‘Tak’ for the memories, as we bid goodbye to The Bridge

As the Scandi noir crime drama comes to an end, TV editor Alison Graham reflects on the bittersweet final moments

Programme Name: The Bridge - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 7) - Picture Shows:  Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN) - (C) Filmlance International AB, Nimbus Film - Photographer: Jens Juncker

Parting is such sweet sorrow, says Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. You’re right, Juliet love, but I’m not sure “sweet sorrow” covers that depth of feeling when one of your favourite television shows ends forever.

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I mean, for instance, did Juliet have a mini meltdown at the end of Mad Men? Did she cling to people at bus stops bewailing the fact she’d never see Don Draper again, after that last shot of him smiling and cross-legged in an ashram, when he’d dreamt up the I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing Coca-Cola campaign? There was nothing sweetly sorrowful about that, I can tell you – I had a difficult few months. I’m fine now, though I still cling to people at bus stops.

Endings, eh? They can be fraught, they can be awful, they can be unhappy, they can be completely irritating or they can be perfect, shiny things, buffed and faceted and beautiful forever.

I feel like that about The Bridge, the Swedish/Danish crime drama that ends for good on Friday 29th June on BBC2. No writer has a duty to come up with a happy ending for a beloved character, in this case emotionally shuttered detective Saga Noren (Sofia Helin). But she/he has a duty to leave us satisfied, nodding our heads, even through our tears, as we murmur, “Ah, yes, that’s a good one. Just right.” Unlike the finale to The Bridge’s Danish cousin, The Killing, which was simply weird and bad.

The Bridge’s ending is note-perfect because it does what the best endings should always do – leave us thinking that, although a character has left our screens, in this case Saga, she has gone on to live a life beyond the story. She exists somewhere Out There, even though we can’t see her or know what has happened to her.

Programme Name: The Bridge - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 7) - Picture Shows: Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN), Barbara (JULIE CARLSEN), Jonas (MIKAEL BIRKKJAER), Lillian (SARAH BOBERG), John (RAFAEL PETTERSSON) - (C) Filmlance International AB, Nimbus Film - Photographer: Jens Juncker
(C) Filmlance International AB, Nimbus Film – Photographer: Jens Juncker

There’s always been something bleakly magical about Saga, who connected with so many viewers, though she herself found relationships almost impossible until, it seemed, she’d finally fallen for her troubled and despairing colleague Henrik. She didn’t do small talk, and when she tried it was misjudged and excruciating. (Remember when she attempted to engage female colleagues in chit-chat about their periods?)

Like a missile, Saga couldn’t deviate; she was propelled to hit a target while missing emotional nuances, verbal and visual clues, and she had a tin ear when it came to empathy and the consequences of her ruthless honesty. There was a great scene in the final series where she made an explosive remark about a suspect’s baby.

Helin was magnificent as Saga and remains so to the final moments of the episode, when she says goodbye to us, and we say goodbye to her.

I was lucky enough to interview Helin at a Nordic television festival in London a few years ago and it was like being on stage with Led Zeppelin. Or so I assume. I’ve never been on stage with Led Zeppelin. But as we walked in, the audience was on its feet, yelling, clapping, cheering and parting for Helin,
 who I think was even more taken 
a back than I was.

Without wishing to
 sound too Danielle Steel, there was 
a real love for Saga/Helin. Not a kind of fluffy, protective love, but a demonstrable devotion to someone who, despite her emotional solecisms, always unerringly did what she thought was right.

So yes, I am very sad to see her go, but in this case the sorrow is indeed sweet. Goodbye, Saga, and tak for the memories.

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This article was originally published on 29 June 2018


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