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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Bridge: “Rio”

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The central mystery of The Bridge on paper is why the show is worth a precious spot on the appointment-viewing list. It’s dangerous and sexy. It’s easier to say, “You gotta watch the show about the murdered judge found between El Paso and Juarez,” then, “You gotta watch the show set in a world defined by the relationship of two neighboring countries, one characterized by extreme poverty, the other by prosperity.” It’s the former explanation that gives The Bridge its spot on the list. But “Rio” is the first episode of the three that was imbued with a sense of urgency, a sense of danger, a sense that if something isn’t done soon, more scary things will happen.

The randomness of the danger that faces the people of Juarez, the people the killer is trying to bring attention to, is finally felt. There is a certain sick art to the way the travelers are murdered with spiked water as a cloaked skeleton Virgin watches over them. But it’s the man shot in the head over what looks like a petty argument while Adriana and Daniel walk through Obreras that precipitates an energy that is counter to the deliberately lilting pace of the rest of the series. I liked it, I want it to keep going. While I enjoy The Bridge’s atmospherics, a little sense of urgency is a welcome change (of literal pace).


The main trait we know about the garble-voiced killer so far is that he doesn’t do it for the thrill. Or, at least that’s what he believes. It’s for a cause. He wants the wealthiest men in El Paso to feel the brunt of blood on their hands for a reason. He does what does because of dialectics. “Poles. Two sides. America, Mexico. Legal, illegal,” Sonya explains. Characters are paired in similarly diametric opposites. The obvious example is the Sonya-Ruiz relationship. As the series expands, the odd couples continue to surface. Daniel and Adriana are similarly opposite; Daniel the fuck-up, privileged white boy versus Adriana, the hard-working Mexican woman saved by her own sexual preference (I loved this detail, interesting characterization). Charlotte Millwright, who seems so utterly alone in the world until her foil shows up at her husband's funeral. They are more alike than Charlotte thinks, the woman tells her. “You were poor and did shit things to pull yourself up.” They might have both taken part in bootstrap-pulling, but their views on legal and good certainly differ, culminating in the death of poor Rio the Horse. The relationship between Linder and the menacing man on the hunt for the missing Eva, whose burned clothes are in Linder’s trash can, similarly sets up the two as mirrors of each other. They are both looking for a girl for mysterious reasons, yet their beings, they way they hold themselves and investigate, are at odds with each other. There’s also the larger, macrocosmic opposite being put into place, namely the other agencies that have finally decided a murdered judge placed on the border between two countries is worth their time. So far, their limited presence has been marked by bureaucracy (“Who authorized you do to do that?”), while the investigations carried out by Sonya and Ruiz (and Daniel and Adriana) are smaller and directly related to the crime.

Embodying the doubles that have so far defined The Bridge is Demián Bichir. One of my favorite aspects of his performance has been his ability to balance both the good cop and the bad cop inside himself. At one point, he’s the sympathetic shoulder for Charlotte to cry on, but in the next he’s getting too aggressive with Steven Linder. He’s not an anti-hero, a characterization that has been so overused as of late that it feels stale. Instead, he’s a flawed man. He’s not the paragon of goodness, the error in his ways makes him feel real, with Bichir expertly conveying all sides of him. He’s a great cop, but he bristles when Sonya won’t let him break into Linder’s trailer. He’ll stop and buy Kitty flowers, but he’s a shit father and husband, ignoring his wife Alma’s pleas to pay attention to his son Gus, who is consistently dropping classes (and has thing for icy blonde prosecutors). I’m not entirely sure how I feel about his dalliance with Charlotte. It brings her directly into his orbit, but it needs to be handled correctly and considering we were just given a glimpse of a make-out session, there’s not much to go on other than a confused head tilt at the decision to go there. I also never really got a sense that Marco’s marriage was so terrible he would feel compelled to stray. Alma is clearly wary of Sonya’s beauty (“Es bonita.”), so is possibly aware of her husband’s wandering eye. I understand the urge on Charlotte’s part: She’s just found out that the man she thought loved her didn’t (among other secrets). She’s a pariah in her own community. She feels lost and Marco is the only person who has been nice to her. But I need further development on their relationship (if there will be one) before delving further into it critically.


Stray observations:

  • If the killer uses a machine that garbles his voice for all of his phone chats, why would he hire the voice actor three years ago to record the initial messages?
  • I can’t believe I just noticed Alma is played by Maria Full of Grace’s Catalina Sandino Moreno. I really hope they use her to her fullest, rather than as a sulking pregnant woman on the sides. It was like Embeth Davidtz as Jared Harris’ wife in Mad Men. She’s capable of a lot and I spent much of her time on the series waiting for them to allow her to do something great.
  • I praised Demián Bichir, but Matthew Lillard and Ted Levine should also be singled out for excellence.
  • “You can suck it.” “I’ll pass.”
  • “I hope her cat is okay.”
  • “What are you doing here? I can’t have sex at work.” “Well, goodnight.”
  • “I think he’s going to let the desert take her. Right before our eyes.”
  • PSA: There was a really interesting discussion about the veracity of Sonya’s Aspberger’s going on in the comments last week. As I don’t have as much first-hand experience with either Aspberger’s or Autism, I highly recommend you take a gander at last week’s comment’s section (and presumably this week’s. In other words, keep it up, I’m enjoying your thoughts).