'The Bridge' TV Review: Ambitious Crime Drama Raises Too Many Questions
FX’s new foray into scripted drama, The Bridge, was pretty much exactly what you would expect: dark, slow and puzzling. If you’ve flipped through a magazine or turned on your television lately, you’ve seen an ad for The Bridge and, whether you watched it or not, your review would probably read something similar to mine.
The intricacies of the mystery in The Bridge are not predictable, but the themes and tone are – especially for viewers of AMC’s The Killing. Two detectives from two different countries are forced to work together by a murderer who purposefully chooses to leave half of an American judge and half of a missing Mexican teenager right on the Mexico/U.S. border. Cue El Paso Detective Sonya Cross's (Diane Kruger) immediate questioning of Marco Ruiz's (Demián Bichir) moral integrity – she goes so far as to ask Ruiz if he’s corrupt because, aren’t all Mexican police corrupt? – representing stereotyping versus denying it. The idea of a killer forcing two law enforcement officers to confront problems of international relations is incredibly interesting. What does, as the killer asks, make the life of a ‘white woman’ (the Texas judge) matter more than the lives of the Missing Girls of Juarez?
While the question is a good one, it seems a bit overly ambitious to me – is the show really expecting the audience to ignore the fact that there are greater forces at work than two homicide detectives? If the killer’s end game is to get more U.S. law enforcement officials involved in crimes occurring in Mexico, then he or she is going to be very disappointed at the end of the season. Or, are we going to be the ones cheated in the end? If catching this one killer is the only thing keeping Ruiz and Cross together, then what happens when (or if) the killer is caught? Does the show end? If so, does that mean we’ll never find out who the murderer is so that the show will go on forever? So. Many. Questions.
Putting the convoluted plot on the backburner for a second, it’s clear that The Bridge’s shinning star is Demián Bichir, who plays Ruiz with extreme care. (Although, Matthew Lillard is a close second.) Bichir is able to present Ruiz as intense, funny, emotional, but not too revealing – just when you think Ruiz is revealing an insight into his soul, he goes quiet, making you think he didn’t really tell you anything at all. It’s impossible not to watch Bichir when he’s on screen.
Unfortunately, one man’s success is another (wo)man’s loss, and Bichir’s excellent performance makes Kruger look lost in comparison. To be fair to Kruger, Detective Cross is extremely difficult to relate to. Presumably suffering from Asperger’s syndrome – which can affect one’s abilities to adapt and respond to social situations – Cross is almost entirely void of emotion throughout the episode. And Kruger, who seems to have embraced this character note a bit too much, plays the part with so little feeling that Cross comes off as just plain rude instead of troubled. It doesn’t help that Cross never even pretends to try to be empathetic, and the only emotion she does let show is selfishness. When she cries at the thought that her mentor will retire, Cross is not sad to think about her boss’s career coming to an end. She is only worried about herself and what his retirement will mean for her. If The Bridge wants to keep its audience hooked, Cross needs to develop more depth and Kruger needs to find a better balance between being cold and being robotic.
As a whole, I’m on the fence about The Bridge. There are definitely some very valuable elements – Bichir being one, the other being the potential The Bridge has to ignite a truly smart conversation about the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico – that will surely make people tune in every week. Still, there is a lot of room for improvement (more character work on Cross and a clearer connection between all the different story lines), and the pilot didn’t show me enough to trust that things will get better as the season goes on.
What did you think of The Bridge? Am I being too harsh on Detective Cross?
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