The Bridge Episode 3 “Rio” Review

Rating: 7.8

After last week’s slow, somewhat frustrating second hour, I wasn’t necessarily worried about the direction ‘The Bridge’ was headed, just that the road to get there might not be very scenic. There was also a possibility, albeit remote, that this drama could really ‘Rubicon’ it – in other words, get so concerned with cultivating itself as “smart” that it becomes paralyzed with fear at the very thought of taking a storytelling risk.

I don’t think ‘The Bridge’ is that show, and Wednesday night’s “Rio” moved much better than last week’s “Calaca.” However, there are still lingering issues with the series that are keeping me from throwing myself into it.

I’m not sure I agree with the series’ decision to continue to keep Linder’s intentions and role in the killings so hazy. We’ve seen him with the kidnapped girl, we presume he’s the killer and the one making the calls to Daniel, but there is surely quite a bit more to it than that. Sonya’s dismissal of him as a suspect following the taut interview scene is strange; it’s unclear if she’s just terrible at reading people, or actually correct in some way.

Uncertainty isn’t bad, of course, and mystery is one of the most compelling reasons to watch a show each week. But other aspects of the show seems rather hazy right now, as well. The brother (I think?) of the victim hunting Linder feels a little bit like drama for the sake of drama so far, and Karl-now-Charlotte’s mysterious business partner is at the moment a horse-killing phantom.

Again, taken individually none of these things is necessarily a problem. Intrigue and mystery are good! Put together, though, and this whole hour left me feeling a little frustrated and unsatisfied.

It’s not that I’m demanding answers, or even an accelerated pace. But I think ‘The Bridge’ could do a better job of helping its viewers triangulate where exactly some of these stories stand. Linder’s role in particular seems like an unnecessary mystery; this isn’t ‘The Killing’ (at least I hope not), the entire season isn’t devoted to identifying a killer or solving a case (or is it?).

Not to be THAT GUY who invokes ‘The Wire’ at every opportunity (even though I totally am), but there’s a difference between being complicated and being frustrating. The first season of ‘The Wire’ drops viewers in a fully-formed world that is so dense that it takes no less than 4 hours to even get your initial bearings. But ‘The Wire’ also shows its viewers nearly everything; it’s not keeping secrets or misleading the audience, except in minor instances (for example, one story that D’Angelo tells). Part of the brilliance of ‘The Wire’ is how it gives viewers everything they need to make sense of what’s happening, and trusts them to put in the effort to connect the dots, even if it requires re-watching.

By withholding information from viewers, ‘The Bridge’ is either not playing fair as the tense political crime drama I thought it was, or trying to sell itself as both that AND a ‘The Killing’-style mystery. The former is a forgiveable annoyance; the latter would be a rather fundamental miscalculation.

Because there’s so much good stuff here, this show doesn’t need a “whodunnit?” to build everything around. I would rather get the business of who did what out of the way now, and simply watch our leads interact, or Charlotte cope with the situation she’s now in, or Hank try to reign Sonya in, or Marco tell white lies to Kitty the receptionist, much to Sonya’s chagrin.

Speaking of Marco, he unfortunately committed worse sins this hour. One mystery “Rio” definitively solved was why Alma has been so curious to meet her husband’s new attractive female partner. Turns out though, it’s not Sonya who Alma should be worrying about – there’s probably some arcane rule about office relationships that would prevent Sonya from ever considering a polite, prompt one-night stand with Marco – but Charlotte Millwright. As she begins to scratch the surface of the shady border-related business her late husband Karl was involved in, Charlotte throws herself at the one and only person who has been kind to her since his passing. Marco, who 30 seconds earlier was telling her about his family, is down for it with exactly zero resistance. Between this enthusiasm and his wife’s insistence on meeting Sonya, it’s pretty clear that this isn’t Marco’s first rodeo at the wrong ranch.

This is what I mean, though. That sequence of events provides us with much-needed knowledge about Marco and lets us make inferences about his backstory that help inform how we feel about his relationship with his wife, his child, Sonya, and Charlotte.

I’d like to see ‘The Bridge’ do a little more of this. It’s not that “stuff isn’t happening”, because it is. But I’m having a difficult time contextualizing much of what’s happening, and that lessens its impact, despite that fact that I’m being strongly drawn into the fascinating world the show is creating. I want to love ‘The Bridge’, I’m just asking it to meet me halfway.

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