Is it possible to find any element of surprise in a murder mystery show when they seem to be on every network? In an effort to answer that question, FX’s “The Bridge” tried to tell the familiar tale from a different angle that had peoples from different walks of life working together either by choice or otherwise. It’s too early to tell about how the rest of the season will go, but the early episodes have showed some great promise.
“The Bridge” followed a present day murder mystery that also managed to explore the tensions that surrounded the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The story started with the site of a dead body cut in half and split between both borders. This case led for very two different detectives to cross paths for the first time. Detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) was a dedicated cop with the El Paso Police Department, but she had a problem making friends both inside and outside the department. She tended to share too much with her boss Lt. Hank Wade (Ted Levine) who tried to get Sonya to play nice with her fellow officers. Due to Hank’s advice, Sonya tried to make an effort to work with Detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) who was Sonya’s counterpart with the Chihuahua State Police. Unfortunately, she seemed to overlook most of Marco’s jokes and asked too many questions that could get both of them in trouble. It also didn’t help that their opposite personalities made them destined to have disagreements. Sonya was a single woman who had a hard time navigating the dating scene without making mistakes. Marco, on the other hand, was a family man who had a questionable dalliance with the newly widowed Charlotte Millright (Annabeth Gish). It’s too early to tell how Charlotte will be connected to the case, but only time will tell as the story unfolds.
In terms of questions, “The Bridge” has asked a few big ones, but let’s hope that the show doesn’t make the same mistake as AMC’s “The Killing” by dragging out the mystery for far too long. The show was also wise to mix in a few different plot elements that help to not make the central mystery the main focus. The show managed to shift the focus between the cops, reporters, and a newly widowed woman with a larger part to the story. The mystery itself has managed to throw in a few unexpected curveballs very early in the premiere, such as the reveal that the murder involved two bodies instead of one. The killer also seemed to be testing the bounds of U.S. and Mexican tensions by killing Americans and Mexicans with equal measure. As for the identity of the killer, that won’t be revealed anytime soon to keep the mystery going, because the element of surprise will be gone once it happens. Ultimately, what made “The Bridge” work was the show’s efforts to make the characters more than mere stereotypes. Although, Kruger wasn’t necessarily the right choice to play Sonya, because she didn’t have a very convincing Southern accent. The show would’ve been wise to have Kruger keep her German accent in an effort to paint Sonya as even more of an outsider than she was on the show now. In the end, Kruger still gave a convincing performance, especially when she played off of the equally compelling Bichir.
As for breakout performances, Bichir and Gish led the pack as they played two very different characters who shared a strange connection that could only end in trouble. Bichir delivered a strong performance as a cop who might not necessarily be on the right side of the law. He used his sense of humor to express his frustrations and made Marco’s daily struggles to stay sane something viewers could relate to. Surprisingly, Bichir’s most memorable scene was when Marco and Charlotte shared a heart-to-heart that led to them both being in a compromising position. Of course, the scene ended just at the point to make viewers wonder how far Marco truly went with Charlotte, but the moment will come back to haunt him regardless. Gish had the challenging task of trying to make a wealthy widow seem sympathetic, even as she was starting to learn her late husband’s secrets. Gish demonstrated Charlotte’s vulnerability and anger as she realized that her once perfect life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. Her most memorable scene involved Charlotte coming to the realization that she will have to do something she doesn’t want to do in order to stay alive. Hopefully, the character won’t lose her life for submitting to someone else’s demands either, but Gish’s Charlotte just might if she didn’t play her cards right.
“The Bridge” premiered on July 10th and airs Wednesdays at 10:00 PM on FX.
Verdict: The show has established a unique spin on the usual murder mystery, even though Kruger was the wrong choice for one of the leading roles.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)