One of the things I like about The Bridge so far is the way the circumstances of the show have thrown all of the characters out of their element. Sonya has to deal with Mexican protocol, including the infiltration of cartel leaders into local law enforcement. Marco has to deal with Sonya’s Sonyaness. Daniel has to cope with the fact that Adrianna is suddenly no longer a junior reporter he can harangue, but a colleague he’s actually required to work with and collaborate with. And Charlotte, who in Karl found an escape from hostessing in Florida, an estate, and a mutual passion for horses, begins the episode by discovering that the man who made her a trophy wife had other interests.
“Carl was running drugs?” Charlotte asks in the passage in the basement. “No, Senora,” Cesar tells her. “Illegals.” Her reaction is what you’d expect of her, horrified and selfish. “Get rid of it. Board it up,” she insists. “Please, Cesar, I can’t deal with this right now.” She shows no inkling whatsoever that some people might need to get through that tunnel, with an urgency that’s more significant than Charlotte’s own grief and attempt to reconcile herself to Karl’s death, which has left her without a social anchor in El Paso. But when a lawyer with a showy business card shows up, insinuating that Charlotte might want to follow his directions, she shows some unexpected zeal. Charlotte breezes into his office and dumps out the contents of his casserole on his desk. “This is three-bean salad,” she tells him of her concoction, which is now festooning his office, and pulls a roll of bills out of her pocket. “And this is money. And I don’t want it. I was a hostess, not a waitress.” But what she’ll be now that life is behind her is an open question.
In Mexico, without Hank to protect her, Sonya’s running into trouble, too. “You’re going to get me killed,” Marco snaps at her. “A man like Fausto Galvan can take my wife and kids out into the desert, set them on fire and make me watch.” Sonya knows enough to appreciate that she’s screwed up, telling Hank “He’s mad at me. I ask too many questions.” And Mexican policing norms aren’t the only thing that have her disconcerted: she’s confused by Marco’s marriage, too. “Does Carmen ever call you for no reason sometimes?” she wants to know of Hank. “His wife called while we were working just to hear his voice. It seems like such a waste of time.” She has needs of her own, of course, and the sequence where Sonya goes to a bar to pick up a one-night stand is very funny, striking a nice balance between her lack of familiarity with basic social customs, and the charm of her bluntness. “Hey. Why’d you walk away? I just didn’t want a drink,” Sonya demands to know. “You want to have sex with me? We could go back to my place.” “This some kind of joke?” the man wants to know. But he goes home with her anyway.
And Linder shows a particular awkwardness of his own when he gets into work at what appears to be some sort of intake center that mostly serves young women. When the colleague he’s spelling mentions the judge’s murder, Linder can’t resist telling her “I don’t know. Maybe she had it coming.” “That’s terrible. Nobody has that coming. You don’t mean that, Steven,” his supervisor, who seems to play a similar role for him to the one Hank plays for Sonya, cautions him. “Maybe it’s just my politics,” Steven tells her. He’s a man who’s been accustomed to going relatively unnoticed who can’t resist his opportunity to be a little shocking in person, even as he orchestrates greater spectacles anonymously.
The people who are most out of their element, though, are the migrants who, having knocked out their coyote, are making a dangerous trek through the desert to try to find a relatively unmonitored way into the United States. Demian Bichir, who plays Marco, may have some quibbles with The Bridge‘s and Hollywood’s depictions of Mexico in general and Juarez in particular, but the show gets one thing right, when he explains to Sonya that the place where nine migrants were poisoned is a “Dangerous crossing. The fence forces them out here.” Who Is Dayani Cristal?, a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, documented the ways in which increased border security has forced migrants to cross from the United States into Mexico in an area that has extreme heat during the day and extreme cold during the night, increasing fatalities on the trip, often of people who have no documentation on them, and who become unidentifiable casualties of the desert.
And the show gets at the ways in which to be a migrant is to inherently be out of your element, to be reliant on signs and signifiers, and second-hand information, to light your path forward. One member of the group The Bridge is tracking wants to head towards a building glinting on the horizon, while the woman in the group points out there will be surveillance there, and that it’s better to head into the wasteland. When they come across an altar in the desert, surrounded by bottles of water, one of the men sees it as a miracle, but that same woman reads the death’s head under a mantilla as something more dangerous, telling them “It shouldn’t be there,” and to her sorrow, turning out to be deadly accurate in her assessment. Sonya and Marco may be the only people with the official title of detectives. But everyone in The Bridge is desperately trying to solve mysteries, and unlike the two cops, some of them are hoping to prevent the death that have been foretold for them.