Comment • reviews • Nordic Noir • whimsy
Don’t read this if you’re looking for a review. That will come later.
Truth be told, I had mixed emotions about a fourth series of The Bridge. The drama was firmly part of the ‘golden trio’ alongside The Killing and Borgen – the first wave of Nordic Noir that made the Saturday 9pm slot on BBC FOUR their own. The end of the second series, shown in the UK in February 2014 was in some ways the peak of Scandimania, coinciding as it did with the ridiculously star-studded and ludicrously popular Nordicana festival in London (where Saga’s Porsche, amazingly, made an appearance alongside the acting royalty of Denmark and Sweden). Back then, there were rules about Nordic Noir. No nostalgia. Ambiguity over neat, happy resolution. Room for the characters to breathe. A compulsory role for Mikael Birkkjær (he’s in all three of the golden trio). And no outstaying your welcome: two series and that’s your lot and we try something else.
It was perhaps inevitable that this latter rule would be stretched, a little. I’m not saying that DR, SVT and the others were looking to exploit the sudden demand as TV schedulers all over the world wanted a piece of Nordic Noir. Frankly, that was a time when they could have sold any old tat without breaking their internal rules. But having created Sarah Lund, Birgitte Nyborg and Saga Norén, why not continue to create their stories?
Here in the UK, the fan community that emerged organically on social media has been encouraged to interact with the actors and producers, who have been almost absurdly accessible, especially through the three Nordicana festivals organised by Arrow Films. At the most recent of these, in 2015, we heard Sofia Helin talk about having just finished filming the third series of The Bridge. That was the one that would really unwrap the layers of Saga’s character. (It did, and in Henrik gave us a character as complex and fascinating as Martin Rohde had been in the first two series.)
That fan community has been something incredibly precious: inclusive and enthusiastic, without rancour and the terrible infighting and one-upmanship that bubbles beneath the surface elsewhere. All my Nordic Noir book blogging (and of course my own small Borgen contribution) stems from the conversations with and support of the friends I’ve made along the way.
Over time, it was inevitable that Nordic Noir would begin to become less of a thing. In the UK, Sky Arts, Sky Atlantic, More4 and Walter Presents got in on the act. It isn’t necessarily that the quality hasn’t been there to find, but it has been slightly harder for the troops to come together. I really don’t want to give the impression that Nordic Noir is a busted flush. It has entered the UK mainstream through British series like Broadchurch and Marcella that have borrowed from the format. DR, SVT and the others are still producing great TV that delights, inspires and entertains us. There is plenty of good stuff still around and more on its way.
But it did feel a little incongruous to hear that The Bridge would appear for a final adventure. The denouement for this classic in a genre associated with hygge and cardigans will be broadcast when much of the country is still in daylight, in the hottest week of the year – on BBC TWO. In the seven years since we started watching The Killing, the way we consume TV has changed so greatly that watching one episode a week seems anachronistic. Imagine reading a book one chapter a week! Frankly, I have been saving up the episodes and have been bingeing on them this week.
You’ll note that all of this is about the paraphernalia that comes with being a fan and absolutely nothing about whether the show is any good. We can leave the reviews for another time. Today’s about marking a moment: the Porsche has been sold, the hashtag is #EverySagaEnds and when Hollow Talk plays for the last time, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.