The Bridge is a strange show — not just in its cast of odd characters whose quirks demand updates in the DSM-5, but in its story structure. The Bridge, adapted from the Netherlands for an American audience, was on the receiving end of a critical backlash during its first season, and has certainly rebounded with its second season premiere “Yankee.”

The Bridge was developed by Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid who worked as co-showrunners for the first season which, among its myriad of meandering subplots, featured a kind of stark, barely fictionalized reality reminiscent of The Wire, placed along the Bridge of the Americas — a veritable DMZ between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Whereas The Wire focused on a documentary styled reality that was short on character development, The Bridge focused the story through the lens of its characters. “Yankee” returns to character basics, while allowing new viewers a jumping on point as most of everyone’s situations have changed.

While the first season won a Peabody, it seemed to be more because of the show’s potential and what it was attempting to do — correctly portray and make a proper statement on the awful governmental policies pertaining to drug trafficking and crime at the United States/Mexican border. There’s a good show under there, everyone says, including its writers. The first season was controversial among Stiehm and Reid as well; Stiehm felt obliged to adapt the serial killer story from the original series (Broen/Bron; your mileage may vary) while Reid wanted to further the exploration of border relations via Detectives Cross (Diane Kruger) and Ruiz (Demián Bichir). Instead, the season did neither of those things entirely well since it hadn’t figured itself out yet.

Between the seasons, Meredith Stiehm decided to return as a writer-producer on Homeland – because apparently going down with the ship is still a thing – leaving Elwood Reid as the sole showrunner, and within ten minutes we’re nose deep in the cocaine trade. Reid wastes no time boosting last season’s kingpin Fausto Galvan (Ramón Franco) to the primary antagonist and casting Franka Potente as Eleanor Nacht, his heavily tattooed German accountant/environmentalist/Mennonite/assassin proxy in the United States.

The pacing is still unfortunately uneven. The cold open is dreamy and hypnotic, the opening scene is suspenseful, and almost everything that follows is as laconic as Ruiz (Demian Bichir) moving his tired aching body from a sitting to a standing position. At the same time, nothing quite beats the bizarre level of funny that is seeing Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) casually walking outside with a shotgun. By the halfway point, the new character status quos are established, and Cross and Ruiz are briefly reunited to continue being The Odd Couple with a healthy dose of Asperger’s and manic depression.

Ruiz, once solid and tethered, is now divorced, depressed over the death of his son and waiting for the cartel to finish him off. Cross, meanwhile, is carefully watching the man who raped and murdered her sister die slowly. She’s hoping against hope that he survives so he can spend the rest of his life in prison, trapped in his mind and body, rotting day by day. Then she goes out on a date with the man’s brother – because that’s normal. She is, however, more self-aware than she was last season. She wants to understand and socialize better, and while she is more vulnerable than she was before, that terse directness and confidence remains. She’s more human, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. It’s refreshing to see, as most strong women on TV are usually declawed because all they really wanted was a man or a baby or some such.

Despite the same pacing and focusing issues that remain, as well as some loose threads from last season that apparently can’t just get tied up, The Bridge has embraced what works — the weirdness, the stark visuals, the strange patois, the characters — and is slowly beginning to eject what wasn’t — meandering subplots and bloated sense of importance — in the hope that this season will be more coherent and engaging. Whether The Bridge manages to pull this off probably won’t be clear until the halfway point of the season. Either way, it’s worth sitting in on just for the unabashed weirdness that’s one backwards-talking dwarf away from becoming Twin Peaks.

The Bridge airs Tuesdays at 10PM on FX.


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