“So you’re only a serial killer if you enjoy it?”
Structurally, “The Beast” was the most ambitious hour of ‘The Bridge’ to date. It had to be – this episode covered a huge amount of storytelling ground on a variety of fronts without any kind of central action sequence to build everything around. And it did so very, very effectively.
In particular, the slow introduction of Gina showed real storytelling confidence. Starting at a point so far removed from the case, Gina began this hour as a weirdly disconnected side project for the show. But as she made her way through Juarez – nearly getting kidnapped and barely escaping (thanks to Esme’s quick thinking), seeing the graveyard for victims of The Beast – it became clear that she was on a collision course with the investigation. Gina ended the hour at the center of The Beast/The Bridge Butcher’s latest crime scene, hiding in the closet, a surviving witness who could crack the case open.
Marco’s life, meanwhile, has been cracked open. His indiscretion with Charlotte comes back to bite him when Sonya, hopelessly unaware of social graces, announces at a Ruiz family dinner that he left his wallet at Charlotte’s house. Whoops. Marco’s banished to sleeping in the precinct lobby, but Sonya, realizing she got him in trouble, awkwardly and endearingly invites him to stay on her couch. Not sure what Marco’s wife will think about that arrangement, but it leads to a simply terrific scene between the two of them, as we learn what happened to Sonya’s sister.
On the professional side, Marco is doing much better for himself. He steals Daniel’s phone and gets it to an appalled Sonya, who has a conversation with the killer in a scene that would have been much more powerful had it not been previewed to death by FX. The killer lets slip that the FBI knew about Agent Gedman’s incriminating video, which will give Sonya the leverage she needs to get in on the case. And Marco compassionately orders Maria, the victim that Sonya and Hank rescued from the desert, to ask for asylum before she talks. Hank arranges that, and Maria provides information that leads Sonya and Marco to believe that the killer works in law enforcement. (My almost-certainly wrong guess: the tech-savvy, mustachio’d deputy whose name I don’t remember. A little too smart, a little too friendly. Something’s up!)
The one story still not working is Linder. Not only is the character not particularly interesting thus far, but he’s only tangentially connected to the main story. I’m sure that will change down the road, but the attempts to integrate him into the investigation have felt ham-fisted and forced. Case in point, Marco showing up at his door at EXACTLY the moment he bashes his pursuer over the head with a clothes iron. That’s the kind of coincidence you expect on “NCIS”, but that a series of this quality should not have to rely on in order to manufacture drama.
Despite that, “The Beast” was arguably the best hour of ‘The Bridge’ to date. It kept everything humming by expertly weaving the personal and professional lives of the series’ increasingly interesting cast of characters, proving that the series can function at a high level without building episodes around a tense action sequence.
I am coming to terms with this series being more of a straightforward crime mystery (a la ‘The Killing’) than a social commentary wrapped in a crime story (a la ‘The Wire’), and while that’s still a disappointment, it’s hard to deny that “The Beast” was a fantastically well put-together hour of television.