"‘The Bridge’ Recap: Take The Ride, Pay The Toll"
This post discusses plot points from the September 18 episode of The Bridge.
I have to give The Bridge a lot of credit. A couple of weeks ago, I was ready to write the show off as hopelessly in hock to the genius of its evil mastermind, David Tate, so invested in making the story of the bloody swath he was cutting across the Greater El Paso area cool in some way that it had sacrificed everything else that made it good. Now, it’s used that story to build to a very different climax with very different stakes. The real question of the first season of The Bridge, as it turns out, is whether Sonya can be there for Marco, in both a temporal sense and an emotional one, and whether, after hectoring her for it all season long, Marco will be be able to accept her overture.
The answer comes courtesy what’s essentially a long duet between Marco and Tate, anchored by some tremendous acting by Demian Bichir. However flawed this first season of The Bridge has been, and it’s had serious problems, I hope some credit is paid where credit is due and both Bichir and Matthew Lillard, for whom this ought to be a career-redefining performance if The Descendents didn’t do it for you, get some awards recognition, if only in the form of nominations, down the line.
I wrote yesterday in an ongoing series I’m doing on friendship, that “The game [Tate]s played throughout the first season of The Bridge…is, in a perverse sense, as much about reengaging Tate’s friendship with Marco as having revenge on him. If Marco couldn’t spare time for Tate when Tate needed support most, Tate will force Marco to give him time and attention now.” And the endgame Tate apparently wanted is to prove to the friend who abandoned him what Tate himself already believes of Marco: that Marco is just like Tate, in that he’s willing to kill for his family, and that Marco’s worse, because in contrast to Tate’s steeling discipline, his inability to control his libido is what put everyone there. It’s a bonkers way to go about making your point, but the argument Tate is ultimately trying to advance isn’t necessarily so different from what Marnie and Hannah shout at each other in the fight that ends their period of living together in Girls. If The Bridge has been at its best when it’s drilling down to the fairly mundane reasons someone might do a baroquely murderous thing, there is real and quiet power in Tate telling Marco “You will be like me before this ends. That, I can promise you,” and then seeing it come terribly true with the revelation that Gus is dead.
Speaking of which, I thought it was a great choice for the show to kill Gus, however much I like that performance and that child actor. It would have been easy to justify Sonya’s presence in the El Paso PD by making her some kind of mastermind, but the truth of that sort of talent is that it’s elusive, and that solving a puzzle at all doesn’t mean that you solve it in time. The shot of Sonya up through the water, presumably from Gus’s perspective, when she and Tim broke into the tub was both a clever and cruel trick and a lovely use of the camera in a show that’s demonstrated occasional flares of the kind of showy confidence that’s come to define Breaking Bad visually. There’s something intriguing about seeing Sonya open up to someone–she explained her condition to Gus more clearly than she ever did to his father, moved by his affection and his forthright interest (partnered with a lack of impatience) in her–and then lose that person, and I hope the next several episodes deal with the ramifications of that loss for someone who still mourns her sister so intensely.
And I think it’s both emotionally acute and dramatically interesting to have Marco push Sonya away after she revealed the depth of her capability for attachment, straining her health to find Gus, taking a tremendous risk coming out onto the Bridge of the Americas, and saving Marco from at least half of Tate’s prophecy by shooting him in the leg–even if that last action needs some translation from Hank. “We’re not friends, Sonya. We were partners. That’s over,” Marco tells Sonya in the hospital, speaking largely truthfully. And what’s next will be interesting because he’s wrong. Marco and Sonya still have a great deal to unravel, particularly the details of the murders of Judge Lorraine Gates and Cristina Fuentes. It’ll be fascinating to see how Marco reacts when he’s put in the position Sonya was in at the beginning of the season, forced to work with someone he doesn’t remotely want to deal with.
It’ll also be fascinating to see how The Bridge deals with expanding beyond its murder mystery. I think the show’s been admirable, to a certain extent, for dividing its time unevenly between its plot threads given what’s most urgent in each story at the moment, and recognizing that in real life, there are narrative lulls between big events. But the next episode of the show is titled “All About Eva,” and I’ll be curious to see how Marco and Sonya, if they do end up involved, find themselves pulled into the fates of Pastor Bob, Eva Guerra, and Stephen Linder once again. And I can’t imagine that Charlotte’s decision to shoot Tim, and Ray’s accidental shooting of a cartel henchman and attempts to frame Tim’s dead body for the shooting will go over. Not least, I’m desperate to see if Daniel Frye survives, and what his relationship with Adriana looks like if he does. The Bridge‘s setting has always promised more than the show delivers, and I’m really looking forward to see what portion of that promise the show can deliver on in its final two episodes. I’d like to see The Bridge at least earn a second season to go much deeper on its setting, and maybe even to earn out the potential for greatness that’s been there since the beginning.