This post discusses plot points from the August 21 episode of The Bridge.
There are so many things I should be talking about in this episode of The Bridge. There’s poor Manny and his blown-off face, a reminder that not all portly junior lawmen are destined for Constable Bob’s redemptive burst of badassery. There’s the arrest of Jack Childress, a man who believes in “the extraterrestrial origins of the Mexican people.” There’s Graciela’s canny assessment of Ray as a dumb stud whose proposed gun deal can only bring her trouble, but who can rock her zebra-striped platforms while she’s putting him off. But mostly, I want to talk about partnerships.
The Bridge began with a bisected body on a bridge, two women, one white, one Mexican, unified by violence. I don’t think Jack Childress is the mastermind of this particular plot, even if his analysis that “El Paso Del Norte has been falsely split. By borders, by culture, by history…There’s a war happening here at the border and nobody seems to know about it,” squares with that crude effort to knit together two countries with force. While no power of this earth can make a living body out of the parts of two women, and the idea of El Paso and Juarez as a unified country is a madman’s dream, the killer has accomplished a micro version of his fever dream, creating and exposing a number of partnerships between Mexicans and Americans.
The initial killing, by design, brought together a Mexican and American in policework. The relationship between Sonya and Marco has developed to the extent that he’s living at her home, paying her back for her loan of money that he used to buy flowers for Miss Kitty, and she’s trusting him enough to take Hank’s place at her back on their search of Childress’ home. It’s the kind of relationship that’s destined to be misunderstood, in this episode by Alma, who’s furious enough that she’s looking for perfidy even in Marco’s living arrangements and his work, and arranging a transgression of her own that seems designed more to put them on even ground than to force a resolution–“If you want to get a divorce, get a divorce,” her prospective lover tells her, but Alma demurs “Well, that’s complicated.”
That doesn’t mean Marco and Sonya agree on everything, even the most important things. “He’s insane,” Sonya tells Marco after they apprehend Childress, in a moment that includes a dramatic, Old West-style shootout that’s the worthy progeny of Breaking Bad and a a run-in between the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyte “I’m just not sure that the man who planned all this is insane.” Marco wants to believe in the evidence, telling Sonya “We have the bone saw and the car. You saw the writing in that book. It’s him.” But even as they have that differing set of conclusions to work through, it’s clear that they’re bound together, and that this crime might conspire to draw them even more tightly together. “You could have run. Why’d you stay to shoot?” Sonya asks Jack, lolling obscenely in lockup. “My job wasn’t done,” Jack tells her with a sense of relish. “I meant to kill the Mexican.”
Another pair is facing challenges of their own. Adriana’s thrilled when she gets a call from a source (and it’s an intriguing question who it might be) that the police are heading off after Childress. But Daniel, in the throes of a painful detox, isn’t in a position to follow up the story with her, even if he, like Sonya, has doubts that Childress is the murderous architect they’re after. “There are no coincidences with this guy,” Daniel warns her, reminding Adriana of the other carefully-drawn connections in the case. Adriana’s more than willing to work through their different theories, telling Daniel “Well come on, let’s go to his house.” But Daniel, who’s already show fear in front of Adriana in Juarez, has to admit he physically can’t do the work, that “My body’s basically giving me the middle finger for getting clean.” “Frye, this is the story,” Adriana tries to buck him up. And the saddest thing in the episode may not be Manny’s face, smashed to pieces shortly after the removal of his braces, but Daniel surrendering, telling Adriana “I know. I know. It’s your story now. Go get ‘em, Tiger,” too weak and sensitive to hold on to a Pop Tart freshly out of the toaster, too nauseated to take advantage of the three-second rule after he drops it.
Then, there’s Charlotte and Cesar. Charlotte may have been naive enough to call in Ray to help her, and she may be so desperate to believe him against the evidence that she’ll take his word for it, tell him to come inside her as proof of her faith. But it’s Cesar who she tells “we’re partners,” when he tries to tell her that she doesn’t owe him a cut of the money from the tunnel. And it’s Cesar she asks “Do you think I’m doing the right thing?”
“I think you’re doing the only thing,” Cesar tells her soberly. It’s a better balance than the one between Linder and the Mexican woman he turns out to be working with, who asks him not just to get an abused woman to freedom, but to kidnap her daughter, who’s started dating Fausto Galvan. “She’s my daughter. She dropped out of school. She lost her way,” the woman tells him. At first, Linder’s appropriately skeptical. “You want me to take her? Take her to Bob against her will?” he asks, rejecting the idea that he can talk sense into a young woman. “I’m not a messenger. I’m a conduit.” The problem with needing to see yourself as a good person is that it can make it hard for you to stand by your convictions, and Linder ends up trying anyway, saved from Fausto only by the guilt of the young woman in question, who seems to have better character than her mother gives her credit for.
In other words, Jack Childress isn’t wrong that there are dialectics at work in El Paso Del Norte. But the people employing them to work towards the identity of the killer, the truth of a news story, the right thing to do with a tunnel, and a mission to do good are the people who are in control of those dialogues, not the guy with a murder closet and an insane manuscript.