The Bridge series 4 episode 8 review

We wave a painful goodbye to The Bridge in our review of its final ever episode. Spoilers ahead...

This review contains spoilers.

At the end of last week’s episode, Julia and Ida managed to escape from Niels’s car after realising that the charm on Susanne’s bag matched that of the person whose mobile they stole: a person who could only be either the killer, or one of his/her associates. Niels is terrified for his job after losing his young charges, and Susanne – well aware that her involvement’s been discovered – offers to search for the sisters. The girls sensibly attempt to get in touch with Henrik and leave a message asking him to meet them, but he’s still looking after Astrid and the crucial Post-it note goes unnoticed in his in-tray.

Unnoticed, that is, until a certain pair of observant eyes settle on it. Saga goes to intercept the teenagers, but she’s a little too late. She arrives at Henrik’s house while he’s out, only to bump into Susanne, who’s learned of the girls’ connection with the kindly policeman and tracked them down when they tried to seek refuge in the only safe place they knew. Saga questions her, and is about to leave when she takes a phone call that confirms her growing suspicions. Susanne shoots her and leaves her for dead on the pavement, in a scene that will leave those of you who have been fearing a tragedy with your hearts in your mouths. Not to fear. For all his failings, Jonas’s commitment to safety precautions can’t be faulted. Saga’s winded, but her bulletproof vest saves her life, and she manages to take Susanne’s tyres out. The sisters, trapped in the boot of her car, are rescued, and the real ‘Steph’ – Tommy’s lover, heartbroken and bent on vengeance – is revealed under questioning. Everyone’s jubilant. Saga, however, has an inkling that a key piece of the puzzle is still missing.

She’s almost forgotten Elsa, her erstwhile cellmate, and the terrible injury she sustained at her hands. Elsa hasn’t forgotten her, though, and her call for Saga to visit her in prison isn’t a mere bid for attention. She reveals that she was bribed to kill Saga, and that the method assigned to her was actually decapitation – the last on the police’s list of execution-style methods. Elsa recognised Susanne from the news photos and decided to make amends for her botched crime by setting the record straight. This new discovery throws everything into disarray. Saga was clearly targeted in an attempt to punish Henrik for his involvement in Tommy’s death, but the attack failed in its purpose. There’s a new potential victim now: Astrid. And Susanne, as Saga suspected, wasn’t working alone.

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The theme of identity explored this series has been richly rewarding. We’ve seen Saga and Henrik struggle to determine who they really are once stripped of the forces that motivate them: her career as a detective, his role as a protective father. Supporting characters have shed light upon other facets of the subject. There’s Taariq’s uncertain status as an illegal immigrant, doomed to death in one country and rejected by another; Margrethe Thormod’s public face as a bureaucrat and private generosity to those whose fates she determined; the twins’ adoption of each other’s personas for fun; even the disputed parentage of Nicole’s baby. Nothing can shock us more, though, than the revelation that a cruel, relentless villain can lurk behind a seemingly gentle façade. Frank’s apparent decency lured both the luckless Sofie and Henrik’s unsuspecting wife, Alice, into his trap. Henrik only learns the identity of his very own wolf in sheep’s clothing when it’s too late.

Except it isn’t. Not this time. Saga lost one friend to a spiral of guilt and grief when she was unable to prevent Martin’s son’s murder by a man with a grudge that had festered into a remorseless cruelty. Before that, she lost her sister to suicide when she’d failed, through no fault of her own, to offer Jennifer the emotional support she so badly needed. Saga’s learning now, and, like her therapist suggested, she’s broken the rigid patterns of behaviour that have trapped her for so long. Her friend the pathologist has finally laid her mother’s ghost to rest with the news that Saga’s diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy was correct. Just as history begins to repeat itself and Brian points his gun at Astrid’s head in front of a broken Henrik, she’s there, her aim as steady as ever. The long nightmare’s over: the spell, broken.

But this is The Bridge, so our happy ending is the opposite of predictable. Lillian, back in the top job after the briefly promoted Jonas is finally outed as the mole, is allowing herself to care for someone again. John and Barbara are happily together, in a meeting of brilliant minds that I’m feeling quite smug about having called a while back. Astrid’s starting to bond with her real father, despite Frank’s taunts that Henrik will never be able to fill his role in her life. You won’t see it in the English subtitles, but the look on Henrik’s face when she switches from her usual Swedish to Danish to tell him that he’s her real dad is treasurable. (Many thanks to reader Janet Goggins for making me aware of this crucial detail.)

Saga knows that she’s no longer the most important person in Henrik’s life, and that the man she loves needs time to rebuild his relationship with his surviving child. It’s time for her to leave him now, at least for a while. She bids him farewell with a kiss as tentative as a child’s. It’d be funny if it was anyone else, but it’s Saga, and it’s heartbreaking. She’s chosen him, with that single gesture, marked him out from all the others: her best friend, her companion. He watches her go with a smile, as the door swings shut. Nothing as trivial as distance can part them now. Sofia Helin and Thure Lindhardt, not content with portraying one of the most profoundly moving small-screen love stories of all time, excel themselves in this final, perfect scene.

And so Saga stands on the bridge, at the central point where it all began. Back to the beginning, or to a beginning, at least. She’s handed in her notice, thrown her police badge into the dark waters. The most important case, the one she’s been trying to solve all her life, has been closed. Who is she, really, without those words ‘Länskrim Malmö’, appended to her name like a mantra? She picks up her mobile, and tells us the answer. It was so simple, all along.

“Saga Norén.”

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Read Gem’s review of the previous episode here.