We’re past the halfway point of the season, and it’s clear to me that for an episode of ‘The Bridge’ to work, it has to feature something more than the investigation itself. As well-drawn as the characters are, the case is simply not compelling right now, certainly not enough to build an entire season of television around.
Basically, ‘The Bridge’ can’t just operate in a swamp of serious conversations and darkness surrounding the basic machinations of the investigation, as it has tried to do multiple times this season. The show to this point has featured virtually no humor, unless you think the scenes where Sonya’s condition affects her work are intended to be funny, which I hope they’re not.
Beyond that, so far ‘The Bridge’ is disappointingly (to me, at least) not attempting to advance an interesting political worldview. Yes, it’s set in a hyper-politicized environment, but through 7 episodes the series doesn’t appear interested in anything beyond the basic task of bringing attention to the disparity between closely-situated cities on opposite sides of the border. That’s admirable, but not especially interesting, particularly for those of us who already accept that reality and need no convincing.
Furthermore, while the show certainly features an adept and accomplished style, it’s not distinctive or fascinating the same way that, say, ‘Hannibal’ is.
What’s left, then? Action! It’s been a few weeks since we got a big action set piece, and I cannot tell you how welcome it was here. I’ve made this point before, but when the aforementioned serious conversations are juxtaposed with gunfights and fear rather than, well, more conversations, suddenly they become more distinct and hit harder.
“Destino” certainly made good use of this, centering itself around a tense gunfight between Sonya & Co. and newly-introduced suspect Jack Childress, who Sonya tracked down thanks to diligent work checking automobile VIN numbers against auction records. Everything about this scene worked, from the shock death of poor Detective Stokes to the short-lived standoff between Sonya and Childress.
The adrenaline jolt from the gunfight helped carry the much slower final third of the episode, which included a very well done conversation between Hank and Cooper, and haunting image of Sonya to close out the hour.
Additionally, “Destino” took a small step forward in the humor department, with a very funny cold open featuring hapless Ray attempting to, ahem, satisfy the needs of cartel boss Graciela, if you know what I’m saying. Crude and fairly shocking, given the series’ buttoned-up track record, but it was nice to start the hour with a laugh. And the episode made good, interesting use of music in the shootout scene and monologue at the end of the hour.
Unfortunately, the case continues to weigh down ‘The Bridge’, even on good weeks. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why this show chose to present itself as a mystery. It doesn’t appear all that interested in introducing suspects – Childress is the first we’ve had since marble-mouthed Linder, who we saw again this hour – and as soon as Childress was apprehended he was immediately all but written off as the killer.
In fact, I’m not exactly sure how the main story of “Destino” moved forward the season’ narrative at all. As of now, it appears to be more of a self-contained side quest to track down then write off a suspect, an excuse to have a (very effective) action sequence.
The important developments occurred on the fringes, with the Charlotte and Ray, Alma and Hastings, Linder, and Fausto Galvan stories all dutifully advancing along. But ‘The Bridge’ is so wrapped up in hiding information from its audience in preparation for some kind of big whizz bang surprise reveal that it’s completely ignored giving the audience a real reason to care about these characters. I’m confident that their stories will connect to the main narrative eventually, but without knowing how, these scenes largely fall flat and feel entirely ancillary to the police business.
Again, why is this series packaging itself as a mystery? Why not let the audience in on the secret, and watch as the characters slowly figure it out? Even when I enjoy an hour of ‘The Bridge’, I continue to be frustrated by the macro-level decisions the show has made.