Now we’re talking.
“The Beast” is what I’ve wanted from The Bridge since the beginning. It’s the first episode since the pilot wherein the mystery and the world of the show have gelled in a way that are both equally compelling. “The Beast” also has a sense of urgency, a sense of momentum, that I found lacking in previous episodes, but praised when the stakes felt raised. Director Gwyneth Horder-Payton is a veteran of shows that work simultaneously with fascinating worlds and similarly-themed larger arcs (Justified, The Shield), and she works the episode masterfully, pacing it expertly and giving it an unequaled visual panache. Hopefully, The Bridge continues to take this route when it comes to the approaching second half of the season. And if it does, The Bridge could go from a good show to a great one.
The excellence of this episode is best encapsulated by the opening scene. Fausto Galvan, one of the many colorful characters (including Lt. Wade and the recently-named Graciela Rivera) that have been one of the The Bridge’s stronger components, discusses the nature of serial killers with a lieutenant. Serial killers are a favorite television archetype because their deviousness can be drawn out over a large arc. Hannibal Lecter has been reinvigorated by the format. Kevin Bacon has found ratings (if not critical) success because of a cult of them. The Killing has been resurrected because of one of them. But serial killers mean nothing to Fausto Glavan, a man who has killed more than his fair share. “A lot of people kill a lot of people. Soldiers. Terrorists. Presidents.” He concludes, “You’re only a serial killer if you enjoy it.” And Fausto does not enjoy the act of killing. But he does it anyway. Our killer does not explicitly express his love of the kill, like Hannibal or Joe Carroll. He hides behind his message and his mission. But this is life for Fausto, this is how he gets the information and results he needs. Scenes like this one, that demonstrate the every day for these characters, are the reason I liked The Bridge in the first place. That scene alone is my favorite of the series.
While the plot of The Bridge last week felt as if it had stalled, it rockets forward with this week’s episode. The big addition to “The Beast” is Gina (Cole Bernstein), a teenager with sticky fingers and absent parents. I wasn’t sold on Gina at first. Her situation felt a bit cliché, and her decision to walk into Juarez and stay there smacked of a naivete that didn’t feel real for a girl often left to her own devices and used to loud rebellions that fall on deaf parental ears. But by bringing the audience into Juarez with her we get a similar lesson in the reality. She’s saved from potential kidnapping by a woman whose sister disappeared, who became a pink cross and was never expected to be found. Gina does not want to become a pink cross. But soon the teenage girl with no purpose and no home becomes the only concrete link between the Marco and Sonya and the killer. Gina’s father was the psychiatrist of murdered Fed Gedman, who was seeing deceased prostitute Cristina Fuentes on the regular. But Gedman’s fear of the surfaced video of Fuentes and himself was not about his bosses finding out. They already knew. At least that’s what the killer, who may be a cop or a fed himself, insinuates to Sonya after Marco steals his phone. Not only have the deaths of the missing women of Juarez been largely ignored, they’ve been sanctioned by American agencies.
So, the case is able to move forward in a meaningful way at the same time the personal lives of these characters move forward. Marco’s marriage falls apart, forcing him to get close to Sonya and learn about her sister’s murder. Marco’s son, Gus, has become increasingly unhappy with his father’s behavior. Yet, two loose ends remain. Charlotte Millwright, spurned by Marco’s rejection, falls into the arms of a former paramore (Brian Van Holt, imbuing his Cougar Town Bobby Cobb character with sleaze, rather than charming idiocy). I am not entirely sold on Charlotte. I think Annabeth Gish is doing great work with what she has, but there’s only so much of a sad, lonely woman one can take before she becomes completely extraneous. Then there’s Linder, who proved to be a red herring in the previous episode, only to show off his more murderous side in this episode, killing the man on the hunt for the presumably rescued Eva with little hesitation. It’s this act of murder that brings Linder back into the plot, putting him in direct confrontation with Galvan and bringing him back into the folds of the case it seemed he was no longer a party to.
Keep up the good work, The Bridge. Make me keep wanting more.
- The beads keep getting larger with each kill. I’m interested to see how these tokens play into the central plot.
- “Because they’re there and they’re fun and they make you hate yourself just a little bit less.” Is the killer targeting Daniel because he has a drug problem? As a drug user, isn’t he just as much a part of the cartel-run cycle as Fausto? He is the ultimate consumer. I hope they play with this more.
- Daniel and Adriana took a backseat in this episode and I missed their odd couple-dom.