My dissatisfaction with ‘The Bridge’ to date touches on most aspects of the series, but is rooted in a single decision that the show made before its first season aired: to structure the season as a mystery.
To sell a mystery, the central question must be pushed to the forefront, which ‘The Bridge’ has absolutely done. “Who is The Beast?” has been the impetus for the vast majority of the on-screen action, and the investigation has not only served as the show’s backbone, it’s occupied so much of the series’ attention that anything not overtly tied to it (Charlotte, Linder) feels like an awkward side show.
Of course, if ‘The Bridge’ wasn’t so hell-bent on playing its cards close to the vest, it could do a much better job of explaining why these stories matter. I’m sure watching this season in retrospect, once the mysteries have been revealed, we’ll be able to appreciate exactly what’s going on. And maybe when someone binges this show on Netflix a few months from now, watching the investigation slowly unfold will be somewhat rewarding, because watching five episodes in an afternoon has a way of speeding up the narrative.
But dammit, watching ‘The Bridge’ live, once a week, has been deeply frustrating. This is a fascinating world populated with well-drawn characters portrayed by interesting actors. Why are we so married to this plodding, interminable investigation? Why does ‘The Bridge’ insist on being ‘The Killing’, when it’s a better show in every conceivable way? By structuring itself as a mystery, ‘The Bridge’ has dulled the impact of its social message and hamstrung the development of its characters.
On the flip side, the payoff of mysteries is, of course, the “a ha!” moment of discovery. And that’s what “Vendetta” finally provided, mercifully with a handful of episodes left in the season.
I have no qualms with the identity of the killer nor the reveal itself. This was, after all, the moment that we’ve been sitting through a whole lot of rote police work and hazy storytelling to enjoy, and I for one enjoyed it very much. I stopped engaging with the central mystery a few weeks back and long gave up trying to guess the identify of The Beast, but I was nonetheless surprised and pleased by who it turned out to be.
What I’m much more pleased by, however, is the idea that ‘The Bridge’ is finally free from the self-imposed shackles on its own storytelling. With the killer revealed to both the audience and our main characters, the season is now free to become something else, whether it be a socially-conscious exploration of border politics or a shoot-em-up crime thriller.
Whatever the case, I suspect we’re in for a fun ride. “Vendetta” was a strong, focused hour of television, but I’m more excited about what it means for the future of ‘The Bridge’.