Wednesday, July 31, 2013

'The Bridge' Review - 1.04 Maria of the Desert

        On the newest episode of FX's The Bridge, the clock ticks as Maria's broadcast continues; Sonya searches for the girl's location; Marco works a unique ransom angle against protocol; and a powerful Juarez force crosses the border.

        "Maria of the Desert" ends with Marco having his first physical run in with (the now named) "The Bridge Butcher," Daniel Frye discovering the body of FBI Agent Gedmen in the dumpster, and Sonya, Hank and Marco finding his severed head. The episode made sure to get out of these characters into these exact moments at that exact time. The hour ultimately didn't reveal anything new about the main serial killer but little moments interspersed throughout made this an engaging episode.
        One of the most compelling things from these first four episodes has been the way the show has depicted its main villain. His message is much more important than his actual identity. Sure, he has been able to travel between places very easily and proven to be the most technologically advanced person on the show. He can turn the most skilled FBI agents into easy prey. This is a trope the medium has overly accepted lately - and yet The Bridge's killer is also a ghost. He does not relish in the dark and twisted ways he kills these people. He is smart and calculated and also a big mystery. That's the facet that leaves me most excited by episode's end. The show has basically no viable suspect out of the characters we have seen. Steven Linder was the main focus for the first two episodes - but he was mostly ruled out in the third hour and seems unlikely to have been in two places tonight.
        But the driving force of the narrative also isn't intently focused on discovering who the killer is. If it were, this episode ultimately would have been more disappointing because it didn't really move that story forward in any meaningful way. It just reenforced that the killer's message is more important then the killer him or herself. It's focusing on Sonya, Marco and Hank and how this investigation is effecting them. This was a great episode all around but it was especially great for Diane Kruger and Demián Bichir.
        The show laid Sonya's awkward iciness on pretty thick in the first few episodes. I questioned how exactly a woman like her would end up in such a position of power. And yet, the show has done an excellent job of showing how precise and determined Sonya is at her job. She watches Maria's video and is able to catch the clue of where she is long after everyone else walks away to work on the ransom drop. And then, Kruger had a great scene opposite Ted Levine in his truck where she got to open up just a little about her own personal life and how all this bares a little resemblance to what happened to her sister.
        Similarly, Bicher's performance continued to be stellar as Marco was forced in so many different directions. He has his eyes set on catching this killer and wants to be there when they finally do. He's not going to let some FBI agents come in and push him aside simply because he's from Mexico. And yet, his high profile on this case is causing Juarez crime boss Fausto Galvan to approach him with the help he needs. Galvan was briefly introduced in the pilot and yet this hour does the necessary work to show just how intimidating he can be despite an unremarkable exterior. He can give Marco what he needs - the money for the ransom - but Marco knows that there will be a price getting in bed with this man. And yet, he reluctantly has to agree because he also knows the Americans aren't getting the money anything soon. And Marco needs to catch the killer in order to get justice for Christina - the prostitute cut in half with the judge in the pilot - and the other immigrants just looking to start a better life.

Some more thoughts:
  • Detective Tim Copper had a nice, humanization moment where he promised Sonya he would stay with Maria so she could head to the drop site. There's hope for him yet!
  • Why did Frye still have his cell phone in the FBI van? And why did the tech guy there just let him go so easily?
  • David Meunier - who plays doomed Agent Gedmen - has been making a lot of interesting character guest appearances lately. Of course, there's his regular recurring role on fellow FX drama Justified which, by far, is his best work. But he has also popped up on Revolution, Nikita and Scandal this year.
  • I'm the least interested in the plot focusing on Charlotte and her late husband's daughter simply because it is not connected to the main story at all. The show can (and has) done a decent job incorporating Charlotte into the main stuff and message of the piece but this just feels too distant.