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The Bridge, Ep. 1.07: “Destino” continues tonal and stylistic growth, but can’t stem murder-mystery fatigue

The Bridge, Ep. 1.07: “Destino” continues tonal and stylistic growth, but can’t stem murder-mystery fatigue
The Bridge (2)
The Bridge, Season 1, Episode 7: “Destino”
Written by Patrick Somerville
Directed by Chris Fisher
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on FX

There’s no shame in stealing from the greats. So when “Destino” begins to feel like a hyperkinetic Justified/Breaking Bad mashup for a few minutes during a trailer-park raid gone very wrong, it’s just the kick in the pants an hour this scattered needs. Not everything about “Destino” works, but its peaks are very encouraging.

Part of me – and, I suspect, many viewers – wants to skip ahead to The Bridge‘s second season (which has all but been confirmed as a sure thing at this point), after The Beast is definitively unmasked, to explore this world and its characters in a manner that might not be shackled to a too-familiar serial killer plotline. Thankfully, “Destino” makes clear that the series plans to leave room for lots of little grace notes in between the more rote elements.

Case in point: the sad fate of Manny Stokes, who has a potentially case-making (or potentially completely useless) revelation about the killer while getting his braces removed – only to get his face blown off for his trouble. The sequence which immediately follows – complete with the reveal of Jackson Childress (played by Chris Browning, who looks like a strange-but-striking amalgam of every male character actor of the last ten years) muttering away with his sniper rifle – is very nicely staged, edited and scored for maximum tension. The shock of Stokes’s death is the closest The Bridge has come to a Breaking Bad-style “holy shit” moment, though with even a little hindsight, the dentist’s-office daydream that foreshadows his fate is just a touch too cute, more akin to the cruel comedic irony of the Coens.

Elsewhere, Justified‘s influence is keenly felt all over the place. Brian Van Holt’s Ray feels more and more like a first-season one-and-done Justified baddie with every passing week, which is not a complaint. His “good ol’-boy gone bad” routine is amusingly incongruous in the context of cartel collaboration, and Van Holt is just the actor to sell both acquiescing to Graciela’s demand for oral sex (by the way, screenwriters, that is how catching an audience off-guard is done) and, later, Ray’s hilariously shameful non-disclosure of said act. He probably won’t survive the season, but it’s nice to know the series is continuing to find its comic voice here and there. (Also on the Justified tip: Stokes’s death would probably have been less shocking to me if I hadn’t been thinking, microseconds before the act, “Stokes certainly reminds me a lot of Constable Bob. I could live with having him around.”)

The other stray bits of business are too brief or too far-flung, plot-wise, to really connect. I continue to get a perverse kick out of whatever the hell it is Thomas M. Wright is meant to be accomplishing through his performance and voice tics – I particularly enjoyed his “I hate my job” grimace after being knocked to the ground for the thousandth time this season – but I am not particularly enthused about Linder’s latest adventure, which finds him more directly at odds with Fausto than before. I want so badly for Alma’s plot to go anywhere, as Catalina Sandino Moreno is an exceptional actor, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards anytime soon. And then there’s Annabeth Gish, who has literally been reduced to mostly being a pair of legs framing Brian Van Holt’s face this week.

As for Childress, it’ll be one hell of a cop-out if he’s just a red herring, given the canny detective work it took to uncover the hocked cop car’s owner, but it’s also evident that Childress can’t be the guy. My best guess is that he’s some sort of blunt-instrument accomplice. At the rate the dead ends (or nearly-dead ends) are piling up, the stakes are becoming almost insurmountably high in terms of the payoffs that the season’s endgame will have to deliver. Television does not have a great track record in terms of satisfying murder mysteries in which the killer’s identity is kept secret from the audience for an extended period of time. (This is putting it mildly.) Hopefully, however, the series will continue to find the time to develop its very peculiar universe, so that even if it falls short in terms of its grander narrative (which, frankly, it’s almost certain to on some level), the series itself will be left standing.

Simon Howell