The Bridge Season 1, Episode 9 “The Beetle” Review

Rating: 7.6

Thanks to the killer’s identity finally being revealed last week, this marked the first time since around episode 5 that I went into an episode of ‘The Bridge’ expecting a great hour of television.

And for a good chunk of its runtime, “The Beetle” was that. The mesmerizing intro – a flashback to Tate’s car crash that killed his family, where his distorted screams cut through the loud, steady thud of a heartbeat – was a terrific way to start the hour, both artistically and narratively. It was a reminder of the increasingly interesting ways ‘The Bridge’ has found to tell its story, and provided some powerful context for Tate’s actions throughout the hour.

Those actions, as you probably suspected, centered around kidnapping Marco’s wife Alma. The time between Tate calling Marco to taunt him and Tate taking Alma to the abandoned cabin was probably my favorite stretch of the hour, playing out like a horror thriller and culminating with the spine-tingling reveal in the cabin.

And yet, the whole resolution to this and subsequent cliffhanger really left me cold.

I am the furthest thing from a stickler for “realism” in television; as long as the internal logic of the story and characters is sound, it doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s plausible in the real world. That’s what television is for, right? Escaping the real world?

Having said that, the last 20 minutes or so of “The Beetle” felt like a bad episode of ’24’ to me. I don’t understand why Tate left Alma and her daughters to meet Gus at the cafe, or whether Tate was aware going in that Gus had figured out it wasn’t his friend texting him. I don’t understand why Tate gave the police the GPS coordinates, nor why a genius like him would only leave Alma holding a grenade, a relatively simple problem to solve once Marco arrived.

And I definitely don’t understand anything about the car crash cliffhanger. The two options seem to be that this was either Tate’s plan all along, or that his plans were foiled and this was his panic move. If it’s the former (which I suspect it is), how could he bank everything on causing a car crash in the exact manner that it happened? What if Sonya had been left conscious and shot him? What if Gus had been killed? What if they went to a different safe house, or decided to spend the night at the station and drive up in the morning? What if Sonya had detected the car speeding at her and turned away? If the goal of the whole ordeal was to kidnap Gus, aren’t there easier ways to do that?

If Tate really was planning this, it’s such a laughably loose bit of plotting that relies on a massive string of coincidences that even I can’t take it seriously.

And if this wasn’t Tate’s plan, then of course why’d he give the coordinates in the first place? What was the purpose of kidnapping Alma and her daughters? The only possible purpose, based on how it played out, was to lure Gus and Sonya out for the car accident – which, again, is totally ludicrous on about five separate levels.

What am I missing? How does this make any sense at all?

I’m sure that next week’s episode will provide explanations for most of these questions. And that’s been my problem with ‘The Bridge’ all along. Everything is going to look great when you’re re-watching this season on DVD, knowing full well where everything leads. But watching it live, I find it maddening how often this show demands its viewers to either buy or be interested in developments that the show has not yet provided a reason for viewers to be interested in. ‘The Bridge’ is not demanding your attention, it’s demanding your blind faith.

Case in point, the Linder story is still stuck in first gear, and the audience is still yet to be given a reason to care about the marble-mouthed do-gooder as part of the larger narrative. If his role on the show is to make some kind of social commentary, it’s definitely not landing; and if his role on the show is to entertain, then it’s certainly not doing that. A test pattern woudl have been about as interesting as his contribution to the show this week.

Meanwhile, the other side project had plenty of action this week. Charlotte and Cesar took down Graciela in short order, burying the body in the yard. Graciela was an interesting character and I’m sorry to lose her, and while I was plenty interested in this material for what it was (pitchfork stabbings are always fun), I’m still struggling to understand its purpose.

If the goal of ‘The Bridge’ is to paint a picture of the world of two border towns, then it needed to start making some points about this, like, yesterday. If the goal is to tell an entertaining crime story, then it needed to be more forthcoming abouts its characters’ connections to said crime story, because the vast majority of screen time has been devoted to it.

I suspect the goal of this show is to do both, and while I respect the hell out of it and appreciate the craft behind it, ‘The Bridge’ has, by that measure, failed. And no matter how good the resolution is these last few episodes, I’m not sure it’s going to change that.

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