“Calaca” is an interesting turn for ‘The Bridge’. While providing minimal clues about where the plot is headed, tonight’s hour was much more forthcoming with what it revealed about the series’ focus, scope, and storytelling style. And that’s what has me concerned.
Not majorly concerned, mind you. Despite my reservations, “Calaca” was still an overall interesting, character-driven hour that did provide its fair share of interesting moments. I enjoyed Diane Kruger’s performance more this hour than in the pilot, with her all-business bar hookup serving as possibly the best scene in the episode. Sonya Cross may lack social grace, but she’s not a hermit, and seeing her apartment and how she operates in a public setting served to humanize her better than the pilot did. This is a multi-layered character that’s willfully inaccessible both in the world of the show and to the audience watching, and ‘The Bridge’ is clearly interested in exploring the nuances of its lead over the long-haul.
What the series might not be interested in, however, is the case at the center of the story. While there was the requisite amount of police business being done to sustain a crime drama – most notably, Sonya discovers the killer is leaving beads at his crime scenes – that aspect of the story is starting to feel a little less cared-for than the meticulously-crafted character work. The beads revelation, for example, came virtually out of nowhere; Sonya’s in bed looking at crime scene photos, decides she missed something at Judge Gates’ scene, and immediately finds the bead.
Elsewhere, after a long trek through the desert following an unexpected exit from the truck that brought them across the border, the group of Mexican immigrants met a better end when the killer poisoned them with free water jugs. Again, the actual moving-the-plot-forward aspect of this – Daniel gets a call from the killer who gives him GPS coordinates that Adriana immediately deciphers, they find the bodies, call the cops, Sonya finds another bead – was so straightforward and mechanical compared to the richness of, say, Marco telling his wife about his day.
Don’t get me wrong, in the big-picture sense this is admirable. Starting with its hot-button setting, ‘The Bridge’ has made it clear that its eager to engage in political and social issues. In “Calaca”, the show’s world stretched from the very bottom of the political food chain with the murdered immigrants, to the very top with Charlotte and her new unwanted business partner, who certainly appears to have something to do with that troublesome tunnel under her house.
The best work ‘The Bridge’ did tonight, though, centered around the relationship between Marco and Sonya. Warm, paternal, and deceptively sharp Marco is the perfect counterweight to icy Sonya, but even he couldn’t stay patient with her when she started grilling his corrupt Captain on uninvestigated murders. Allowing Sonya anywhere near a situation that requires delicacy or tact is a huge no-no, as Marco is learning, and their continued feeling-out process is fun to watch. If nothing else, “Calaca” solidified my confidence in Marco and Sonya being a worthwhile pair to build a series around, detectives who are worth getting to know beyond the case they’re investigating.
Still though, my concerns lie with that case. Steven, the mutton-chopped man who certainly seems to be the killer, is too nebulous at this point to really be compelling, and the policework this hour felt somewhat shallow compared to the character work.
Unlike the pilot, which despite its hazy and meandering structure ended with a fabulous set-piece that provided a rather satisfying conclusion, “Calaca” simply does not stand on its own as an hour of television. It is a piece of a much larger puzzle, a building block that surely many satisfying events will be built on top of. That’s both fine and intended. Ideally, though, ‘The Bridge’ could figure out a way to inject a little more intrigue into the proceedings, even if I’m excited for where the series is headed.