[This is a review for The Bridge season 2, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
For many reasons that anyone watching The Bridge is already aware of, Franka Potente's Eleanor Nacht has become the standout character so far this season. She exists as a intriguing contradiction – a homicidal Mennonite and a female member of a Mexican drug cartel – and so, despite their curiosity, it comes as no surprise that viewers might not know quite what to make of her. But that's okay, because most of the characters on the show don't quite know what to make of her either. In fact, it seems as though the only person who has any real understanding of Ms. Nacht (without having his throat slashed) is Lyle Lovett's equally strange Monte P. Flagman.
Establishing an entirely new character as one of the central antagonists in the second season of a series isn't exactly breaking new ground, but the show's depiction of Eleanor and Potente's performance thus far have felt both inventive and consistent with what the show is in its heart of hearts. Together, they've managed to create a fascinating character while also underlining exactly what's so appealing about The Bridge in the first place: It's weird and unsettling and yet totally alluring.
Eleanor's contributions to the season's storyline were perfectly encapsulated in last week's episode, which entered the getting-to-know-you phase of her character in rather dark fashion. There, Kyle – the doomed teenager who stumbled upon Eleanor in a garage – became an unfortunate proxy for the audience, as he basically spent the entire episode in an unsettled, weirded out, yet fascinated state before winding up in a plastic drum inside a butterfly sanctuary.
To that end, Eleanor has proven herself resourceful, deadly, and unafraid to draw the line at cutting off the ear of an intern, as the extent of what she's willing to do to get the job done. In a sense, she is the perfect replacement for the late Graciela Rivera, who filled a similar role last season, but was primarily relegated to making things unpleasant for Charlotte Millwright and her boy toy Ray Burton. Both women have demonstrated a keen ability for making a statement through the calculated use of violence and…other means. And although Graciela was dispatched perhaps too early last season, it's clear to see that Elwood Reid and his staff of writers were aware the contribution that kind of character made to the more interesting half of the season 1 narrative.
Season 2, then, has been considerably more devoted to exploring the El Paso-Juárez dichotomy through the sudden, bloody arrival of Eleanor, as we see the three-pronged investigation into Fausto Galvan's cartel and the murder of an undercover DEA agent. And yet what could have wound up as just another rote murder investigation being played out on television has turned into something with more than your usual brand of cops-and-killers-style conflict.
And for its part, 'Sorrowsworn' certainly raises the stakes in terms of Sonya and Marco's need to track down Eleanor, now that she's going around killing kids or terrorizing them in their beds. But, to its credit, the episode also does what it did last week – which is further establish the B plots to make sure they stay simmering in the background. For example, Frye and Adriana's investigation that ultimately leads to Yusanda being murdered, or the sudden reappearance of Steven Linder as he arrives at Bob's to reconnect with Eva, and winds up pummeling one of the corrupt Juárez cops who drugged and raped her at the end of last season.
At the moment, with Sonya and Marco's plotline finally cooking, the addition of so many other threads seems like it might be too much for the show to handle. And yet, surprisingly, despite the jumping from plot to plot, the transitions don't feel disjointed or confusing; they actually add to the intrigue. Right now, these threads are clearly pushing the characters toward a common destination, and, a few stragglers aside, so far The Bridgeseems to have everyone going where they're most needed.
Now we'll just have to wait and see if pushing everyone in the same direction will allow the larger picture to become more apparent as the series continues moving forward.
The Bridge continues next Wednesday with 'The Acorn' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Byron Cohen/FX