Pilot Roundtable is a regular feature aimed at answering the question, “Should I watch this new show?” Below, a variety of WeLoveTVMore staff writers and contributors give their opinions and first impressions of the pilot episode of a new series. If you’d like to take part in future Pilot Roundtables, let us know!
Up first, FX’s new crime thriller set on the U.S./Mexico border, ‘The Bridge’. Kyle Trembley already chimed in with his full-length review, but what did our other writers think of the new drama?
What do you believe were the strongest elements of ‘The Bridge’ pilot?
Managing Editor David Warren
The cross-border crime scene, and the subsequent revelation that it was in fact 2 murders, created the biggest impact. The bridge (both physical and series title) alone is largely symbolic of the connections and conflicts between U.S and Mexico. The existence of the bodies and crime scene on the bridge, however, created a hugely effective metaphor for the world within this series: A dark, troubled, deadly, and politically loaded environment. The closing scene, with Matthew Lillard’s character in the car, was another strong element. The resolution to that piled on even more tension, as if the killer(s) were saying, “This is much bigger than this one reporter in his car.”
Associate Editor / Social Media Director Blaire Knight-Graves
The Bridge pilot was overall an incredibly well structured piece of televised art. From the cinematography, to the sound design, and to the overall editing, the pilot will certainly keep you engaged. It’s a little bit exhausting due to its cinematic length, but every moment that you find your attention waning will be followed by a stellar performance or unique editing trick (I’m particularly thinking about an editing transition in which a woman’s photographed eyes slowly fade into the car headlights as the next scene approaches). Every performance (save perhaps Diane Kruger’s) feels quite genuine, especially Matthew Lillard’s. The pilot also had a strong political message that I enjoyed quite a lot. Overall, a good pilot.
Staff Writer Megan Haas
As a summer pilot, the strongest aspect of ‘The Bridge’ is its ability to stretch. The initial case that was introduced will carry out for the episodes to come. These characters weren’t just thrown together because they are partners with no end in sight. We can see a transparent outline of this show. With this said, there are obvious opportunities for twists and turns after seeing the preview for episodes to come. Although the pilot was long, this show has a chance to stand its own during the summer months. It feels like a fall pilot, so as a summer series, it is strong.
Guest Contributor Olivia Richards
The Bridge is incredibly original in its plot and character development. In an American crime drama, this show sets itself apart in the transition between the United States and Mexican borders. The pilot leaves enough loose ends that intrigued audience members will most definitely want to tune in to find out what will happen next. Additionally, Diane Kruger’s performance as Sonya Cross will most definitely keep the audiences’ attentions peaked.
Are there any areas in which you believe the show needs to improve?
Comedy, actually. I’ve laughed harder during some Dexter and Breaking Bad scenes than I have in most comedies out there. “The Bridge” needs this element, and hopefully can realize that there is absolutely no danger of a series this dark entering into the not-as-popular-with-critics ‘dramedy zone.’ There are a few light moments in the pilot (I loved it when the detective flirted with the receptionist at the El Paso police station), but I hope we see more as the characters develop – it really helps to draw in viewers and the contrast makes the gritty dark scenes even darker & grittier.
If the series intends to remain as political, it will have to do a lot of legwork. There’s only so much story that can be milked from one serial killer being hunted by two detectives from different precincts/different countries. The plot will need to remain engaging and Detectives Cross and Ruiz will need a functional reason to continue working with one another beyond the pilot.
Cop shows are growing old. For me, they have already overstayed their welcome. However, a new trend is to switch cop shows around and give them a new light. I think this is doing exactly that. It’s a case that we haven’t seen before with characters that have not been impersonated lately. Although the show is doing this, the preview for the episodes to come looked like it could fall back into the swing of normal procedural dramas. The “murderer of the week” might become boring, especially as we approach fall when all of those series return. It needs to keep this uniqueness in order to have a strong audience.
The writers will have to strive to keep their audience connected to the lead characters. They most certainly have their hands full with Sonya, who we are lead to believe has Asperger Syndrome, although this has not been confirmed. Crime dramas, such as Law and Order: SVU and King and Maxwell, thrive on repressed sexual tension between the lead characters. Due to Sonya’s implied mental condition and Detective Ruiz’s marital status, the writers face a lot of additional work to keep the audience hooked solely on the plot. Although this qualifies more as a concern than an actual criticism, it still holds weight.
At the center of ‘The Bridge’ is Detective Sonya Cross, who is….let’s say, difficult. What are your impressions of her from the pilot, and does she affect the watchability of the series?
Sonya’s character is somewhat problematic indeed. The writers & producers are bringing in a backstory, but they need to do that soon and it needs to be good if we are to empathize with her and understand/tolerate her actions. Right now she comes off as lacking compassion as well as some other basic social skills. Additionally, if she does suffer from some medical condition, I question the realism of someone like that holding the position of a detective in a murder investigation. In the pilot I see potential for her character to eventually become likable, especially if her character grows and improves as we go. As the series progresses, if viewers are expected to just accept her personality and/or condition, that’s going to be a tough sell.
I can’t tell if Diane Kruger’s performance is phenomenal or abysmal. Don’t misunderstand me: I truly loved the character Detective Sonya Cross, I just don’t know if Diane Kruger has the expertise to pull off a character with HFU (high functioning autism) (note: to be politically correct, this condition was previously reffered to as Asperger Syndrome.). The next four episodes will make it clear whether or not the actress can carry the show. The character, however, is a much-needed deviation from the norm. She’s a tough as nails female with absolutely no emotional ground to cover. She gets her job done and is not affected by the cruel world. I can’t recall a time in which a female character was represented in this way. I’ll admit I’m intrigued and excited by the possibilities Detective Sonya Cross brings to the narrative table!
There definitely is a trend of portraying characters like this on TV. However, they are usually men. Having Sonya be a woman who is like this, where typically she should be the strong detective who has a sexy side, will only improve the show. If ‘The Bridge’ aired in 2009, Sonya would have been a walking model that would have known how to do her job perfectly. She would have flirted with men, hated her partner, and in the end, slept with the man she was introduced to in the beginning. They would be the perfect couple with a few bumps in the road. However, since Sonya was introduced this specific way, it almost wipes this slate completely clear. If Sonya was ripped out of a Abercrombie ad and acted like she was a gift to men everywhere, what would make ‘The Bridge’ different from every other procedural show out there. It’s refreshing. It brings a new light to a character like this. Sonya’s personality will improve the show and make it stand out from the others.
Sonya Cross presents a very interesting element to the series. Recently, crime dramas have been featuring characters with mental disabilities (ex: Hannibal, King and Maxwell). This series is a deviation from this trend, however, because we are finally seeing a FEMALE character with a mental handicap. Due to her obsession with procedure versus the unpredictability of her profession, Sonya’s reactions add to the drama of the series. The pilot also feeds us with a healthy dose of Cross’ backstory, enough that we want to know more about how this will impact her judgment and development as a lead character. Diane Kruger, in my mind, portrays characters that use their feminine charms to woo men into action and submission (I.e. Troy and Inglorious Bastards). It’s very interesting to see her working against that acting mold.
Thumbs up or thumbs down: Is ‘The Bridge’ is worth checking out?
Thumbs Up! The serial drama can reach such great levels of success, but largely due to the fact that each episode lacks a ‘procedural payoff,’ they can also crash so hard. I think FX has something good here, even without, or should I say despite, Sonya’s behavioral issues. If that’s kept in check, and if subsequent eps are anything like the pilot, I think we’re looking at a great new cable drama.
Thumbs up (although realistically: thumbs middle).
Thumbs Up. I would give this show a chance. Your choices with summer TV are limited to reality shows and series trying to make it another summer. This one will keep you hooked all the way through – based off of the pilot. If it continues to be as captivating as the first episode, ‘The Bridge’ will be something to watch religiously.
The series is a definite thumbs up. Because the audience is left with many unanswered questions, we must tune in to the following episodes to have our curiosity satiated.