[This is a review of The Bridge season 2, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
More so than last season (although it was certainly there), The Bridge has gone to considerable lengths to play up the pulpy parts of its crime fiction narrative. A great deal of this has to do with the expanded role of Monte P. Flagman and, of course, the blood-soaked arrival of Eleanor Nacht.
Both characters live and breathe in that space television reserves for its most sensationalized elements to not merely fraternize with the more grounded aspects of a story, but to become a congruous, possibly even complimentary component that gives the series a little edge, and encourages a sense of wonder on behalf of the audience.
Sensationalism and pulpiness are certainly things The Bridge has tried before with regard to David Tate. Now if you take into consideration that Tate's portion of the season 1 storyline was wrapped up with two episodes left, it's fairly clear that Elwood Reid and the show's other writers were well aware Tate's revenge arc was, at best, doing very little to define the series as something people hadn't seen before, and at worst, was taking time away from the far more interesting story hanging about in the dark, unexplored corners of the series.
Tate's penchant for bomb vests and elaborate methods of execution might have been cutting edge a few decades prior, but when television has seen the likes of Tony Soprano and Walter White (or any other popular antihero you can think of) in their full murderous glory, Tate came off as a minor leaguer with a lot of drive and ambition, but a level of talent that left him blinded by the lights of "the Show."
But even so, the culmination of season 1 promised that things between Marco and Tate were far from resolved, and for the past four episodes now, as the story has shifted to those aforementioned dark and unexplored places, Tate's presence has gone unseen, but not unfelt. That brings things around to one of the more curious episodes of season 2 with 'Eye of the Deep,' which presents the inevitable continuation of the David Tate story and the fruition of Marco's proverbial deal with the devil, Fausto Galvan.
For its part, then, 'Eye of the Deep' is possibly the pulpiest hour of The Bridge in a season that's been more aware of the presence of pulp than Donald Sutherland's voice in an orange juice commercial. The episode is fixated on the idea of revenge and the myriad ways such a concept can play itself out, given the character of those enacting it. And from the start, the episode almost plays out like the writers, and to a certain extent, the audience themselves, was getting some kind of satisfaction in David Tate's rather dismal state of affairs.
There's a hint of Tate's love of the elaborate in his very bumpy, very bloody trip to the prison infirmary that begins with an inmate attempting to eat his face, and ends with his left eye being dug out with a spoon (it could have been a shiv, but it certainly looked like a lowly spoon).
The lengths to which the various players go to punish Tate for what he did to Marco and to Gus is very reminiscent of his ill-fated revenge scheme that dominated too much of the first season. The plot even goes so far as to have Galvan's various connections afford Marco a ticket inside the prison, where he's given carte blanche to do whatever he chooses with the man who murdered his son.
And yet Marco doesn’t carry out Tate's execution despite going to such lengths. Instead, he opts to stick a thumb in the socket of Tate's freshly plucked eyeball and to leave him with a message that, for him, death would be too easy.
To a certain extent, it seems as though that's what the episode is trying to get across: death is easy. In a world as dark and pulpy as The Bridge, it solves the problems of good and bad people very quickly. It's why killers like Fausto Galvan send messages in the form of men with automatic weapons to execute a group of thieving teenagers, or why a man from the Juárez P.D. popped up at Bob's commune looking for Eva and wound up tortured while strapped to a chair in a barn.
Then again, it's also why Hank shot Jim Dobbs in the head all those years ago.
So, to have the series bring back the equivalent of a narrative black eye, it needs to do something of merit with him. And while it was inevitable that David Tate would pop back up eventually, at least his presence was used to demonstrate the character of Marco and to help color who Det. Marco Ruiz is at this point in the story. We may not know where he is going after this particular move, but we do know he's not one to take the easy way out.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Harvest of Souls' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX