Eight years after the pilot episode of the Swedish-Danish murder mystery Bron/Broen was released, the premise of the show remains unique. Bron/Broen (The Bridge) starts at the Oresund bridge, which sits on the strait that creates the border between Denmark and Sweden. A dead body is found, half of which lies in Sweden and the other half in Denmark. This leads to a joint investigation by the police forces of the two countries. The collaboration extends to the production as well: Bron/Broen is a successful partnership between the public broadcasting networks of Denmark and Sweden and features both the Swedish and Danish languages.
The show has been aired in about 188 territories and countries, and has inspired multiple remakes set across the international borders of US/Mexico, UK/France, Germany/Austria and Russia/Estonia. The series is now headed to Asia, with Endemol Shine and Vui working on a remake set between Malaysia and Singapore.
The multiple spin-offs have all worked to some degree of success, with the American version The Bridge, starring Diane Kruger, running for two seasons, but none of them have been able to replicate the success of the original. A lot of the credit for that goes to Sofia Helin’s extraordinary portrayal of one of the two investigators.
Created by Hans Rosenfeldt, Bron/Broen is headlined by detective Saga Noren (Helin) and her counterpart from Copenhagen, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia). Saga is at the centre of the show as a socially awkward female detective who, it is implied is on the Asperger’s spectrum, though the show never really spells it out. Saga is brash, brilliant and blunt and drives a vintage Porsche (which has achieved a cult status among fans) and prefers solitude.
Martin makes for a perfect foil by being a friendly, easy, family-oriented character. While working on the case, the two develop an endearing friendship, with Saga saying things no one else will, and Martin helping her navigate the relationships around her.
In the first season, the detectives are on the trail of a series of well-executed and premeditated murders committed by a serial killer. The killer calls himself a ‘Truth Terrorist’ and sells exclusive stories to a reporter with dubious ethics. The subsequent seasons deal with meticulously executed crimes and ingeniously scripted murders.
The second season deals with a deadly plague virus outbreak which is being released into both countries. Season 3 introduces a new partner from Denmark, Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt), who asks for the job with Saga so that she can help him find his missing wife and daughters. Together, they investigate the murder of Helle Anker, a lesbian famous for putting into place the first gender-neutral kindergarten in Copenhagen. Helle’s corpse is discovered in a construction site in Malmo, with her body positioned as though she were in a painting about a family sitting at a dinner table. A series of murders follows in which the victims are similarly arranged as characters in paintings.
The final season finds both Saga and Henrik confronting their respective demons.
Scandi-noir places unconventional women at the centre. In Bron/Broen, the gray temperamental brooding leading man of detective series is replaced by a logical, unemotional woman who willingly follows the rule book even if it causes her grief in the process. The emotional quotient is delivered by the men in the show – Martin, Henrik and Hans Peterson, her mentor, friend, and her superior in the Malmo Police force.
The series is shot primarily in the long winter months, and carries a dark atmosphere throughout. It does have a fair share of humour and lightheartedness, but this comes mostly from Saga’s misplaced and misfired attempts at small talk.
A perpetual haze surrounds the characters, creating a sense of gloom and hopelessness in the face of crime. Saga Noren’s poker face, stiff body language, olive green blazer and leather pants fit in perfectly with the tense chilly setting as she drives from Malmo to Copenhagen and back in her 1977 yellow Porsche 911S. She does not carry the burden of being likable or relatable, but is not arrogant in her brilliance either. She emerges as a uniquely intriguing and endearing character. Saga, and and so much more, make the series an internationally accepted, tried and tested blueprint for the new wave of detective television.