This post discusses plot points from the October 2 episode of The Bridge.
After “Felina,” the series finale of Breaking Bad, aired on Sunday night, I wrote that the show had, at times, run itself into trouble when its pulp elements, like out-of-nowhere Nazis, misaligned with the emotional realities the show seemed to be getting at. After watching the first-season finale of The Bridge yesterday, I found myself wishing something in the opposite direction: that The Bridge would more fully embrace its pulpy side and its newsprint color wheel of emotions that go along with it. At present, the show seems in danger of lapsing into a dour revenge drama, rather than opening itself up to a wider range of experiences and stories, and becoming pedestrian along the way.
None of which is to say that I think Gus’s death shouldn’t have an effect on Marco. Of course it should! But I’m sort of exhausted by the prospect of the poor guy going to Fausto Galvan, who is already firmly tethered to our storyline, and by a dinner date with Charlotte, no less, and asking for help getting in a position to murder David Tate. I appreciated the moment between the two men last week, when David gave Marco a sick nod of recognition, and I really expected that we were done with his character, except as the nasty ghost who haunts Marco going forward. But even if it makes sense that Marco would attempt to make up for his past failings as a father by violently dispatching the man who robbed him of his family, the David Tate storyline was the worst of the first season of The Bridge, and it would have been the show shake free of him, focusing on the emotional repercussions rather than spinning out more story web.
I feel, I suppose, a bit similarly about The Bridge and Sons of Anarchy, which have a common problem of being overstuffed. There was good stuff in “The Crazy Place,” and promising new stories. Marco’s alliance with Celia sets up a fascinating bit of tension within the police station. Daniel and Adriana’s discovery of the cartel stash would have made for the terrific beginning of a new reporting project, even, and maybe especially, without the note instructing them to think deeply about who Millie Quintana really was. The best thing The Bridge has done all season is to build their friendship, and I say that even taking into account Demian Bichir’s acting, and I hate getting torn away from the two characters again to marinate in Marco’s depression. That makes me feel callous, but it’s an illustration of where the show’s succeeding, and where it’s not.
“The Crazy Place” also had some really nice, earned moments of tenderness, which distinguish it from some of its competitors. “Is this about the supposed bride of Steven Linder?” Hank asks Sonya when she explains that she wants to try to solve the murders of women in Juarez, at least in part so she can keep working with Marco. “Sonya, that’s a man you don’t want to put a whole lot of stock in.” But we see Linder standing with the women who hold vigils at the Juarez police station, brave enough in his odd version of love to be the lone man in the group, and the lone American. That his decency seems strange is a mark of the circumstances he finds himself in. Hank invites Linder to his house anyway once they find Eva, and lets this strange, awkward man sit next to Eva, holding her hand as she sleeps. This is a world where you can still trust people, where there can still be kindness and decency after everything David Tate has done, every knife Fausto Galvan’s had jammed into a man’s body, every ordinary predation that’s still ongoing.
Similarly, The Bridge doesn’t string out Adriana’s estrangement from her mother. When Adriana gets a call from Elena that she’s needed, she comes, despite the hurt of her mother’s rejection. And when Adriana’s mother explains that Daniela never got off the bus from the maquiladora where she works, she falls into her daughter’s arms. A living daughter, even if she’s a lesbian, is a comfort when you’re facing the prospect that another one of your daughters is dead or missing. This is what human beings do, driven by the imperatives of love and fear and family, rather than what characters do when their reactions are governed by the machinations of plot. Next year, I’d like to see The Bridge acknowledge that it has enough plot and spend more time slowing down and letting us know its brilliant collection of characters in the world they live in.