There’s no more mournful TV theme than “Hollow Talk”, an eerie ballad with mumbled lyrics that accompanies the opening and closing credits of The Bridge. The Swedish/Danish crime series usually contains more moments of humour than its theme tune would suggest, but for Saturday’s bleak second series finale, nothing could have been more appropriate.
This double bill answered all the questions we thought we cared about, but also introduced new, more pressing ones, while red herrings that might easily have been teased over an entire series were efficiently dispensed with. Only 40 minutes into the penultimate episode and the detectives had already identified “Mother of Three” and were on the brink of preventing the “graduation” massacre – if only their stubborn suspect would talk.
If this was Homeland, Hostages or CSI, he’d definitely have been water-boarded by now. Or, at the very least, shouted at a bit. Instead, The Bridge creates suspense through restraint, so even when racing to isolate the unwitting carrier of an infectious virus, with the potential to kill millions, our detectives walked, but never ran. And when the climactic moment came, it wasn’t a hail of gunfire, but a single, deadly cough.
A series’ story arc involving eco-terrorism, incestuous voyeurism and a bludgeoned gigolo is one thing, but to truly unsettle, you must jeopardise that very element which provides most comfort for viewers. In The Bridge this has always been the relationship between Danish detective Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) and his Swedish counterpart Saga Norén (Sofia Helin). This finale tested that relationship to its limit.
After one cold-fish kiss too many, Saga’s boyfriend moved out and Martin had to face the fact that his longed for reconciliation with Mette was not to be. In a lesser drama, that would be the cue for our leads to jump into bed together, but The Bridge manages a feat previously unheard of in television – a nuanced relationship between two sexually active characters that isn’t just a prelude to bonking.
Only a few episodes earlier, it seemed that the über-professional Saga and the recognisably human Martin not only complemented each other as colleagues, but might also develop a friendship with the potential to heal them both. The final events of last night’s episode made the whole concept of healing seem like one of the Truth Terrorist’s sick jokes. Will the best detective team on telly ever work together again? They’d better, because we still don’t know the identity of Gertrude’s shadowy puppet-master and the suspense is unbearable.
While no one will be hurrying to book tickets to Denmark’s Kastrup airport after this weekend’s episode of The Bridge, we’re still passionately in love with all things Scandi.