The Bridge Season 3 recap

Ahead of series 4 arriving on BBC Two in a fortnight, here's what happened in The Bridge series 3. Major spoilers ahead...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Warning: contains major spoilers for series 1, 2 and 3 of The Bridge.

Right, so you’ve never seen The Bridge. Now you’ve learnt the error of your ways, allow me to get you up to speed on what is surely one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Let’s go right back to the beginning…

The first series follows Swedish detective Saga Norén and her Danish counterpart Martin Rohde as they investigate the grisly discovery of a woman’s body (or rather, two women’s bodies, each bisected at the waist and rearranged in a ghastly tableau) at the halfway point of the Öresund/Øresund Bridge linking the border cities of Malmö and Copenhagen. Saga – precise, brilliant, and autistic – forms an awkward friendship with the funny, cheery Martin, who helps guide her through the pitfalls of social convention with a patience she’s never before been shown. Martin’s own personal life, however, is complicated, and comes back to haunt him when the numerous murders that ensue turn out to have been committed by his former friend, Jens, who is seeking revenge for a very personal betrayal. Martin’s son, August, proves to be the final victim. While the duo try to get to the bottom of terrorist outrages committed by a fanatical environmentalist group in series two, Martin struggles to come to terms with his loss. His grief and rage finally drive him to poison Jens in prison, though the death is at first believed to be suicide. Saga realises what he’s done, and, unable to ignore his crime, turns her friend in.

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Phew. After that whistle-stop tour of the first two series, we’ll now make a more leisurely journey across a certain iconic structure in pursuit of series three’s beautifully bleak delights. Thirteen months after Martin’s arrest, Saga is called upon to investigate another grim killing. The body of Danish educator and activist Helle Anker has been discovered in Malmö, seated at a dinner table and surrounded by mannequins posed to resemble a cosy family gathering. Helle, a pioneer of gender-neutral education, was a controversial figure who had been on the receiving end of a deluge of threats. Conveniently enough, the construction site where the body is found is owned by the husband of right-wing vlogger Lise Friis Andersen, one of Helle’s most vocal critics. When Fabien Christensen, the first Danish priest to marry same-sex couples, is found strangled, his body seated on a swing, the clues seem to point towards a killer with a political agenda.

Saga is wary of this apparent connection, but her biggest problem at the moment is her fractious relationship with her new Danish partner, the forthright Hanne Thomsen. Hanne dislikes Saga intensely, apparently because of the Martin situation, and makes no particular effort to conceal her feelings. This uneasy partnership doesn’t last for long, however, as Hanne loses a foot in an explosion when she tries to enter the trailer of Helle’s son, ex-soldier Morten. Morten is suffering from PTSD and denies any connection to his mother’s killing, but some numbers found on his fridge will eventually prove to be the key to this complicated mystery.

We’re introduced to a succession of suspicious characters. There’s Anna, a businesswoman sleeping with her best friend’s teenage son (the poor kid eventually commits suicide after she callously dumps him in public following the publication of paparazzi photos of one of their trysts, before her husband winds up dead at the hands of the serial killer); Marc, whose pregnant girlfriend Jeanette tries to pay off his massive gambling debts to gangster Lukas Stenstrup but is saved by the intervention of art collector Freddie Holst; Claes Sandberg, a motivational speaker who claims to have recovered from his ex-wife Åsa’s decision to marry his ex-best friend, Freddie, and Henrik, a husband and father who picks up women at singles’ nights and then comes home to tell his wife all about it. Thing is, though, Henrik’s not actually a suspect at all, but Hanne’s replacement. His insistence on being paired up with Saga at a time when her name’s mud among the Danish force is jarring, as is his attempt to reuse the murdered Christensen’s dinner reservation. The priest’s death is, it transpires, a copycat crime committed by Rikard, Lise’s obsessed cleaner, which shuts down another line of enquiry.

Morten Anker is also soon removed from the list of potential suspects when he is shot by a man he refers to with his dying breath as his ‘brother’, an apparent reference to the ‘Kill Brothers’, his comrades in Afghanistan, all of whom were accused of rape. One of them is Lukas Stenstrup. The case becomes deeply personal for Saga when her boss, police chief Hans, is kidnapped and then found, his hand amputated, in another vicious attack. He survives, but is left comatose, watched over by his family from his first marriage and his new wife, his Danish opposite number, Lillian. Hans’ replacement, Linn, lacks his people skills and takes a very dim view of Saga’s eccentricities.

More brutal murders follow, most of them following the chillingly theatrical modus operandi established by the Helle Anker crime scene. Some, however, are clinically executed shootings which lack the same brutal verve. Saga identifies burn marks in the former group of victims’ mouths as Babylonian numerals that match the code from Morten’s trailer. All the evidence seems to point to Annika Melander, an undertaker with a fixation on Claes Sandberg. Sandberg himself is a bad lot; his chilled-out façade concealing a burning desire to get back at his ex-wife and Freddie by revealing that her ‘pregnancy’ is in fact a fake, and that the high-profile couple have engaged the services of Jeannette as a surrogate mother. Saga and Henrik track Annika down, but soon discover that the elaborate ‘crime scenes’ found in her house have been staged, and that she’s been framed. Her unpleasant foster parents were two of the victims, and it seems that another of their charges must be responsible for the crimes.

The final piece of the puzzle falls into place when the Holsts’ bodyguard, Colbert, recognises Morten Anker. The dead man came to Freddie’s house wanting to speak to his ‘father’. It turns out that Helle Anker’s son was fathered by a sperm donor: a young Freddie Holst. Henrik has a brainwave and gives the code from Morten’s fridge to the director of the clinic involved, which reveals that Morten’s true ‘brother’ was Emil Larsson, a mild-mannered art gallery attendant. Each of the staged murders was set up to resemble a painting from Freddie’s extensive collection. Emil shoots Marc dead and captures Jeannette, who gives birth to Freddie’s son alone and in agony. Freddie and Colbert manage to find her in time to save her life, but the baby is missing. A frantic Freddie takes matters into his own hands, escaping his police guard and pursuing Emil to the bleak island of Saltholm. Saga and Henrik identify the location with the help of the painter responsible for the image of it in a work hanging in the basement where Emil was locked as a punishment during his miserable childhood, and follow them there.

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Emil’s plan is to kill himself, Freddie, and the baby in one final, dreadful tableau. He tells his biological father about his blighted life – his loving mother, dead in an instant; the abusive foster parents; an escape attempt, thwarted by Hans; child abuse at the hands of a paedophile teacher. Every one of the individuals involved in his misery, whether directly or not, has met a gruesome end. He forces Freddie – the newborn child clutched in his arms – to put a noose around his neck, and then takes his place next to his father on the gallows he’s built, before pulling the lever. Saga and Henrik rush in to find them hanging, but are able to save them both (with a great deal of hesitation on Saga’s part; her mentor Hans never recovered from his injuries.) Emil reveals the motivations for his crime to Henrik while in custody. A remark made to Emil by his half-brother shattered his fractured soul: ‘Why should I suffer when those responsible for my suffering do not?’ He finally manages to commit suicide, cutting his wrists with a paperclip mistakenly left in his cell by Saga. The Holsts have their child, and Jeannette has her money, for what little good it will do her as she struggles to process the loss of her flawed but much-loved boyfriend and a baby she had begun to think of as hers forever.

Saga’s mistake with Emil is the last in a string of uncharacteristic errors brought on by her own emotional turmoil. The sudden reappearance of her evil mother Marie-Louise brings with it a succession of blows: news of her father’s death, revived memories of her sister Jennifer’s suicide, and finally Marie-Louise’s own apparent suicide. Forensic evidence at the scene, however, seems to suggest that Saga was responsible. We know this is impossible, but an investigation begins, and Saga – her innocence still in doubt – is suspended at the end of the Larsson case while a decision is made on her future.

As the series progresses, Saga’s relationship with Henrik has deepened from some initial unsuccessful flirting on his part into a profound understanding and mutual affection, accompanied by regular sexual encounters – initiated, as usual, by the uninhibited Saga – which Henrik welcomes with surprised enthusiasm. He, however, is hiding his own terrible history. His real reason for pushing to work with Saga is his hope that she can solve the six-year mystery of his wife and two daughters’ disappearance. He’s been reliant on a cocktail of drugs to keep going, hence his visions of his family as he sits at home alone. Lukas Stenstrup recognised him and tried to blackmail him, but the gangster was cut down in a hail of bullets by rivals in the criminal underworld before he could expose the Danish cop’s secret. When a woman’s skeleton is identified as that of Henrik’s wife, he ends up overdosing and is saved in the nick of time by Saga. She isn’t impressed by the revelation, but doesn’t report his misdemeanour, leaving Henrik to resign himself as he commits to searching for his vanished children.

Saga’s disappeared, and he can’t find her in any of her usual haunts. Finally, he follows her to the railway line where he knows her younger sister ended her life. Saga is standing by the track, clearly contemplating her own death. Henrik begs her to reconsider, telling her how much he needs her to save his daughters, and reminding her that she’s his only hope of ever knowing what really happened to them. Saga draws her gun and screams at him to stay back. The train arrives, and Henrik buries his head in his hands at the sickening thud heard as it speeds by. When he dares look up, he sees Saga, her gun thrown onto the track, sobbing hysterically on the ground. He tenderly embraces her, and she allows herself to cry properly, releasing decades of anguish in the arms of a kindred spirit.

When we next see them, they’re back where both are happiest: at work. Henrik discovers that a car was stolen near his house on the day of the disappearances. Saga reminds him that the trail will likely be cold by now, but he wryly points out that neither really has anything better to do. They drive across the bridge in silence, but the glance that passes between them suggests that these two lonely people might just have found, in each other, a strange kind of peace.

The Bridge series 4 starts on Friday the 11th of May at 9pm on BBC Two.

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