These days, Nordic thrillers are reaching our shores in an invasion to rival the Vikings circa AD800. The latest import, Danish-Swedish collaboration The Bridge, came to an end on BBC4 on Saturday night.
You may or may not agree that the series was better than The Killing, but it was certainly a rollercoaster ride.
Key to its success was the warm partnership between Malmo police’s almost-certainly-on-the-
autistic-spectrum Saga Noren and laidback Danish investigator Martin Rohde. As with all the best crimefighting duos, this pair played off each other’s strengths and weaknesses beautifully, while bringing a generous helping of dark Scandinavian humour to what might otherwise have been a rather wearing series of unpleasant murders.
Refreshingly, their relationship was given room to breathe. I’m so tired of shows that trumpet the fact they don’t show their protagonists’ private lives, as if that’s something to be proud of. Certainly these scenes shouldn’t be allowed to take over a drama, but if you have no sense of a character outside their working environment, it’s very hard to care about that person.
Sharing Saga and Martin’s banter, and seeing their interaction with friends and family, meant that I was on the edge of my seat when August was kidnapped, and nervily distrustful of too-good-to-be-true Anton.
Minor characters were fully fleshed-out, too. I can’t be the only one who was bereft when poor, gutsy Anja was gunned down, or left in despair when homeless Bjorn’s escape attempt was foiled.
Character development was just the icing on the cake, though, for The Bridge also functioned very successfully as a thriller. The questions came thick and fast, greedily devoured by its savvy audience: not only whodunnit, but why did Charlotte choose to wear that wig? Could the killer be a cop? Who was August chatting to online? And how on earth did Martin manage to have sex with Charlotte so soon after being kicked in the, ahem, vasectomy scars?
I tremble at the thought of a UK-French remake of The Bridge. It’s so lazy to try to replicate a success purely by copying its format. Far better to take the lessons The Bridge and its stablemates have taught us and apply them to original British dramas:
Don’t try to shoehorn a story into an hour or two – take ten, if you need them. Give the audience engaging protagonists and scatter a few laughs around. You can put a woman in charge without having her constantly question if it’s OK for her to be in charge.
I can see how some of these things would enliven future series of Taggart, Lewis and Scott & Bailey, to name but a few.
Meanwhile, there will be quite a delay until series two of the original, which begins shooting later this year and isn’t scheduled for broadcast until autumn 2013. But good things come to those who wait…