The Bridge: spoiler-free review as Saga Noren returns for season four
As Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge returns to our screens for its final season, here's a spoiler-free review of episode one...
There was a time when The Killing's Sarah Lund ruled the Scandi-noir roost with her Faroese wool jumpers and almost pathological need to hunt down Denmark's worst criminals.
But then along came Saga Noren, the idiosyncratic Malmö detective in The Bridge, complete with her own set of hallmarks: leather trousers, Porsche 911, a tendency to get changed in front of surprised colleagues, and a complete lack of emotional awareness (to the extent that many viewers have come to interpret her as having Asperger's syndrome).
In the first two seasons of The Bridge, Saga (Sofia Helin) shared the limelight with her gruff Copenhagen counterpart Martin Rohde. But since his incarceration, she's emerged as the star of the show, and Helin's measured performance has ensured that we care about Saga's fate more than most cookie-cutter TV sleuths.
However, when we left her at the end of season three there were some major doubts over what part she'd be able to play. To recap, Saga was under suspicion of killing her own mother, with a motive and forensic evidence tying her to the crime.
Taariq (ALEXANDER BEHRANG KESHTKAR) in The Bridge
A brutal crime
Before we get to Saga, this first episode opens with a particularly graphic murder.
Under the expanse of the titular bridge between Sweden and Denmark, a woman has been buried up to her neck in the ground. She's gagged and terrified, facing an anonymous man, back-lit by car headlights.
He throws a stone, just missing her. But the next one finds its target, and the next. Mercifully we cut away before it becomes unbearable to watch. (It's not clear whether the BBC's version is the one which was cut slightly for Danish audiences).
It transpires that the victim of the stoning is Margrethe Thormod, Director General of the Migration Agency, and so the crime has obvious political repercussions.
It was her team who were caught on camera popping champagne after securing the deportation of a gay man to Syria, where he could theoretically face a similar punishment for his sexuality.
Sofia Helin as Saga Noren in The Bridge
So in the first episode of this final season, she finds herself behind bars, and as a police officer she's not exactly popular with the other inmates.
Except for one: a shy prisoner who perhaps sees Saga as a fellow loner to bond with, even if the detective hardly reciprocates her awkward friendliness.
Things might be bleak, but there is hope: Saga's case is up for review after a new witness comes forward. Will this be her literal get-out-of-jail-free card?
The hunt for Red October
With Saga out of the picture, it falls to her love interest Henrik Sabroe to pick up the investigation, joined by the unpleasantly un-PC Jonas Mandrup.
Suspicion soon falls on a radical left-wing group called Red October, and a refugee called Taariq, who has gone underground after being refused asylum.
Mikael Birkkjær as Jonas Mandrup in The Bridge
Their enquiries lead Henrik and Jonas to a gay bar (cue more "homo" comments from the latter), and a rather undramatic foot chase.
This being The Bridge, the plot is anything but simple, and already we have new characters like the suspicious taxi driver who's trying to ingratiate himself back into the lives of his ex-wife and son who both hate him, and the TV journalist Richard, who teams up with his identical twin brother in his own investigation of Red October.
There are countless questions to resolve, not least an end-of-episode cliffhanger, but The Bridge is already as intriguing as ever.
The Bridge season 4 begins on BBC2 on Friday (11 May) at 9pm.