Yuletide cheer was in short supply as series three of Scandi crime drama The Bridge drew to a close. The finale piled on Nordic nihilism with practiced verve. Gore, grief and ghastly surprises conspired to deliver a proper nightmare before Christmas.
By the end credits, anti-heroine detective Saga Norén (Sofia Helen) had come literally within a hair's breath of suicide while her partner Henrik Saboe (Thure Lindhardt) was revealed to be a drug addict who shot up on the job in order to numb the pain of separation from his missing wife (definitely dead) and daughters (probably dead).
Oh, and a curly -haired waif Emil (Adam Pålsson) had been unmasked as the psychotic murderer arranging his victims in horrific parodies of familial settings in order to comment on his own abusive childhood in foster care (once in custody he slashed his wrists with a paper-clip).
Written down it sounds like 120 minutes of unexpurgated misery. Actually it WAS 120 minutes of unexpurgated misery. Yet the sign-off to the latest series of the procedural set either side of the Øresund bridge linking Malmo and Copenhagen was riveting too. Even a soapy sideplot involving Norén's troubled relationship with her mother (bumped off in mysterious circumstances) cast a spell – as if Ingmar Bergman had been left in temporary charge of the EastEnders writers's room.
Thure Lindhardt as Henrik Sabroe
A pallid enigma with diamond drill-bit eyes, Norén was once again The Bridge's centrifugal force. After three years in the company of the emotionally vacuum-sealed Malmo detective, one would think she had lost the capacity to shock. However, the heart-in-mouth tension was real when Norén stood before an oncoming train (having learned she'd been suspended on suspicion of killing her mother). The Bridge had already dispensed with Norén's shaggy Danish sidekick Martin Rohde –cooling his heels in the clinker after Norén shopped him for poisoning his son's murderer. That a show this indifferent to audience expectations would calmly discard its lead character was chillingly plausible.
Yet she ultimately stepped back, at the behest of Henrik. He was reeling too – from the news that his wife's remains had been discovered, six years after her disappearance. He clung to the possibility his daughters – with whom he held creepy imaginary conversations in the dark – might still be alive and the series ended with Henrik and Noren driving into the soupy mist that passes for sunset in Scandi television, cheerily determined to track down the missing girls. For an episode that had plumbed the depths of bleakness to conclude with genuine optimism was the most impressive feat of all – like finding a hidden bauble tucked away at the bottom of a Christmas stocking.