Character of the Week: Hans Petterson

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Behind every brilliant detective is a boss who believes in his or her ability and discerning nature. In The Bridge, for Saga Norén (Sofia Helin), that person is her senior police officer Hans Petterson, played by actor and director Dag Malmberg.

Malmberg is a key supporting figure in the Mälmo police department. Hans Petterson maintains a calm and collected demeanour that can be seen as aloof and lethargic. His long-standing relationship with Saga defines him as a conduit to help Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) adapt to his burgeoning partnership with Saga and gauge her personality. He patiently dispels paternal advice when it comes to Saga’s social awkwardness and non-existent empathy; voicing concerns or filling in the gaps that a sympathetic person would inherently consider. He attempts to explain his wife’s frequent, yet pointless phone calls are a sign of love but astutely determines whatever he says will fall on deaf ears.

When Saga is working late in the office he gently urges her to step back and seek a balance between her professional and personal life, but accepts she cannot be deterred from solving the high profile case. Saga’s accidental comparison between herself and “TT” or the “Truth Terrorist” unsettles Hans when she states the perpetrator is:“Extremely focused. Single. Successful. Clearly defined targets. Good at planning.” However, he is naturally used to her lack of sub-text and doesn’t take it seriously.

Hans notably takes a back seat when it comes to leading investigations; tending to hover on the periphery drinking coffee and acquiescing to Saga’s unflappable judgement. He is comparable to a conscience and supervisor; reinforcing his fatherly role and denotes a confidence in his entire staff. He also welcomes Martin from Denmark without any condescension and shows a respect for his traditional work ethic. When Saga intends to file a complaint against Martin for allowing an ambulance to compromise the crime scene at the Øresund Bridge, Hans reasons with her to reconsider.

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Whereas the majority of scenes between Hans and Saga have touching undertones, a standout moment comes when Hans announces his upcoming transfer to the Gothenburg police department. This generates a clear emotional response with tears from Saga towards the climax of the first season as Hans assures her she will have nothing to worry about under new management. Hans even recommends Saga for a promotion but she declines.

Hans is amused by the effect Martin has on Saga as she questions her mentor with the first and utmost concern any detective should have in the field. As opposed to solving the crime and arresting the criminal (which Hans confirms in a perfunctory response), protecting your partner is Martin’s goal.

With the third season of The Bridge currently being filmed minus the talents of Kim Bodnia it will be interesting to see what dynamic Saga develops with Hans and how she will cope without one of the people who has truly come to understand and make her feel secure.