Normally, The Bridge spans a fairly wide spectrum of characters and personalities, a fact that largely accounts for its appeal. But last week's 'The Beetle' brought the series down to a handful of characters and one singular purpose: to find Alma and her abductor, David Tate. It was a level of focus heretofore unseen on the show, which normally spends several minutes each episode venturing into divergent territory with Charlotte and the eager to please Ray, or diving into near-Lynchian levels of surrealism where Steven Linder's post-homicide food cravings run headlong into his misplaced attraction to a woman he was tasked with saving.
With the exception of two brief interludes with Charlotte and Steve Linder, 'The Beetle' was exclusively about the pursuit of David Tate. While the episode had it's entertaining and frustrating bits, the lack of Adrianna and Daniel Frye was noticeable enough to have a something of a negative impact – even if it wasn't actually felt until the two characters mercifully appeared onscreen again in 'Old Friends.'
Like with 'Vendetta,' there was so much going on in last week's episode that, to absorb it all at once would be tricky, if not downright impossible. But one thing is clear now: When the acceleration of The Bridge's narrative doesn't leave room for the smaller, slower pieces that set it apart from its initial hook, it becomes increasingly difficult to care about a rogue FBI agent bordering on becoming a nigh-omniscient supervillain.
The more we see of Tate, the less time the show has for other characters to enter into the story, or exist solely in their own arc. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing; Eric Lange's performance as David Tate is quite good, even if the character himself isn't much more than a basic amalgam of Big Bads seen countless times before. Although the Kenneth Hasting/David Tate reveal has been met with some derision, it's still capable of producing a compelling storyline, especially since the first half of the season spent so much time developing Marco Ruiz, only to twist the plot and set him at its mercy. In that regard, Marco's semi-estranged son Gus isn't just a victim. He's an interesting character in his own right and major component to his father's development within the context of this altered storyline, and certainly within the series' exploration of culpability that has now officially pulled Frye into the mix.
However, it is now a storyline that somehow feels much smaller in scope and more direct in its implications, a distinction that pins the thrust of these final few episodes on sheer plot, rather than the solid character work that came before. Still, it's nice to see the show realizes the need to break away and give the audience something else to focus on, like Brian Van Holt's hilarious line read after Timmy spills the beans on Ray's negotiation tactics, and his reasoning for not wanting his friend and ATF stooge to die (apparently, the bonds formed over a childhood game of kickball are forever and unbreakable).
That's the sort of unexpected element The Bridge has brought since its premiere, and as long as it continues to bring those kinds of moments to the screen, it'll be easier to handle whatever ordeal David Tate has planned next.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Take the Ride, Pay the Toll' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Byron Cohen/FX