Wednesday, July 10, 2013

'The Bridge' Premiere Review - 1.01 Pilot

        On the series premiere of FX's The Bridge, a body is found on the bridge connecting El Paso and Juarez and two detectives, one from the United States (Diane Kruger) and one from Mexico (Demián Bichir), must work together to hunt down a serial killer operating on both sides of the border.

        Everything about the description for FX's newest drama series The Bridge - from TV writing veterans Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid - sounds awfully familiar. It's an investigative thriller that forces two different cops to work together. One of these detectives has a personality quirk - Diane Kruger's Detective Sonya Cross - that makes her socially inept but brilliant at her job. The another - Demián Bichir's Detective Marco Ruiz - a worldly man with the weight of police corruption lying on his shoulders. These two buddy cops investigate a serial killer who is operating on both sides of the border in El Paso and Juarez. Serial killers are a big TV trend right now - with them appearing on FOX's The Following, NBC's Hannibal and this season of AMC's The Killing in just 2013 alone. So what exactly about this new series makes it special and stand out in the ever-growing expanse of television? It's in the execution. Kruger and Bichir both fully commit to the roles they are being asked to play. Additionally, the series is using the mechanics of serial killer plot to open the door of much larger moral questions including the drastic lifestyle differences of the people who live in El Paso and Juarez.
        There is so much to The Bridge that it could easily fly off the rails at a moments notice. And yet for now, Stiehm and Reid have masterfully found a way to keep many plots moving separating while also feeling like they're working towards the same goal and contributing to an immense and powerful atmosphere.
        The largest likely deciding factor on whether or not you will like this series is how much you like the character of Sonya Cross. She is cold and off-putting and clearing has some social disorder. The show never comes out and says what her diagnosis is but the press details clearly state that she has Asperger Syndrome. Because of all of this, she can come across as unlikable - which is a character note and not anything against Kruger's fully committed take on the role. I question how a woman with her issues could have risen so far in the ranks of the police department. However, the scene where she is able to refocus Matthew Lillard's newspaper reporter shows that even though she's different she can be quite efficient at her job. Additionally, her connection with Ted Levine's Lt. Hank Wade is very paternal. That dynamic adds some warmness to her. In the moment where he tells her his plans on retiring, it felt real and honest.
        But while Kruger is the more polarizing performance, Bichir is the one main reason to add this to your summer viewing list. He truly embodies the man who wants to do more but simply isn't able to due to the circumstances of his community. He has a strong moral code and excels at his job but do outside forces and police corruption in Juarez hasn't been able to make much of a difference. Sonya fully expects him to be a corrupt cop - and how he reacts to her uniqueness is excellent - but he is a pleasant surprise to her. He gives and goes the extra mile and cares in a community that would rather just look the other way.
        The premiere also does an intriguing job of setting up both the Annabeth Gish and Thomas M. Wright characters - Charlotte and Steven respectively - in interesting positions even though they don't offer up (many) interactions with the main action. They contribute to the overall tone and atmosphere to the piece but they never felt distracting despite how isolated and separate they were. Neither had any resolution by the end of the premiere - with Charlotte going to discover what's beyond the lock and Steven in his trailer with the women he helped cross the border. However, they feel like they will be able to weave into the main narrative very easily. Steven could just as well be the serial killer as he could simply be a red herring. Charlotte's late husband was up to something. And now, I'm intrigued to learn more.