Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Episode: The Bridge, The Tunnel, The Bridge (Bron/Broen)

This is a new segment where I talk about shows I have watched one, or most of, one episode of. I want to watch less volume and more quality but that involves wading through a bunch of shows of meh. Sometimes I find gems and for one reason or another I don't (or haven't yet) watched another one.

Bron/Broen is a Danish-Swedish crime TV series, rather acclaimed, about a body left on the bridge between Sweden and Denmark, left exactly on the border line between the two countries. Two cops, one a family man recently having received a vasectomy, and the other a single woman who is a little bit... odd. Some might call her socially inept, others would consider her on some spectrum of the Asperger scale. Nobody ever really says what. But the two have to work together, overcoming language and cultural barriers and their own personal frictions.

I first saw the American remake, The Bridge, knowing of the original but not pursuing it. I admit, I first thought it might be an American reboot of the lame Canadian TV series where the bridge in question is in Toronto, from affluent Rosedale to less-than-so St James Town. But no, this is set on the bridge between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The male cop is from Mexico with the female cop (played by Diane Kruger) is from the States.

In this rendition, she definitely has something on the spectrum. Its by the numbers, Sheldon Cooper level of oddness & rudeness. The two are forced to work together when (**SPOILER**) it is quickly determined there are two bodies, a lower half in Mexico and an upper half in the US. A bit of investigation determines the lower half was a young woman who disappeared, never really searched for due to the corruption of the Mexican police establishment. The upper half is a politician known in El Paso. Det Sonya Cross is required to investigate while Det Marco Ruiz wants to despite his superior's apathy.

There is something very compelling in being thrust between small city America and small city Mexico. The differences between the two countries and cultures are never more apparent as the crime is investigated. The first episode plays the majority of its scenes in the US where Ruiz does his best to relax the team he will be working with,  but in the end, he has to return to Mexico where he feels disheartened by his employers and his family situation.

To close out the first episode, we are given the scene with a summabitch reporter, whose car was identified as dropping the bodies, being trapped in said car with a bomb ticking down. Sonya proves a bit of skill and sympathy by talking to him when its quickly determined the bomb squad cannot help in the time given. But the bomb is a fakeout and now they have to determine how the reporter is mixed into this killing, perhaps a serial killer?

We then caught wind that the British & French had done a series as well, called The Tunnel. Its so obvious to use the chunnel between France & Britain, its hard to believe the American series beat it. Stephane Dillane (Stannis Baratheon on Game of Thrones) and Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter) are the leads. The former seems less hassled & tired than his Mexican counterpart and the latter is just plain prettier, more fey than Asperger.  Its odd, but I remember next to nothing of this version. I do recall it felt it was going to go more along the direction of suit & ties political corruption than The Bridge, but until Graig mentioned how much he enjoyed it, I was not convinced to continue it.

Finally, we have the original. Sweden & Denmark, only over the bridge from each other but two languages and separate cultures. This is the key that makes this story, I believe. They are so close, and yes people do pass from A to B every and all day, but they are still so different. When Martin Rohde explains to a room full of Swedish cops, he has to slow down and speak more clearly. They mostly understand what he is saying but don't use the language on a daily basis.  The show also reminds the viewers of how similar the two countries are with tons of connecting shots of typical urban backdrops, all city is city is city. The similarities yet differences is what the show is about, with easy going, laughing family man Martin and serious, odd and single Saga. But both are good cops who care about what is happening.

The US show comes the closest to making the same connection, the idea of so close yet so far. But its more likely a room full of El Paso cops speak Spanish. I wonder if they could have done a Canadian analog, set between fictional American and Quebec cities across the border from each other. The divide would never be more apparent.

I am tempted to watch each show in a parallel state but I think I would end up just mixing side plots up and confusing characters between shows, especially the British/French with the Swedish/Danish. Still, it would create an interesting summary of the first season a few months from now. Failing that, I will probably complete Bron/Broen first, then the American and finally the British. All are worth watching.