[This is a review of The Bridge season 2, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
Amidst all the bloody violence, the swift and seamless procedural work, and delicate weaving of narrative threads going on in 'Eidolon,' The Bridge manages to work in several brief pieces of gallows humor that elevate the rather dire circumstances of the episode, and give it a chance to breathe, even while the situation at hand leaves the characters breathless.
That sense of understanding the value of morbid humor is something the show has had with it from the beginning, but under the guidance of season 2 showrunner Elwood Reid, The Bridge feels more confident about how and when to use it. Sometimes it can be subtle, while other times its so blatant you wonder whether or not you're still watching the right show.
It's a valuable quirk that goes beyond being quirky. When The Bridge is being funny and weird, it's not tonally inconsistent or off-putting; there's no sense that you should distance yourself from what you're seeing as quickly as possible. Instead, it gives the series and its characters an oddly endearing quality, like talking to someone whose thinking is slightly askew, but manages to surprise and entertain nonetheless.
To its credit, 'Eidolon' has a few great examples that manage to add some color to an otherwise tense collection of moments. First there is Monte's response to Eleanor apologizing for bleeding in his car, hinting at his comfort level with people who have been mortally wounded, while also is appreciation for the finer things in life, like a leather interior. Then, once Monte and Eleanor have arrived at Doc Orton's place of business, Monte quietly walks to the trunk of his car and replaces his white hat with a black one without saying a word.
Later, the episode cuts to the interior of a family's car, with a brother and sister getting on one another's nerves, until their windshield is splattered with the viscera pouring out the truck Jaime is driving. The fact that we don’t know who these people are, and that they have nothing to do with story – they could have easily been replaced with cops who conveniently noticed blood dripping from the back of a vehicle – but only exist to service the plot in a silly, gruesome fashion affords The Bridge a chance to demonstrate how many extra gears it has.
That extra gear is just another facet of what makes the show one of the best FX (and probably all of television) is offering right now. It's either something a show has or it doesn't, like having Lyle Lovett on the cast and knowing how to use him properly. It's a strength that's rare (partially because not many programs would ever think to make Lyle Lovett a recurring character), but, like the quirkiness of Monte's hat change, it makes the characters feel more alive and rounded, and capable of doing more than simply serving the plot.
After the bloody shootout at Red Ridge View, the plot in 'Eidolon' largely involves Eleanor, Jaime, and the inimitable Monte P. Flagman's attempt to dispose of what evidence they can – i.e., the bodies of the dead DEA agents, Chip Diaz, and, unfortunately, Charlotte Millwright – while Cesar tracks down a mortally wounded Hank who has run off with Eleanor's ledger.
The reveal of the ledger also works to give an additional layer to Eleanor, who has gone from troublingly enigmatic to engagingly desperate in a few short episodes. Understanding how her ledger isn't just valuable to her as an accounting device that accentuates her outwardly meticulous nature, but is actually proof that she's skimming from Fausto, winds up being nicely balanced with the flashback of her giving Yovani Garza and his wandering hands the full Joe Pesci treatment in the front seat of a rented Prius.
'Eidolon' essentially facilitates the eventual collision between law enforcement and Fausto Galvan. And even though a good portion of the episode concerns Marco and Sonya's efforts to find Hank and piece together what exactly happened at Red Ridge View, it doesn’t devolve into mere table setting. Instead, while the table is being set, great strides are made to deepen the characters, whether they're disposable or not.
At this point, with Frye and Adriana now unknowingly on the scent of a CIA agent whose job is to wrangle the cartel – and apparently had a hand in choosing Galvan once upon a time – the remaining threads are all being braided together in such a defined way that the somewhat scattered nature of the season's earlier efforts now read as far more precise. And that gives the final three episodes a much clearer path to the story that will bring it all to a satisfying close.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Beholder' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Ray Mickshaw/FX