[This is a review of The Bridge season 2, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
The past few weeks have been exemplary ones for The Bridge, and 'Beholder' is no exception. The series has been successful in paying off its complex narrative as of late, spinning various and seemingly disparate threads together in ways that have made the season's overall plot much more cohesive than might have seemed possible early on. And as the story builds toward an inevitable confrontation with Fausto Galvan – who has risen from slightly eccentric, stock villain to someone who is genuinely one of the most intriguing and entertaining characters on the show – it has also found great success in tying elements of the story into the lives of its main characters, no matter how immaterial they may at first appear to be.
Case in point, after Sonya and Marco managed to recover a critically injured Hank and arrest Eleanor, the police ran into a bureaucratic brick wall that is inter-agency communication (or complete lack thereof) when an outfit like the CIA is involved. While Sonya's brief meeting/interrogation grants Adam Arkin yet another chance to appear in a small role and to hint at her Asperger's, the exchange also pulls the CIA agent played by Ian Hart (who can also be seen as Nucky's dad, Ethan, in season 5 of Boardwalk Empire), to help illustrate the blowback headed everyone's way, as a result of the shootout at Red Ridge View and Sonya's dogged pursuit of Eleanor. But the episode is more than Sonya's recovery of Eleanor's ledger and the larger implications of what the information contained within it means for people like Eleanor, Fausto, and the CIA.
The particulars of Hart's role on Boardwalk actually serve as an interesting example of the successful and unsuccessful implementations of character backstory. Throughout 'Beholder', there is a lingering sense of history just waiting to be examined for its potential significance and ability to provide clarification for characters as they are in the here and now. The Bridge opts to utilize the implied weight of several characters' pasts that don't necessarily lend themselves to wistful moments of powerful nostalgia. Here, the writers make great use of simple remarks, like Marco recounting the relationship his father had with Fausto, or Eleanor's quick recap of her horrific childhood.
The economic use of words and images (all that is seen from the past is a simple aged photograph) carries all the weight necessary to understand the unique, lonely position Marco finds himself in. It is a strength the episode establishes once again with a brilliant shot where the light bouncing off the nighttime atmosphere is broken by the elongated shadows of Fausto and his gun-toting crew, as they saunter over a hill to join a quinceañera uninvited.
A similar sparing use of words and imagery helps convey the significance of Eva's figurative restoration of Steve Linder, though the intimate act of her shaving his face. That same approach succeeds in adding some tonnage to the already crushing emotional weight of what happened to her at the hands of Captain Robles and other members of the Juárez P.D. And yet, as directed by John Dahl, Eva's quiet, painful moment appears to achieve another level of emotional intimacy that hints at her desire to move away from the past (as suggested by her asking Linder not to kill Robles), and her inability to do so.
'Beholder' even finds some emotional currency in paying off Jim Dobbs' death by putting Sonya face-to-face with her mother. It's a testament to the episode's script and direction that Sonya's unapproved interrogation of Eleanor would lead to a moment between mother and daughter that centers primarily on an ugly, ill-fitting jacket and yet speaks volumes about how two people can process their grief in completely different yet self-destructive ways.
Although the episode appeared to be more introspective, affording itself time to look into its characters before the season wraps, 'Beholder' still managed to propel the season's plot into new territory after Eleanor finds herself freed by the CIA (with whom she has an agreement), while Frye and Adriana uncover more about the agent's involvement in international matters.
And as Marco's attempt to track down Fausto finds him literally under the gun, that serves as a good enough way to summarize where the rest of the characters find themselves as well –whether they realize it or not.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'Quetzalcoatl' @10pm ET on FX.
Photos: Byron Cohen/FX
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