Friday, October 18, 2013

A Brief Look at Bron/Broen and Its International Spawn

I found a significant portion of the first season of the original Bron/Broen excellent and riveting procedural television. Even with the issues I ultimately have with it, I think it’s a better freshman season than that of Forbrydelsen. (Although I do think the second season of Forbrydelsen is better than Bron’s first season.)

My issues with Bron’s season one? That point in the narrative when the apparently socio-politically motivated serial killer turns out to be… something else. (For those who’ve yet to see Bron, I shall steer clear of spoilers.)
That plot point wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it did impact on my view of the season as a whole.

So when news first broke that FX was mounting an American version--The Bridge, trading the Sweden/Denmark settings for US/Mexico--I was naturally curious.
And as I got further into The Bridge, I appreciated those elements of the American iteration that skillfully exploited the US/Mexico dichotomy to bolster its storytelling. These were, I felt, among the show’s strengths, angles and story beats that weren’t imported from Bron.
I felt this so strongly that I hoped The Bridge wouldn’t copy that pivotal plot detour that, at least for me, marred Bron somewhat.

Sadly, they did. (Every time I’d see a variation of a familiar Bron beat play out on The Bridge, gradually edging the narrative ever closer to that damned plot twist, I’d sigh and go--in an internal Scandinavianish voice--“Åh nej!”)
But then, after getting the basic plot skeleton of Bron out of the way, in the tail end of the first season, The Bridge displayed a side of itself that promised to be a riveting show in its own right, away from the long, formidable shadow of Bron.

Though Bron’s leads are, for me, still the best and purest distillations of the main characters (Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia originated the roles, after all), Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir acquit themselves well, particularly Kruger, who had the unenviable task of walking in the footsteps of Helin’s Saga Norén.
The welcome surprise of The Bridge was its supporting cast, in particular, Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill himself, Ted Levine, who brings a gruff, paternal charm to the proceedings as Hank Wade, and Matthew Lillard, as addict douchebag reporter Daniel Frye. Plus the quirky oddness of Lyle Lovett’s Monte P. Flagman, who I sincerely hope we see more of in the second season.

So, yeah, while , interestingly enough, the weaker sections of The Bridge are the parts where they tried to stay too faithful to Bron,* by the time the thirteenth episode winds up, it’s with a show that promises to be something far more interesting in its sophomore season--its own exotic narrative creature, removed from its Scandinavian roots.

Meanwhile, as I was enjoying my journey on The Bridge, I was also looking forward to the Sky English/French iteration, The Tunnel; this version’s initial dump site: the Channel Tunnel.
And here we are with the first episode aired…

It’s still too early to tell how this will ultimately shape up, but it’s a promising start. Though it does follow the same general structure of Bron’s first episode, there are also some slight deviations.
My biggest takeaway from episode 1? That haunting theme song (“The End of Time”), with vocals by Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Plus, it’s a bit bizarre to see Stannis Baratheon himself on the case… (Every now and then, I'd half-expect Carice van Houten's Red Woman to come traipsing out of the woodwork.)
Stephen Dillane's “Karl Roebuck” character, by the way, seems to have become an even bigger man-whore in this iteration. While in Bron, the character has three children in a current marriage and one child from a previous one, and in The Bridge, two and one, in The Tunnel, he’s got five kids from three different mums…

Here’s to 9 more episodes of The Tunnel, and here’s to hoping it revels in its Britishness/Frenchness, and doesn’t take that same plot detour its predecessors chose to take.

Doubleplus, there’s also the second season of Bron to look forward to (four episodes have already aired in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland).

* I should point out, in all fairness, that I nevertheless appreciated the efforts of The Bridge writers to tighten up the plot elements taken from Bron, as well as delineating more clearly, the characters and their relationships with one another.

(Bron DVD cover art courtesy of; The Bridge OS courtesy of; The Tunnel image courtesy of

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