“Take the Ride, Pay the Toll” feels like a season finale. The main arc is wrapped up, albeit with the uncertain future for many of the central players. (Isn’t that how most finales go anyway? Even shows with as-yet-determined futures.) David Tate is dealt with, succeeding in his one very complicated goal: Marco is a wounded, broken man walking off into the sunset with nothing. But if this feels like a finale, what the hell are they going to do next?
At first, I was weary of this episode. The cold open, featuring Ray disposing of the body of his old friend Tim only to find more death at the end of the tunnel, was an odd choice, if only because Ray and Charlotte aren’t revisited throughout the rest of the episode. (Neither is Linder for that matter.) The final two episodes will surely return to the world that made the beginning of the series so rich, but those subplots have been put on the backburner since the Tate revelation. There is another moment that threatens to let the air out of “Take the Ride”: While Tate begins to discuss his endgame, revealing that Daniel has been in the backseat, and Tate himself is ready to literally blow, the scene ends and cuts to Sonya in the precinct, on the verge of figuring out Gus’ whereabouts. It is a means of prolonging the struggle on the titular bridge and putting Sonya on her path of discovery, but it’s an awkward transition. There have been a couple of other episodes that could have been on edge-of-your-seat style but had so much going on that any tension was mitigated.
“Take the Ride” is not that episode.
Fortunately, the rest of the episode settles down, leading to some of the most tense, well-acted and well-shot scenes of the young series’ run. Directed expertly by John Dahl (who has done fine work this year on some of my favorite shows: The Americans, Hannibal, and Justified) gave this episode a singular visual flair. I love the shot of Sonya reaching for Gus in his watery tomb and the tracking shot of Sonya as she sits dumbfounded after the standoff on the bridge. Writer Dario Scardapane (who also wrote “ID”) is able to balance quieter character moments with the bombastic showdown between Marco and Tate.
“Take the Ride” proves, if anything, that the consistent praise for Demián Bichir has been warranted all along. The series’ most tense moment to date is when he holds the gun to Daniel Frye’s head. Bichir’s performance has been so wonderfully layered, I honestly did not know whether he was going to pull the trigger or not. Here’s a desperate, yet generally moral man at a crossroads. Shoot Daniel, and he gives Tate the power. It’s an attractive proposition: Sacrifice a degenerate man with no friends and little to live for in exchange for the life of his young son. Tate acknowledges most men would take the latter. Or follow the path of the cop who does good even where most men wouldn’t. The final scene where he taps Gus’ heart and places his hand over his own is simply heartbreaking, without using histrionics to get across the point that this man has been decimated by what’s happened to him. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Push the Sky Away” plays perfectly as Marco walks off into uncertain territory
I didn’t know if the show would have the balls to kill off Gus. I haven’t watched the full run of the original Bron/Broen in part because I want to be surprised by The Bridge, so I’m not sure if they’re following the original template, but it is a devastating and interesting move. In the capable hands of Bichir, I’m fascinated to see how Marco will react to the death of his eldest child, how it will change him as both a man and as an investigator. As much as I’ve lauded the world of the The Bridge, it’s the prospect of seeing a grieving father forced to interact with the world that really intrigues me about the final two episodes
But I’m also glad we’re returning the world of The Bridge without the distracting messiness of the Beast plotline. I’ve missed the richness of place where Charlotte Millwright, Steven Linder, and Adriana Perez can all exist. Of course, there are still unanswered questions: I still want to know how Tate knew that Daniel Frye and Santi Jr were hanging out the night of his son’s death. What the hell is up with Linder? When do we get more Fausto? While “Take the Ride” feels like a finale, these two remaining episodes could prove to be richer bonus material. I was satisfied with how the Beast arc ended, but I’m more excited about returning to El Paso.