The Bridge was the latest BBC4 programmed Scandinavian crime dramas, which sentenced it to inevitable comparisons with previous successes such as The Killing.
As someone who really rated The Killing, I initially fell into this trap: being dissatisfied by the first couple of episodes, wanting The Killing theme music to kick in, etc. But by about halfway through I think The Bridge definitely held its own, and managed to keep the intensity of drama throughout, whereas I feel The Killing began to tail off towards the end.
This came from investment in the characters from the beginning, although at first the characters of the lead detectives felt contrived; their personalities hammered at the audience rather than being subtly discovered.
Yet in some ways this paid off in the long run: a) we could see a clear character development and b) it contributed to the overall drama of the series. Yes initially over-doing character personalities is very annoying, but it did mean that as the case they were investigating began to affect their personal and not just professional life, it was more satisfying for an audience, in the sense of there being more at stake.
This leads to a more political analysis of the series.
What at first separated this programme from others, for me, was the idea that the motive for crime was coming from a larger political and social idea. Through a journalist, the perpetrator identifies five problems with society (such as homelessness, people not being equal before law, etc), and matches his murders accordingly.
The reactions to the murders then become more interesting: people label him as a “truth terrorist”; making ethical decisions falls on the heads of big business owners; and people in some sense have some agreement with what he is saying. The crimes seem much bigger than the actions of one individual.
However, as the case unravels, we see the actions move from being socially/politically motivated to being entirely based in the individual’s psychology. The five problems that were identified are forgotten about, and are lumped with the rest of the redundant evidence, or the now innocent suspects.
This shift is significant because it conforms to what is predominant in most narratives in film, television, theatre, etc: focus on the individual rather than society. It conforms to the perspective of world from the individual: things happen because of a person’s psychology, not because of the wider social/political/economic situation.
What is more, arguably, from choosing to shift from one to the other, The Bridge perhaps even implies that the idea that bad things happening because of social problems was just another wrong line of enquiry.