Discover more about the final season from the Saga maker
“She takes a while to warm up to, but she grows on you. When you get to know her, you really get to love her.” This is Saga Norén in a nutshell, spoken by the writer and creator behind one of the greatest Nordic Noir heroines, Hans Rosenfeldt. Many die-hard fans have grown to love her, which is why the realisation that Saga was meant to be killed off in season one is so shocking. Now, as The Bridge IV continues its final season on BBC Two, it’s difficult to imagine the realm of Scandi crime without her.
Not giving anything away, the creator and writer teased us with a little on what audiences can anticipate from the rest of the final season. “I think it’s the toughest season for both our leads – it’s definitely very tough on a personal level for Saga and Henrik,” Hans confesses. “Following on from season three, we will be resolving the story with Henrik’s children – whether or not he should give up searching for them. As for the rest of the narrative, Saga and Henrik take a deep look at themselves and find out who they really are in season four. And, at the same time, they’re chasing another serial killer!” Of course – this is The Bridge, people.
Following the first episode on BBC Two, Hans shared more with us about the heroine’s tentative fate. “I know, the episode two trailer kind of gave that cliff-hanger away! I guess the viewers and BBC Two didn’t think Saga was going to die – so the trailer was put out there anyway! [LAUGHS] But people expected Saga would return to the show in one way or another,” Hans ruminates. “I have heard online theories that she could die and nobody else will see her – except Henrik. But I’m not sure if anyone really believes that that’s what we chose to do! That would be taking it a step too far [LAUGHS].”
Even though Hans has lived and breathed Saga for nearly 12 years, there have still been surprises about Saga’s evolution, with ideas that weren’t planned at the beginning. “We were constantly surprised. Everything about Saga’s backstory that has formed her as a character has basically come about on a season-by-season basis,” Hans admits. “We didn’t know about her mother and father in the first season – originally they were meant to be dead. The death of her sister was brought in very late, which is mentioned in season one, episode six. That was because our producers felt the killing of a young girl could spark something within Saga; a connection that got to her,” Hans continues. “When we got commissioned for season two, the backstory involved the sister and then the mother, which built Saga up to explain who she is. With season four, we had a pretty clear image of what we wanted from Saga because of these backstory problems. So, Saga surprises us constantly, as we make up and find out new things about her.”
“We didn’t know if we were going to be commissioned for another season – we also didn’t do character bibles. We talk to the actors, but we don’t have a fully-fledged character arc when we start.” So, how did the initial idea for the series come about, you may wonder? We did. “We were approached by the production company with another series they had been developing in Malmö and Copenhagen – but that fell through,” Hans explains. “Then they asked us to create a 10-hour thriller set in Sweden and Denmark. That was the pitch we got! Apart from that, we were free to do whatever we wanted. This was back in 2006, as we experienced a lot of pre-production/ development hell.”
As well as being five years before The Bridge was finally released, the term Nordic Noir hadn’t been coined or even caught fire from the Millennium Trilogy or The Killing. “At this time, Nordic Noir wasn’t as popular as it is. It would be another 2-3 years before the first season of The Killing came out. Back in 2006, we thought we were making a Swedish-Danish show that only Swedish and Danish people would be watching.”
We wondered if the creator was ever worried about the fate of his heroine in the early days when the reviews of the first season were more critical. “We had mixed reviews – they weren’t great, but we weren’t slaughtered either!” Hans recalls. “They thought it was “decent”. It was interesting that Swedish critics thought the saving grace of the show was having a Danish director and Danish actors – because Swedes are “rubbish”. People thought Sofia was bad and robotic, as, unlike an American show would do, her character wasn’t outrightly diagnosed to the audience. We had a declining viewership from episode one to four. But when people stuck with it and tried to understand her, the viewing figures from episodes five to ten went up all the way. Whereas in Denmark, it was the opposite. They were glad to have a Swedish cast and crew!” Then the Nordic Noir wave fanned across Europe. “You – the UK – liked it, plus Belgium and the Netherlands, to name a few. Then people realised they might have missed something and caught up.”
The Bridge’s success can also be seen by its many re-imaginings – from the US-Mexican setting and the UK-French series to the Russian-Estonian and upcoming Asian version. “There’s also a German-Austrian one. I haven’t actually seen many of the remakes. I saw some episodes of The Bridge (US) and The Tunnel, but it was hard for me to watch them and enjoy them as a TV show,” Hans admits. “I kind of job-watched them, thinking, “Oh, they kept that” or “Oh, they changed that”. I imagine it’s like a play, which can be interpreted in a different way. I’m not involved in those projects, even in a creative sense.”
The process seems to be very collaborative with the actors, with plenty of open discussions about the characters, especially between Hans and Sofia. “For season four, we discussed if Saga would be a little content in prison, as it’s all about routines, rules and regulations – and Saga likes that. So, we talked about if Saga would actually be happy about being in jail,” entertains Hans. “Sofia didn’t think she would be because the cell is not her room. I said, “But she’d like it in solitary, wouldn’t she?”, and Sofia was like, “yeah, she’d really like it there!” I think that was the best call to make. If Saga liked it in prison, there wouldn’t be a reason for her to want to get out.” Free the Malmö one! “Overall, we have more discussions with Sofia before the script is written, whereas Thure likes to delve into his character when we’re going through it. With Sofia, we talk about it so I’m not writing something that we’re bound to change later.”
If there were to be a fifth season – we wanted to know the first idea that popped into the creator’s head, if Saga and Henrik survive season four? “If they were to survive, the next season would be about reuniting them.” That’s perfect – but does this mean the detective duo go their separate ways at the end? “All four seasons have been about Saga trying to find love and acceptance, which we all want her to succeed at. If Saga survives, that would be good for her to be content with herself.” Keep watching and find out is the one and only answer.
Interview by Antony Smith
Continue watching The Bridge IV on Friday nights from 9pm on BBC Two