Although the purpose of Annabeth Gish's role, as it pertains to the overall narrative of The Bridge, remains somewhat obscured – as even her character Charlotte remains somewhat in the dark as to what kind of situation she's found herself in – the story has quickly developed a bridge (if you will), between the more tangential storyline of Gish's widow and the larger issue of the politically motivated serial killer who is currently perplexing Sonya Cross and Marco Ruiz.
'Rio' works as a way to bring Charlotte Millright into the fold without directly involving her, and without accelerating her puzzling and increasingly threatening situation on her late husband's ranch to such a degree that it is either resolved too quickly, or it gets dragged into the main plot and becomes an extension of the Cross/Ruiz murder investigation.
So far, The Bridge has managed to allow for Charlotte's story to move along at its own pace, as the introduction of the slimy lawyer played by Lyle Lovett – whose urging of Charlotte to comply with the agreement her husband Karl had made with whomever it is she's now dealing with – was admittedly creepy and not altogether the smoothest handling of an otherwise delicate situation. Now, it seems that the powers-that-be behind the tunnel running underneath what is now her land are willing to take a very Coppola-esque step with one of Charlotte's horses (R.I.P. Rio), in order to make their point that they are not a group that takes kindly to being told "no."
Right now, what works best about the Charlotte storyline is how her situation and what information we've been given about her past plays so convincingly into the decisions she's making. So far, Charlotte's arc has been about her being the proverbial outsider; during the series premiere she was literally on the outside looking in, as she desperately tried to get her dying husband back into the United States by crossing the titular bridge, only to find herself up against Sonya Cross' too literal interpretation of how one manages a crime scene.
Since then, Charlotte's found herself pushed through a door that holds one unwelcome surprise after another. And although she's now in control of her late husband's ranch, the feeling of being an outsider persists, whether it is her obviously unpleasant relationship with her stepdaughter or with the society ladies who can barely contain their surprise upon hearing Charlotte plans to remain in El Paso and on Karl's ranch. Even though we weren't afforded the chance to see her life prior to the incident on the bridge, it seems fairly clear that the one and only connection to the world she's determined to remain a part of was the husband she apparently knew very little about.
And so, when she's dragged in to the police station after the killer makes a ransom demand regarding the life of Maria – the sole survivor of the group he poisoned in the previous episode – Charlotte is suddenly thrust into another world she knows very little about, but finds herself understandably drawn to the warm and convivial personality of Det. Marco Ruiz. Whether it was the fact that she's still grieving, the presence of strange, slightly threatening people popping up on her ranch making unwelcome demands of her, or perhaps it was simply Ruiz' near-constant flirtation with everyone (his birthday flowers to Kitty probably mean she'll be the next woman Alma will have to worry about), Charlotte found herself becoming intimately acquainted with Det. Ruiz.
It wasn't too surprising to be honest; Ruiz didn't really get into why his first marriage fell apart, but his lack of hesitation with Charlotte, coupled with the constant phone calls from Alma suggest Marco's personality is a little too friendly with nearly every member of the opposite sex. But while things are mostly left unspoken between Charlotte and Marco, the same can't be said for Sonya and Paul (Jason Wiles), the one-night-stand-turned-romantic-interest who stopped by the police station just hoping to get her number but winds up being bluntly told this is no place for another quick fling. It's hard to argue with that logic – the police station is no place for a quick fling – and so Paul wades through the inelegance situation and emerges on the other side with Sonya's number.
For the most part, everything that goes on in 'Rio' has to do with the series' continual depiction of two contrasting elements, whether it's the killer's insistence of pointing out the disparity between El Paso and Juárez and the rich and poor, or comparisons of individuals and their wildly distinct personalities and peculiarities. To illustrate this, we've been given interesting groupings like that of Marco and Sonya, Daniel Frye and Adriana Mendez, and, of course, Steven Linder and Hector Valdez. Right now, all the elements are deliberately conflicting because of their cultural circumstances, identities and, in some cases, what has heretofore been a lack of communication between both sides. As the story progresses, it will be interesting to see whether the space between the cultural disparities can ever be closed, and what side more solitary characters like Charlotte will find themselves on when and if it does.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Maria of the Desert' @10pm on FX. Check out a preview below: