[This is a review of The Bridge season 1, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
It will come as no surprise that when a series deals with drug cartels, murderous Mennonites, corrupt police departments, and denim jackets emblazoned with the likeness of a horse - as The Bridge does week in and week out - those watching are going to encounter a certain level of bleakness.
What makes the show watchable, however, and not just an endless slog of empty nihilism and wanton violence is that, amidst all the corruption and the death, the show can still turn its camera toward those characters who aren’t merely acting against a wholly broken system they’re caught up in; they also manage to find ways of distancing themselves (however intermittently) from the bleakness dominating the already barren landscape of their world.
Now, granted, for certain characters like former El Paso Times reporter Daniel Frye, he distances himself by not merely falling off the wagon, but spectacularly flinging himself from the proverbial cart of sobriety into a cocaine-fueled evening with Brian Baumgartner of The Office and the dulcet tones of Canada’s own Rush.
And who can blame him? When you get fired from a job you’re incredibly passionate about, the best way to commence the healing process is through a liberal application of the curative salve that is Geddy Lee’s nasally voice and lyrics about ghosts and trees.
Others, though, like Adriana – Frye’s more grounded partner in crime now that they’re no longer partners in print – find that distance by having a fairly simple and stable home life, which Adriana does with her girlfriend Lucy. Sure, Frye and his cereal-spilling clumsiness have recently overrun that home life, but it’s enough to help her temporarily forget the darkness she’s trying to uncover through her investigative journalism.
That is, at least, until her efforts to uncover a vast money laundering conspiracy result in Lucy being attacked and having to kill her attacker.
Prior to Lucy's attack, these brief, overdue glimpses into the lives of otherwise ancillary individuals like Frye and Adrianna help legitimize the story around them and their role in it. And in the process, they become fuller, more well-rounded characters, rather than mere plot devices that are used to justify certain story beats or (no pun intended) bridge somewhat disparate threads.
That’s not to say The Bridge is above using questionable methods to connect the dots in its storyline. Sure, there may be some minuscule conveniences like Frye's buddy just happens to work for the state department, but, as is generally the rule with spots like this, if the outcome makes the story better, then it basically acts as spackle for whatever necessary puncture was made for the sake of the narrative.
So far this season, the narrative of The Bridge has succeeded in weaving a complex and layered storyline around the more auxiliary elements left over from last season. Elements like Fausto Galvan’s sudden desire to see Norway (resulting in a sly nod to The Bridge's origins), Marco’s dealings with the cartel, and to a lesser degree the lingering questions regarding Sonya’s sister Lisa and her recently deceased assailant, Jim Dobbs.
Throwing in characters like Eleanor Nacht and expanding the presence of Charlotte Millwright and His Royal Broness, Ray, has hinted at the expansive possibilities of the story.
And now, in ‘Lamia,’ the story creeps back into the past in order to thematically connect future with the past, and to underline the no-nonsense, but potentially unjust decisions made by two men in Sonya’s life – i.e., Marco Ruiz and her surrogate father Hank Wade.
Both decisions essentially serve as perfect examples of how the system doesn’t work, how it continually favors those who can do favors for those in power, while failing to appropriately assess – in the eyes of Hank anyway – the gravity of the crimes being perpetrated by meting out fitting punishments.
What’s striking about Marco holding back the affidavit to ensure Sonya and Eva’s protection from reprisal by Galvan or even Hank’s ill-advised vigilante justice, is that in seeking to do right by Sonya (and, in Marco's case, Eva), neither man took the time to consider whether or not this would be the choice Sonya would make for herself. This isn’t the first time that The Bridge has hinted at the misdeeds of men where women are concerned, but the events here wind up being a misguided effort of lying for the sake of protecting someone.
But it all points back to the innate brokenness of the system of law and order that Sonya, Marco, Hank, and Frye and Adriana all serve. Marco’s unwillingness to execute David Tate only stands in stark contrast to Hank’s revelation about Jim Dobbs on a superficial level. Regardless of either man's intent, the result was the same: someone died.
What The Bridge is getting at, then, in its latest gripping hour is: If essentially good people like Marco and Hank have to suppress or flat-out break the law in order to see good done on an individual level, then what hope is there to think that real change may ever reach someone like Fausto Galvan or the CEO of Grupo Clio? In that case, the system truly does not work.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Goliath' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Gusmano Cesaretti/FX