when I watched the final episode of The Bridge with my daughter

May 30, 2012

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… was my default uniform: a pair of black leggings from American Apparel, a brown granddad shirt with torn cuffs (I bought this shirt when I was pregnant with my daughter; she’s 17 now) and an old cashmere sweater of my husband’s from House of Bruar in the Highlands.  It’s a sweater without shape or personality and it’s perfect for watching The Bridge because I can hoik it up by the neck to cover my face during the scary bits.  There are lots of scary bits in The Bridge, a gruelling crime thriller from Scandinavia. As a result, the neckline of my husband’s sweater is so deformed the Incredible Hulk could slip his head through, no tugging.

Of course, what I should have been wearing were the tight leather trousers that Saga Noren, the Swedish detective in the series, wears in every scene in every episode, except when she’s in a hospital gown or wandering around her apartment in her undies. I did think about eBaying a similar pair, caramel-colored (at least I think Saga’s are caramel-colored; the lighting on the show is so murky it’s hard to tell) and wearing them the way she does, with a bit of belly pooching out over the waistband. But I didn’t think I could pull it off, achieve her brand of loony sexiness and autistic insouciance.  She wears these trousers with a dingy tee and a v-necked sweater, the whole comprising her default uniform. Every now and then she checks her pits for rankness, but that’s uncharacteristic, a small red herring in a series peppered with red herrings, because she’s basically a slob. But that’s the point of Saga Noren, she’s grubby and louche and although she’s a great detective she’s clueless about pretty much everything else, one of those individuals who can’t read people, has zero empathy and doesn’t see the point of feelings.

A shrink would say she lacks affect.

In my opinion, Saga gets away with this behaviour – with being a gauche, grimy emotional vacuum — because she doesn’t have a daughter who says things like You never listen to me! and You’re wearing that? and who invests both phrases with worlds of guilt and scorn. She doesn’t have a husband either, no one in fact, which is one of the many psychological subplots in the show.  Everybody else in The Bridge – even the alleged terrorist who’s committing the crimes — has all sorts of ties that get them into terrible trouble.  For example, Saga’s Danish counterpart, Martin, has a surprising number of wives and children, a mistress in an unexplained wig and a daunting female boss to disappoint and answer to. Saga is accountable to no one, not even to her kindly commanding officer who in any event acts more like a therapist than a boss and who is leaving the job he loves for the sake of his family.

(A note about Martin’s scary Danish police chief: she deserves a blog on her earrings alone.)

Saga’s lack of accountability, her Asperger inability to understand the basics of human intercourse and, of course, her questionable hygiene may be why most of the straight men I know hate The Bridge. My husband starts shaking his head as soon as it comes on and my daughter’s best male friend, a generally unflappable sort, heaved himself up off the sofa in the middle of the second episode and ran out of our house — actually ran out of the house.  This despite Saga, who’s quite the dish, flashing a lot of breast and thigh with a guy she picked up in a bar. The only heterosexual man I know who really likes the series is my friend Nathan,  an architect and an anarchist. The architect in him is charmed by the Gustavian settings and the lines of the titular bridge; the anarchist admires the terrorist’s subversive tactics.

The truth is, we — my daughter and I — can’t believe there’s anyone out there who doesn’t love The Bridge, because we’re crazy about it, in thrall to the series in a way we never were with The Killing. (And let’s be honest,  Sarah Lund’s reindeer sweater has nothing on Saga Noren’s trousers, not to mention that whizzy Porsche).  We’re so obsessed we re-enact iconic Saga moments (her attempt to make light conversation with her colleagues is a personal favourite), dissect Martin’s infidelities (what is it with the lover and her wig?) and when I ask my daughter if she’s cleaned her room or fed the dog, she answers, impatiently, ja!

She and I have a viewing m.o.: we take over the double sofa in the back room and build a kind of fort out of cushions and Slankets. For extra protection — for example, when something terrifying seems about to happen — my daughter hides behind the  screen of her laptop while I yank my husband’s sweater up over my nose and eyes as if I’m about to be gassed.

We’re not skittish as a rule, but The Bridge has made us jumpy. I think it’s the low predictability factor.  The unexpected is the only probability and every time one of says, triumphantly, It’s him, that’s the guy, the suspect in question turns out to be nothing more than a social worker with a bad temper or a garden variety pornographer. (Well, it is Scandinavia.) It wasn’t until the penultimate episode that the shoe dropped — and only then because the writers introduced a couple of obvious devices involving plastic surgery and a lost diary.   But those are minor quibbles, because the main thing is how much I’ll miss The Bridge.  I’ll miss my daughter as well; she no longer has a reason to hang out with me on a Saturday night.

They’re said to be filming a sequel, but I’m sorry to say I’m prepared to be disappointed. In the concluding moments of the final episode we saw Saga deciding to relate to another human being and Martin, teeth clenched like Bob Hoskins in gangster mode, making a mental vow to remain faithful.  Both struck me as rather pat transformations with more than a whiff of the American after-school special about them. Even worse, neither suggested the second series will be half as gripping as the first.

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4 Responses to “when I watched the final episode of The Bridge with my daughter”

  1. Phil Wise Says:

    Beautiful descriptive prose alongside a TV critic’s eye for detail. I love it.

  2. djlambert4@gmail.com Says:

    The more I read these the more they are building into a picture, a portrait, of you, of a modern woman, of Britain today taken from an oblique angle, in short the way we (some of us) live now. Each ‘episode’ hits just the right balance of the thoughtful leavened with the funny — is interesting precisely because it sidesteps the obvious gag. At first, reading them as mere comedy, I admit to feeling shortchanged. But, the eschewing of comic for the sake of the telling apercu is ultimately far more satisfying fare. Thank you. David L.

  3. JA Says:

    ‘Loony sexiness & autistic insouciance’ – genius. Saga’s attempts at small talk have got me through my post Achilles’ tendon surgery. This blog has also helped. Found it by googling ‘Saga Noren belly’ – I also spotted that paunch in the last scene and did a search on it due to my current mode of catastrophic post-op boredom. Good to know others ponder these things aswell 🙂

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