“Matthew Lillard’s In This?!”- The Bridge Season 1 Episode 1 Review- ‘Pilot’
This review contains spoilers. If that frightens you, avoid it like these nice young ladies should be avoided scary bearded men that put them in trunks.
The Bridge if FX’s new series, based off a popular European series Bron. Now while Bron considered a murder on the border between Sweden and Denmark- tumultuous fair-skinned war zone that it is- FX’s The Bridge is concerned with the titular pathway between the United States and Mexico (and probably the metaphorical “bridge” that we all make between each other or the distance between us or something).
I decided to check out this show for two reasons: FX is the best and most consistent network out there, and Diane Kruger is in it. What I’ve found is an uneven but incredibly promising show that is most certainly worth anybody’s time.
I normally handle reviews by taking things bit by bit, and I have no desire to change that now.
Detective Sonya North
Sonya North is that really weird girl at your high school. She’s off-putting and unsure how this whole “interacting with other human beings” thing is supposed to be done. Played with aplomb by Diane Kruger (Bridgett von Hammersmark herself), Sonya is like if we took Carrie from Homeland and ratcheted things up to 11.
She lost her sister and drives around in her truck, wearing her horse memorabilia and unwilling to take out the cassette tape that’s been playing on repeat in the cab ever since. She is unfeeling, saying things like “I’m sorry I did not exhibit ‘empathy’” to the husbands of victims like she is so far removed from human to human interaction that the concept of feeling for someone is incredibly foreign to her.
Sonya actually has the potential to become a very interesting character, and one with possible Emmy nominations since we’re still pretending that the Emmys matter at all.
She also apparently has something hidden in the bottom drawer of her desk that you better believe will come out in a dramatic way in the back half of the season that will make Sonya explode, with hopefully thrilling results.
Ruiz is the product of a jaded and worn out Juarez law enforcement system. One body does not matter to them because nine heads were found at their City Hall. Marco is the sensible sandbag weighing down the high strung hot air balloon of Sonya North. He’s the Danny Glover to her Mel Gibson, the Danny Butterman to her Nicholas Angel, the Jesse Pinkman to her most-likely equally sadistic Walter White.
Life is hard for Ruiz and you feel it in every inch of Demian Bichir’s performance. He gets home from work to find that his son is smoking weed and, being a police officer in bloody Mexico, has a lot of terrifying things to say about it. He also has had a vasectomy, which I find wonderful. Ruiz is tired, wants to have the freedom to have sex with his wife without any kind of danger of bringing another child into this world. I’ve already grown pretty attached to his laidback approach and charm, and will hold onto him for dear life if things with Sonya turn out wrong.
The Widow Charlotte
I kept waiting for this plot to curtail into the main one, and it simply never did. In fact, it never really curtails into anything at all, and all just sort of feels like a waste. It may be early to call that, as we are merely on the first episode here, but I already feel like this is a distraction from what is really important.
The story of a woman who loses her husband just after he asked for a divorce only to find that something is going on in the barn or something can be a compelling one, but boyhowdy does it not seem to belong on this show. Right now, it has no tangible relevance to anything going on in the very interesting criminal investigation and it’s already dragging things down. She’s the kids on Homeland and The Americans, Marie on Breaking Bad, and Jon Snow on Game of Thrones. And none of those are compliments.
Again, I might be being a little hard on this considering we are only in Episode 1, but IMDB says she’s in twelve episodes total and that scares me. I think I’d feel totally different about this plotline if this episode hadn’t ended with the opening of a door that we never see the other side of. That’s weak plotting. It is way more interesting and suspenseful to show us something really cool on the other side of the door than to give us nothing and let our imagination imagine this dead guy had a female Mexican boogeyman in there or something. In any case, this section really brings the whole proceedings down and I don’t know how much that’s going to change.
The U.S. Police
Not much of these guys to go on so far. It seems like we’re going to be spending way more time with these guys than we do south of the border (down Mexico way) and their bonding with us is going to be important. Right now, all we have is the sensitive Lieutenant Hank Wade who is the exact combination of Saul from Homeland and Art from Justified, which is not a bad thing at all, but I’m looking forward to seeing what unique direction they take this guy.
The Plot Elsewhere
I’m kind of disappointed that the real hook of this crime was spoiled in the commercials (and necessarily so to reel people in) because that was really cool, you guys. It’s precisely the kind of weird and interesting mystery that this show needs and will propel it way above CSI: International Relations. And it’s events like that which will prevent it from the same trap The Killing often falls into, where its plot is basically one episode of CSI stretched out to three seasons and counting. So let’s see more cool things coming from this front, please.
A good series of crimes and criminal happenings will make us forgive a lot of things, like the potentially preachy “The U.S. is blind to world tragedies” material. The show hasn’t crossed the line with that (the person proclaiming it is the villain after all), but I will suffer almost any amount of chunky messages for the sake of quality crime storytelling.
Also, Matthew Lillard is in this?! I was really shocked to see his jerk reporter appear in the back third of this pilot, and he actually gives maybe the best performance of the episode. I believed every moment of what was happening with him and his plight was both instantly sympathetic and intriguing. I had my suspicions they wouldn’t kill off what is essentially the biggest star on the show so far, but you never know. Obviously, we are not done with this guy, otherwise we wouldn’t have spent the last twenty minutes of the episode focusing on his situation and life. I don’t know if he’ll be a series regular, but he’s got an arc coming. And Lillard, who impressed me a few years back in the mildly overrated The Descendants, and it’s good to see our live action Shaggy get some more quality dramatic work. He wears that gray hair well.
There’s also a girl-abduction subplot that is happening and, well, let’s just see where that goes…
The environment of this show is the thing in this pilot that impressed me the most. We have stepped into a world where these crimes have been going on for a long time. Our villains are a pre-established and prolific group that have been at it for a while, and we feel it with every Juarez officer. Like Linklater’s Bernie from last year, the people are so well cast that the environment is uncanny (which actually makes Kruger’s unaccented Sonya feel even more grossly out of place).
And I could listen to this soundtrack for days.
I have my concerns about The Bridge. There are a few stray subplot that could really go either way and I can’t exactly tell you how strong the narrative legs on this thing are. I don’t know where this thing is at in Episode 5, much less Season 5. But, then again, we said the same thing about Breaking Bad a few years back and ended up eating that Gayle-bound bullet down the road. The references and inspirations here are obviously, but I have faith that The Bridge can find its own footing in the weeks to come.
B- — A solid opening for a show that I will enjoy following for the weeks to come.
Well, guys this is the first show that I’m covering from Day 1 and as long as you’ll keep reading, I’ll enjoy writing for you. Let’s see where things go from here.
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and current writer of beautiful poetry to a certain senorita. Be sure to follow or subscribe above for all of these reviews, and comment your thoughts below.
You can also find Kevin on Twitter.
Matthew Lillard, huh?