There was one part of “Old Friends” that I really, really liked.
I could watch a show centered around alcoholic asshole Daniel Frye and tough-as-nails rookie Adriana Perez, tracking down leads and reporting on all the shady border happenings for 12 episodes a season. I’m only half kidding.
Their interaction was what I enjoyed most about tonight’s ‘The Bridge’. Since Daniel was nearly blown up in the pilot, those two have had a somewhat quiet but nonetheless compelling story arc; and here, with Daniel falling off the wagon and confessing to Adriana the real reason he’s in harm’s way, their story and their relationship really hit hard. Matthew Lillard got a couple big meaty scenes to bite into, and his breakdown at the AA meeting in particular was one of the best moments of the series. And that’s not to take away anything from Emily Rios’ work as Adriana, a rare female character who can express concern and be a good friend without being portrayed as naive, clingy, or frantic. He’s the veteran reporter, but she’s the adult. It’s a fascinating dynamic, and one that I’d love more of an opportunity to explore.
So of course, Daniel is promptly kidnapped from the AA meeting by crazed serial killer Tate, and may have been already killed.
And that’s my problem with ‘The Bridge’ in a nutshell. The central serial killer story started slowly and with frustrating vagueness, then in the last handful of episodes has evolved into something so broad and so juiced up with frenetic action and danger that it’s engulfed every other aspect of the show. At no point this season has ‘The Bridge’ figured out the sweet spot, where the central narrative is strong and has clear direction, but not at the expense of everything happening around it.
That continued in “Old Friends,” which outside of the really affecting material with the reporters early on, was basically straight out of the ‘Homeland’ playbook from late season two, or even ’24’.
I mean, Tate binds young Gus and locks him in a container that’s slowly filling with water like he’s motherf*cking Dr. Evil. I’m sure, as Marco helpfully explains to Sonya, Tate wants to make Gus suffer in order to make Marco suffer. But just last week, Tate has forced Alma to hold a grenade and locked her in an abandoned cabin, then somehow caused a car crash that worked PRECISELY in the way it needed to for his plan to work. With this whole elaborate Gus thing now, Tate isn’t behaving like a man who became unhinged when his family was killed and is now hell-bent on revenge; he’s behaving like a supervillain.
Oh, and Charlotte’s late husband didn’t leave her any money, so she took out her aggression by calling hapless arms dealer/informant Tim to the middle of the desert and executing him. So…great?
It’s silly. It is so, SO silly. ‘The Bridge’ carries itself like a serious drama, but this season has devolved into something as pulpy as ‘Scandal,’ minus all of the fun.
Watching ‘The Bridge’ has always felt a little like homework, but at least at the start of the season it felt like it was leading to an interesting or profound place.
Now we’re at that place, and I’m left wondering more and more why I invested my time in this mess of a series.