After four series and 38 hours of television, it all came down to this: the end of our beloved Bridge, one of the most involving and influential crime dramas of all time.
And we were into it straight away, no messing.
In the last episode, Susanne Winter – Niels Thurmod’s personal assistant – was identified by Julia and Ida to be the person whose phone they had pick-pocketed (which was used to track his murdered wife Margrethe). I honestly thought that she was going to be another red herring, but… no. The only possible way Susanne could have been involved was if her true identity had been Steph, Tommy Peterson’s ex. And, indeed she was. How do we know this? Thanks to some shrewd fingerprint work by John (who had earlier been admonished by Saga when flirted with Barbara: “You’ve become odd since you started having sex”), she was identified as the person who had driven and forced Tuxen to carry out his work.
Everything led back to Henrik’s house: Julia and Ida went to seek refuge there, Susanne rendered them unconscious thanks to her trusty taser (as soon as the taser came out, you knew she was murderer), and Saga, too, putting two and two together, as she often does, arrived just in the nick of time.
Over the past few episodes, there’s been this nagging, dread feeling at the pit of my stomach that something awful will befall either Henrik, Astrid and/or Saga. This could have been the moment. In fact, it really should have been the moment.
But, strangely, it was thanks to an intervention by Jonas that saved Saga’s bacon. It was he who had insisted she wore a bullet-proof vest in the continuing investigation, and thanks to this vest Saga was saved. It was a punch-the-air moment: Saga and Susanne engaged in an intense but brief Western-style shoot-out in the middle of the street. Saga took a hit to the chest, but then recovered in time to shoot Susanne’s car tyre as she sped away with an unconscious Julia and Ida in the boot. Susanne careered off the road and was apprehended. YES. The shoot-out was another of the many ways The Bridge subverts male stereotypes, and one of its key legacies, I think.
But what of Henrik and Astrid? And indeed Henrik and Saga? Henrik and Astrid were getting there slowly, and both acknowledging that this process of reconciliation would take time. There were touching scenes between the two, and there were also touching scenes between Henrik and Saga, finally both coming to terms with what had happened to them and agreeing that each of them had separate paths to follow: Henrik to be a dad again, and Saga, well who knew in which direction she would be going? They agreed that they would always be there for one another. It was a tear-jerker, but necessary pragmatism prevailed (which was a hell of a lot better than where this pair was a few episodes ago).
All this and there was still half an hour to go.
With David’s help, the fate of her sister Jennifer was finally resolved (although why this wasn’t done earlier I had no idea… always go to David for help). David’s toxicology reports came out on Saga’s side: it was highly likely her mother had indeed administered the drugs that tipped poor Jennifer over the edge. All the years of uncertainty and guilt… they all washed away in almost an instant.
She wept silently.
She telephoned Henrik to tell him the life-shattering news. He was busy.
Saga was alone. Like she had always been, but now without that crushing burden.
Saga had always been alone in her life because it had been her choice. She daren’t let anyone in because whenever she did bad things happened to them and bad things happened to her. The easiest way to guard against this crushing anxiety was to create a controlled environment and not let anyone come too close. If she needed to have sex she would find someone to have sex with on her terms, but she wouldn’t let anyone in emotionally (until Henrik came along, that is). Her job, too, had always been a part of that control, and it helped to give her life order.
Now things were different.
Despite this hugely emotional revelation for Saga, there was a sense that it was all a bit rushed. In fact, throughout the series as a whole I’ve felt that all these remaining, open strands have been rushed – the scenes where Henrik found Astrid, and even the therapy scenes here right at the end. Hans Rosenfeldt and co always do a fantastic job of juggling lots of different story strands and characters, bringing them expertly together at the end. But in this series, there has been a sense that ambition has outweighed the time they gave themselves. Everything else was here – the brutal, ceremonial killings and the ‘second story’, so redolent in Rosenfeldt’s work, but he also had to squeeze in the fate of Henrik’s family, Saga’s family, Henrik and Saga, and what would happen to Saga.
I think it has been a bit too much.
Another element of Rosenfeldt’s work in The Bridge that we should have known was coming was the final twist. We’ve seen it in past series and we saw it here, too.
Saga had been called back to the prison she spent time in right at the start of the series. Although we didn’t quite know why she strode through the corridors of the jail and I honestly thought for a brief, joyful moment that in her new-found mindset of reconciliation that she was going to visit Martin. But no, she was going to meet the inmate who had tried to bludgeon her to death revealed that someone had blackmailed her into trying to kill her. Decapitate her, even (which fitted in with Susanne Winter’s modus operandi). She had seen Susanne on the news and recognised her, so she called Saga. And, what’s more, she told Saga that Susanne had spoken about a ‘they’.
This precipitated a frantic search for the other person involved. Concurrently, Henrik received a visitor at home. It was Brian/Kevin (Brevin as I like to call him). Henrik invited him in (noooo!) and when he was fixing them a drink with his back turned, Brevin rose from his wheelchair. Now, many will have been disappointed by this Keyser Söze moment (too cliched perhaps?) and even called it. So the fact that Brevin was involved was no real surprise (he’d always been a bit too odd), but we were, by this time, caught up in the action and when he was rose from his chair it was still a shock of sorts.
What followed was as tense as they come. He had tied Astrid up and intended to kill her while Henrik was watching. But, of course, Henrik was wise to his MO and refused to look at her. This enraged Brian/Kevin: he needed him to see the death of his daughter.
Just when it looked as though Astrid had reached the point of no return, a bullet pierced Brevin’s right eye. Saga had saved the day yet again – she stood at the back of the room, her gun raised, smoke still curling up from the barrel.
Punch-the-air moment number two.
They had survived. They had all survived, but to what cost we’ll never know.
And so to the end. The end we’d all been dreading; the moment where we had to say goodbye to Saga Norén. We’ve lived with this character for almost six years, and an unusual and surprisingly strong bond between audience and character has formed since she first appeared in the UK on 21st April, 2012 on BBC Four. Yes, we’ve all got our own favourite crime shows and characters who we love, cherish and care for. But I can’t remember ever feeling so invested in a character, or ever willing a character to come out of the other side intact as much as I have with Saga Norén.
And of course, I’ve often wondered why. What is it about Saga that makes me care so much about her? The answer, I think, lies with Sofia Helin. I really believe that. A very fine actress before The Bridge – and who will be again afterwards – she slipped into this once-in-a-lifetime role like a hand does to a favourite glove. Her physical and emotional transformation into Saga has been so seamless, so right. It’s very rare an actor finds a role that is not only sustainable for a very long period of time, but such a snug fit. And Helin found this symbiosis with Saga.
She also found and loved the same qualities we also found and loved in Saga. The struggle to fit in, the fear, the courage, and the vulnerability. As more and more was thrown at Saga cracks in the armour appeared. Her relationship with Martin, her decision making, her relationship with Henrik, the return of her mother, Hans’s death, her time in prison, becoming pregnant… these events and relationships came in a rush that battered her self-defence and coping mechanisms. To watch this was heartbreaking but there was a realisation that this character needed to experience these things to undergo a transformation.
Some characters go through series without a jot of development, but Saga’s arc was one of redemption, one of constant self-examination and struggle. And in the end, she got there. She bloody got there. Or at least had the courage to turn onto a road that gave her a chance to get there.
Where? The very same place we’re all searching for: a place of emotional fulfilment, and a place – physical or other – where a modicum of happiness exists.
And that’s ultimately why I felt for Saga Norén: because she was one of us.
So when she stood on the Øresund Bridge – it all comes back to the beginning, right? – and she stared out across the straight and she tossed her police badge over the side of the bridge and into the water, she was shedding her skin because she had to.
She always answered her phone: “Saga Norén, Länskrim Malmö”.
Now it was simply, “Saga Norén”.
It was simultaneously a heart-breaking but uplifting moment.
In four series that have often been darker than a Scandinavian winter’s night, this was a hugely optimistic ending. I don’t think this has been the best of the series (it has still been miles ahead of much of the competition, such is the high standards of The Bridge), and I really now think that this was the right time to end it, despite the gut-wrenching realisation that we won’t be seeing some of these characters like Lillian (who was brilliant in this series), John and David onscreen again. It might read like heresy, but even Saga’s ticks and blunt ripostes, so fresh and incredible for the most part, were just starting to edge into the realms of pastiche – you really could start to play Saga bingo with them.
But I’m glad she survived (there was a part of me thinking she was going to throw herself off the side of that bridge), and she saw a future ahead of her even though she wasn’t sure where the road would lead.
In the end, she was brave and was unafraid and I think I love her that little bit more because of that. Dammit, I was proud of her.
So farewell Saga Norén, there has never been anyone quite like you and we will miss you. But go well, and we all hope you find what you’re looking for.
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