[This is a review of The Bridge season 2, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Having its characters stuck between people, places, or their respective goals, feels like the perfect place for The Bridge to be at this point in the season. The show is, after all, often concerned with the drastic differences between two locations and their respective cultures, despite being separated by a relatively small distance.
The idea, then, is that people exist with certain specificity on either side of the border; they are significant for one reason or another due to where they find themselves that day. Depending on the geographic location, Marco Ruiz might mostly be a Juárez detective working in collaboration with the El Paso P.D., or he could mostly be a Juárez detective seemingly in cahoots with Fausto Galvan and the CEO of the Clio Group, Sebastian Carisola (Bruno Bichir).
While it's true that he is both things all the time, the distinction that comes from recognizing the weight of either side is particularly important, especially as the series continues to explore the idea of division by moving more and more characters into the vague middle space between places, both emotionally and physically.
In pursuing that idea, 'The Acorn' underlines Marco's predicament with Galvan by putting him in a room with ambitious State Prosecutor Abelardo Pintado (Manuel Uriza). Corruption is oftentimes illustrated best by focusing on the futility of those hoping to combat it. In the brief meeting between Marco and Pintado, both men show signs of weariness, like two prize fighters who've spent several rounds in the ring without having landed a single blow.
The constant reminder that, should they choose to combat corruption in the Juárez P.D., the incredibly slim likelihood any effort will amount to anything eclipses their initial distrust of one another. Marco is hesitant to join Pintado's crusade not out of fear for his own life, but out of fear that when the ball is finally rolling, the state prosecutor will receive a phone call telling him to back off.
That puts Marco in a seemingly worse position than taking on the Galvan and the cartel; at least in that situation, he knows where he stands. When it comes to siding with Pintado, the alliance and its potential efficacy is questionable at best.
As such, Marco finds himself stuck in the middle, not only as Pintado suggested - that the detective was stricken with some kind of moral ambiguity - but in that indistinct place where the legitimacy of the situation itself seems uncertain at best.
Much of 'The Acorn' is spent showing characters dealing with uncertainty after an action or inaction leaves them in a situation similar to Marco's. And to the writer's credit, the episode finds ways to make that indistinctness significant.
Sonya is affected by the death of Jim Dobbs, leaving her without a clear connection to her dead sister, or, as she stated, the chance to have "one conversation," telling Dobbs how much she loved the woman he took from her. Here we see one primary difference between Sonya and Marco – Sonya actively wants to confront the past, hoping to no longer imagine the crime that ended her sister's life, while Marco avoids it.
But Marco is forced to confront some of his past when he talks to Frye and Adriana – though he deliberately avoids any discussion of what transpired on the bridge with David Tate. There's so much unsaid regarding Marco and Frye's shared history in their conversation about the suicide of bank manager Mr. DeLarge and even the mystery of Adriana's sister, it feels like three half-finished conversations at once. But there is substance in the distorted nature of the conversation; the characters define themselves to the audience, while remaining vague to those around them.
Vagueness can be a tricky element to work with, and 'The Acorn' even goes so far as to deliberately muddy the waters with regard to Eleanor Nacht, by making her something of an unwitting pawn in Galvan's organization, rather than the hatchet woman she appeared to have been in the first three episodes.
Seeing her care for another human being adds to the paradoxical nature of the character, giving any future interaction she has with Sonya, Marco, or even Galvan, more to fall back on than the simple binary of psychotic killer versus…whomever.
That haziness gives the series plenty of options as things begin to become more concrete, but right now it makes The Bridge far more compelling than the distinct serial killer aspect of last season.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Eye of the Deep' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Byron Cohen/FX