assumed when the detectives quickly learn that the body was cut in half, the lower half isn’t the same person as the upper half, and the lower half has been on ice for years. Try as they might, the writers never come up with any plot device so stupendously inventive again, but the nuanced characters are more than strong enough to pick up the slack.

Each season focuses on a new season-long murder investigation requiring the involvement of both countries. This singular focus makes for plenty of red herrings as the writers steer us to suspect after suspect to keep us guessing, with the middle episodes of each season sometimes feeling a bit padded and non-essential. By the final season, I was fairly tuned out on the contrived investigation but totally invested in the lead character interactions.

Season One’s investigation eventually unearths the killer’s unique history with one of the detectives, ratcheting up the tension and the action for a pulse-pounding final two episodes. The imprisoned bogeyman is such a force that he returns sporadically in Season Two, acting as their Hannibal Lecter as they use him to try to understand the minds of a new group of serial killers. That group wears animal masks and black suits to carry out bioterrorist acts, announcing their existence by running a boat into the bridge, with the abandoned boat containing multiple corpses.

Season Three is a fresh beginning, as Martin has exited the picture but international crimes continue. The Danes send in Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt), a handsome but haunted man tortured by the disappearance of his wife and children years ago, consequently afflicted with a drug addiction, but still keeping it together on the job. The new killer du jour stages elaborate murder tableaus replicating works of art, leading the detectives on the trail of which artwork will be next. Saga is rocked to the core when her long-estranged mother appears, and further destroyed when her mother commits suicide in a manner suspicious enough to lead to Saga’s imprisonment.

The final season takes too long for some disparate threads to tie together, cobbling together two homeless street urchins, a gay illegal alien, and a weird utopian commune into the principal serial killer plot. That plot begins with a woman being stoned to death while buried up to her head on an island under the bridge, revealing a killer’s plan to murder the people closest to his targets to inflict the greatest pain. There are too many characters, too many distractions from the primary investigation, but Saga is more emotionally vulnerable than ever before, making her journey well worth our trip. She’s finally facing her seriously dysfunctional past family dynamics while realizing that she may have actual feelings for her casual sex buddy and work partner, Henrik. He’s also on a path of healing, finally trying to put his family behind him, seeking help with his addiction, and trying to love Saga. Skip the convoluted mystery, just focus on the satisfying interplay between Saga and Henrik as these two broken individuals finally try to become whole.

Helin is a wonder to behold as Saga, as she veers dangerously close to parody with her character’s bizarre misanthropic tics in the first two seasons before the cracks start to show in her composure beginning in Season Three. Bodnia is a perfect Odd Couple counterpart for her, with his scruffy Martin world-weary but still committed, similar to his standout role as Villanelle’s handler, Konstantin, in Killing Eve. Martin and Saga have an intriguing collegial relationship that seems irreplaceable, at least until Lindhardt steps in for the final two seasons. Lindhardt is likely most familiar to U.S. audiences from The Borgias, but my primary reference point was his great starring role with Mads Mikkelsen in the film Flame & Citron. His Henrik is a tortured soul longing for his vanished family, even as he attempts to forge a path forward with Saga, a romantic partner seemingly unequipped to ever provide any emotional comfort.

The new box set houses each season in a standard DVD case, with all four cases in a slipcase. The technical qualities improve as the series progresses, with the first season appearing somewhat flat, drab, and washed-out, while the final season approaches current U.S. levels, likely the result of better budgets as its ratings warranted. If you’re only familiar with the show from its U.S. remake, there’s no better way to investigate the origin in full.

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Steve Geise

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