Fox has decided to jump off The Bridge. In a move I find more than a little surprising, the show ends here with this second season. From the sets extras I get a strong idea that no one involved with the production saw it coming either. This was one of the better shows on television, and with Sons Of Anarchy also finished, Fox is losing some extraordinary quality to their lineup. At least Sons Of Anarchy got to run its course and tell its story. Sadly, the same can’t be said for The Bridge. I was looking forward to more from a show that was getting better as it moved into its own invention. You will have to comfort yourself on the loss by owning the remaining episodes.
This is really the tale of two cities; no, not those cities. But like the Dickens character, we are dealing with two different countries, and while neither is going through a revolution, they are two very real and disparate places indeed. Juarez is in Mexico (the state they named those annoying little yip-yip dogs after). Here there is poverty and crime on levels that would make most Americans shudder. There is corruption that runs through every aspect of government. Here most of the police are bought and completely owned by the drug cartels. Here literally thousands of young women and girls disappear or die each year. Americans come here to sin and leave it behind them when they cross the border again.
On the other side is El Paso in Texas. It’s a typical Texas town with a relatively honest police force and comfortable homes. Here the citizens are protected by laws and the firepower to enforce them. Here there is waste and little want. Here there are only a few more than a dozen women killed each year. They are indeed different places, and they are separated by The Bridge.
But the tale is not about the cities, but rather a detective from each. In El Paso there is Detective Sonya Cross, played by Diane Kruger. Her Mexican counterpart is Detective Marco Ruiz, played by Mexican actor Demian Bichir. Diane Kruger is instantly unlikable as Sonya Cross. She appears completely void of emotion and too mater-of-fact in dealing with people. Apparently she has autism. It’s not easy to guess that is her condition. There are no outbursts, but she does appear to fiddle with her hands a bit. I hope that’s not really an identifiable symptom, or I’m in deep trouble. She makes the viewer uncomfortable just as the character does to those around her. If that’s the goal, you have to give the actress credit for going all in here. She gets a little softer, but not much, when she discovers to her own surprise that she has become Marcos’ friend. There’s also a back story that explains some of the odd behavior. Her sister was murdered, and she wears her jacket even though it doesn’t fit well. The beautiful part of this story arc and our knowledge is that most of it is sold to us by her acting and not necessarily a lot of exposition. I always love characters when I learn who they are with less explanation. It’s a solid performance that you’ll grow to appreciate no mater how uncomfortable Cross makes you feel.
Demian Bichir isn’t very well known in the United States, but he’s quite the name in Mexico. He had a pretty good run in Weeds, but most of his credits fall below the border. It’s a natural selection in more ways than one. There’s an authenticity with this character that comes not only from his nationality. He makes it look so dang easy and natural. It never looks like he’s trying, and while he’s not as morally “good” as Cross, he’s a much more likable character. The events of last season have put him at odds with his family. An affair ended the union. Now we get to see him struggle with that new reality. Marcos is not a static character, and he does things that won’t paint him in a good light. He almost goes through with a plan to kill the man who murdered his son. We still grow to care for and relate to him in spite of the cultural distance. He’s not the Luis Goodman stereotype we love to laugh at. He’s complicated and a crucial part of this drama. The chemistry the two share took me by surprise. It was so very awkward at first, but it became such a natural thing before I knew it.
The supporting cast includes Annabeth Gish as Charlotte. She and partner Ray (Van Holt) find themselves trapped into working for a dangerous drug cartel that will be the crucial part of the second season story.
Thomas M. Wright plays Steven Linder, who sets out to help a woman brutalized by corrupt police officials in Mexico. We saw that story in season 1. Wright plays him with a rather annoying Billy Bob Thornton Swingblade drawl, but he’s a train wreck. He’s the bad accident on the interstate that you just can’t keep yourself from looking at. This season shows his strong heart, but his good intentions lead to misguided violence.
Matthew Lillard has one of the show’s most pivotal roles. He plays reporter Daniel Frye, who ended up being quite important as the first season drew to a conclusion. This season finds him doing a better job than the police of both cities in getting to the heart of the drug cartel violence that dominates the season.
Gone is the serial killer single story. This season begins with a new administration in the Mexican government who want to put an end to the corruption in the government and the police. Marcos finds his life in danger as he is placed dead center in the middle of this fight against corruption and the blow back from Fausto Galvan played quite impressively by Ramon Franco. He’s a scary individual whom we met in the first season pulling the strings in the police. Now we get a look at his huge organization and cold-blooded nature. He’s a worthy opponent for our two heroes.
The most impressive new front character is Franka Porente as Eleanor Nacht. This is one hell of a complex character. She is stoic as she kills. She’s a trusted member of Galvan’s organization who keeps a ledger of all of the things she’s done. It’s her job to try to clean up the mess that his cartel has become, but she also will do what it takes to serve her own interest. This woman is truly scary and almost too realistic at times. Another actor who commits completely to a role. That appears to be a staple of this series.
For Sonya she has to come to grips with the death of the man who killed her sister. She meets and romances the killer’s brother in one of those twisted plot points that could only work with a character like Sonya. The relationship brings out some secrets from the days of her sister’s death and will put her relationship with Hank (Levine) in serious jeopardy. She also has to deal with other secrets that cause her to question her trust of Marcos. It’s amazing that all of this happens in just 13 episodes.
If there’s a weakness here, it’s the large number of great characters and how hard it has to be to serve them all. Again you have to pay attention here, because there’s no time to waste. I’m not sure I was able to follow the intricate web of relationships all of the time. I see another binge session of both seasons back to back in my future. (Right, like I’m really going to have time for that anytime soon.)
It’s all based on a Danish series of the same name (once translated). There the bridge separates Denmark from Sweden, and the American version of the show contains pretty much the same characters with very much the same paths. The first season found the show taking an almost identical story path. This season the show separates itself from the original by going its own way instead of repeating the second season of the Danish production.
Remember what I keep saying; you have to pay attention. There’s a lot of Spanish with English subtitles. You also have to pay close attention, because there are so many nuances to this story. You never know what trivial little thing will show up again with a much greater meaning than you could have guessed. This isn’t good background viewing. You have to commit yourself to the show. If you do, it’s quite rewarding. It’s the television version of an iceberg. What you get on the surface is only a small percentage of what is actually going on, and much of that is wonderfully planted misdirection. The heavy lifting here is the smart writing that keeps so much under the surface.
The set contains 13 episodes on four discs. Extras include a short behind-the-scenes feature for each episode, audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a season overview. It’s an exhausting ride to be sure. It’ll be well worth your time. Unfortunately, the powers that be at Fox don’t necessarily agree with that analysis. I’m sure the Fox execs would tell me that it’s not that simple. The Bridge has ended. “Thanks for coming”.