Given how ‘The Bridge’ has pretty much fallen apart the last few weeks, “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll” was a more or less satisfactory conclusion to the main story that the show has become so obsessed with.
Long gone are the days of this series having any interesting ideas about border relations or societal commentary; instead, ‘The Bridge’ has revealed itself as a pulpy, goofy, low-rent cross between ‘Homeland’ and ’24’ that manages to succeed at none of the things that makes either of those series work.
So given that, I guess it’s hard to be disappointed that the first half hour of this episode would be set on the eponymous bridge, with crazed madman Tate, having strapped a bomb to his chest, demanding Marco kill first Daniel Frye and then Tate himself – all while Marco’s son slowly drowns at an undisclosed location.
Gus’ death was brutal, and wildly uncomfortable to watch, but all things considered it was probably the correct move for the series. Gus was a likable character, the rare teenager on TV who wasn’t obnoxious, and that lent some much-needed weight to the proceedings. Allowing Sonya to save him would have felt cheap, and ventured into full-on ’24’ territory.
Still, the first half of this episode spent a long time covering relatively little ground. There was so much repetition in the dialogue – Marco asking for his son’s location roughly 400 times, for example – that while I understood that the moment was overwhelming for the characters, it still felt to me that the show was killing time to stretch the resolution out, trying to wear down the audience into believing that what’s happening on screen isn’t completely ridiculous, and that this show’s storytelling somehow carries more weight or credibility than your average network crime procedural.
It doesn’t, and that served to partially undercut the final scenes of the episode, which were really well done. While it’s lost all grasp of physical reality, ‘The Bridge’ still has a strong sense of its own emotional reality. Marco ending his friendship with Sonya really was heartbreaking, as were his last moments with Gus in the morgue.
If ‘The Bridge’ had ever figured out how to build to these beautifully-acted moments without relying on turning its bad guy into a mustache-twirling supervillain, it would have become the show that TV fans hoped it would be. It’s a shame that it didn’t, but let’s hope for the best in season two.