This post discusses plot points from the August 14 episode of The Bridge.
One of the strengths of The Bridge is the way it manages to execute a single theme in multiple storylines. This week, the show explores the idea that if you want something done well, you’ve got to do it yourself. It’s a theory that’s reflected in the episode’s title, “ID”–identifying a suspect is something that only an eyewitness can do–but that shows up everywhere from Charlotte’s approach to the tunnel to Daniel and Adriana’s return to Juarez.
It comes up most strikingly in Hank’s explanation to Marco of why he shows up in the dead doctor’s files, an admission that clarifies not only his approach to the case, but the depth of his relationship to Sonya.
“Everybody has that one case that costs…This one was a girl. 18 years old. Found in a ditch. she’d been raped and beaten, and–what this guy did to her was. Anyway, I caught the case. And mother was out of the picture, father was missing in action. So the girl’s little sister came to ID the body. She was 15 years old, having to do that,” Hank remembers. “There’s a truck driver, name was Jim Dobbs, looked really good for it…If you read the report, it will say he reached for a gun on the nightstand. Reports are funny things…Now he’s got three hots and a cot courtesy of the state. Of course he doesn’t know what day it is…I sent myself to the shrink…I was troubled by what I did to the little sister. I took away any hope she had of getting answers.”
The fifteen-year-old who was called in to make that awful identification, of course, is Sonya, who’s faced with coaxing a very different kind of description out of Gina, who’s terrified after watching a killer dispatch her father through the gruesome method Marco identifies as a Colombian Necktie, a tactic that helps them put together a portrait of the doctor as a drug dealer, rather than a simple consultant to the cops.
In Hank’s position now, Sonya tries her old paces, and then calls on resources that are difficult for her to access. “I got her breakfast,” Sonya tells Hank, but when Gina gets queasy at the possibility of food, Sonya turns to her old stand-by: “Would you like a glass of water?” At least Gina reacts better than the judge’s husband did. But Sonya’s restricted in her ability to reach out, and her sense of what she can–and ought–to do for Gina. “Can I have a cigarette?” the girl wants to know. “Are you 18?” Sonya asks her. When she gets a negative, she falls back on the strict letter of the law. “Then you can’t.” There’s a lovely little moment in the episode when Sonya insists that “She trusts me. I’m a cop,” and Marco laughs, less with her than at the Fifties sensibility behind the sentiment. Gina’s father had his throat cut in front of her shortly after she was almost kidnapped, and she’s supposed to retain her faith in law and order, especially after years of her mother’s drug abuse, which turns out to have been abetted by her father.
But out of her element, pulled out of the station for “Burgers. Chili. Onions. Heartburn. My treat!” by Hank, complaining that “I don’t like burgers,” and jollied by Hank who tells her “That’s un-American. Eat your Freedom Fries,” Sonya shares what she and Gina have in common with the young girl. “My mom was like that,” Sonya explains. “Her thing was cocaine and men.” Hank tries to turn it into a positive movement, telling Gina “Your mom can get clean.” But what Gina actually seems to respond to is Sonya’s tart pessimism. “She’s tried,” Gina tells him. “We’re going to help her try again,” Hank insists. Sonya’s reading of the situation “Her mom’s not going to get clean. She’s going to social services until she’s 18…I hated social services,” is probably correct.
And tragically, her instinct for Gina’s reaction proves correct, too: Gina does a runner on her police minders and flees straight into the arms of her father’s killer. But before she dies, she manages to do at least part of what Sonya wanted from her. “I- I got the eyes right,” she tells the cop before she dies.
It’s more courage than Charlotte musters. Ray, it turns out, isn’t just a chance for her to get laid after her marriage to Karl–he’s a pleasantly thuggish presence Charlotte hopes will be able to put a buffer between her and Graciela. “What’s in there? A sex dungeon?” Ray jokes when she takes him down to the tunnel. “Mexico,” Charlotte explains instead. “We were broke. I didn’t know.” She tells Graciela and her lawyer “From now on, I don’t know anything about the tunnel. For everything, and I mean everything, you deal with Ray,” but the show suggests he’s no measure for Graciela and Fausto. A man so dumb he immediately walks right into a drug-dealing sting set up by his old buddy Timmy, who’s turned snitch is no match for a guy who can escort a body through a tunnel with a chipper “Buenas noches,” or a woman who’s happy to kill a horse to make a point and doesn’t need the protection of Tom Hagen as an intermediary.
Fausto offers a riff on the theme–and a look into Marco’s backstory–in this episode, in a shocking illustration of what you can accomplish when people are so afraid of you that they’re willing to act as extensions of your own will. “He chased her over the bridge,” he tells his associates of the pimp Linder killed in self-defense, and whose body he walked through Charlotte’s property. “And there he did lots of stupid things. Gentleman, do me the honors.” The body ends up porcupined with knives and on display as a warning. “Why don’t they cut him down?” Daniel asks, shocked by the ugliness of the image, and that people would subject themselves to it. “They’re afraid of Fausto,” Adriana tells him. Fear can mean that people do your work for you, terrorizing themselves without requiring you to take further action.
But people who don’t behave in what appear to be rational ways are troublesome exceptions. Marco provides an illustration of the limitations of Fausto’s power when he shows up at his home, not to crash, but to return two large bricks of cash to him. “I never expected to see that again,” Fausto tells him.
“We’ve known each other a long time. You know I wasn’t going to keep your money,” Marco reminds him. “Always so moral,” Fausto tells him. “Now your’e too good for the business our fathers started?” “No. No, but we’ve taken different paths,” Marco tells him. Instead of threatening, Fausto tries to test him, tossing him a sheaf of bills and saying “No one will ever know youg ave it back, Marco. I’ll know. So will you.” Fausto “Here you go…For whatever you want. New car, new clothes for your kids. As a reward.” But part of doing things yourself is having the sole satisfaction of knowing you’ve done right or wrong, and Marco wants to know he’s done right in this even as he blows up his marriage.
That doesn’t mean he can avoid the consequences of people thinking otherwise, though. Daniel Frye may be dumping his booze and pills to the tune of Melanie’s “Brand New Key,” but he’s still angry at Marco for stealing his phone, less for the inconvenience than because it means the killer’s stopped calling him. And even with the clarity of 51 hours sober, a do-it-yourself project that resembles Marco’s return of the money, Daniel’s still in a place where he’s willing to let the evidence fall in ways that support the conclusions he’s like to be real. “The killer. He wants us to know that Marco’s dirty, right?” he asks Adriana over a club soda. “Maybe,” the young reporter tells him.
And Adriana’s quietly proving her superiority at a do for self ethos, at least when it comes to reporting. She’s the one who ventures into a morgue to ask a terrified coroner about the investigation into Cristina Fuentes’ death and the identification of the bodies in the death house while Daniel pulls his t-shirt over his mouth and nose in response to the smell. “Everyone who did has either transferred to another facility or is dead,” the man who tells her. “No comprende but that dude looks tense,” Daniel comments as they leave. “Yeah, it’s more than that,” Adriana tells him bluntly, trying to explain the consequences of what they’re doing. “If we keep asking questions about the death house, we’re going to end up in a scary place.” “That’s what we do, we ask questions,” Daniel tells her. But Adriana knows that, and knows the gravity of their situation, and answers “Hell, yeah,” when Daniel asks her if she wants to keep reporting. It’s one thing to do for self when you’ve got minions, or when you’re blind or numb to what you might face all on your own as a result. It’s a very different act of courage to know how dangerous your work is and to move forward.