Following the series premiere of The Bridge last week, it seemed as though the depiction of its female lead, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), generated as much discussion as the hot button issue that is the show's setting on either side of the El Paso-Juárez border. And while the sociopolitical elements of the story are what sets it apart from most other police shows on television (and will hopefully lead to some compelling and thought provoking storylines beyond the central serial killer plot), it feels as though Sonya's portrayal, if not handled properly, could wind up being the more contentious element in terms of the audiences' response.
Since the pilot was filmed in December of 2012 and filming on the rest of the series didn't commence until April of 2013, there's a good chance certain elements of Kruger's character might have been scaled back a bit or reinterpreted by head writers Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid, as it felt her undiagnosed psychological condition was not as deliberately irregular in the second episode – or at least that was my impression, watching her co-interrogate Daniel Frye with Marco Ruiz, or even later, when she was dealing with Ruiz' captain.
Rather than being at the forefront of all Sonya's mannerisms, her social awkwardness, lack of empathy and very literal interpretation of the world around her seemed to work more to the advantage of the character's development within the context of the series this time around. There were still strong signs of Sonya's inelegance around other people; her incessant questions, her matter-of-fact technique of getting a stranger in the sack, and the way she shriveled and held a remorseful hand up when Hank Wade thunderously asked how the El Paso Times had been able to reproduce the killer's message verbatim.
All of this points to an interesting interpretation of her personality and psychology, something significantly more than just being awkward or difficult. And Sonya's awareness of her idiosyncrasies (if you can call them that) also spoke volumes about the character, and perhaps her depiction moving forward.
But this is a large show with an expansive cast, so it's good to see the writers spending some time developing one of the two ostensibly core characters in what is otherwise an ensemble. Another positive would be how 'Calaca' was determined to develop (in an admittedly limited and ultimately plot-oriented fashion) characters like Daniel Frye and Adriana Perez, the El Paso Times reporters who were first introduced late in the pilot. This element also demonstrates just how serialized The Bridge is, as it picks up shortly after Daniel Frye was locked in his car with a what appeared to be an explosive device meant as a message from the killer of Judge Gates and, possibly, countless Juárez girls.
A great deal of 'Calaca' involves spending time with characters who live in a complicated place and have outwardly simple (but privately complicated) lives, thanks to their chosen profession, and/or idiosyncrasies. Some are, more or less, readily evident: the life of a detective is complicated, but the life of a detective in Juárez, Mexico is decidedly more complicated and for completely different reasons. Meanwhile, the show continues to establish and spend time with other individuals outside of those who have already been introduced.
In that regard, the second episode doesn't spend too much time with Steven Linder – we do learn that he's a social worker, and that somehow makes him even creepier – but he's never far from thought, as Hector Valdez (Arturo del Puerto) does his best Anton Chigurh by relentlessly stalking Linder and eventually killing a nosy neighbor in a scene that is eerily reminiscent of Chigurh's strangling of a deputy early on in 'No Country For Old Men.'
Overall, 'Calaca' doesn't show any of the telltale signs of second episode jitters. It's a confident hour of television that's comfortable enough with its characters it's willing to give them long scenes that have little to do with the overall plot, and that's a great sign of things to come.
As far as the plot goes, however, the episode here is also assured in furthering tangential storylines, such as the recently widowed Charlotte Millwright (Annabeth Gish) and the discovery of her late husband's less-than-savory endeavors smuggling humans across (well, under) the border and into the United States. Right now, it's unclear just what Lyle Lovett has to do with Karl Millwright's smuggling trade, but he's a welcome addition to a series that's proving to be a welcome addition to summer TV.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Rio' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta, Byron Cohen/FX