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The Bridge Ep 1.11 ‘Take the Ride, Pay the Toll” highlights the show’s strengths and weaknesses

The Bridge S01E11 promo pic, "Take the Ride, Pay the Toll"

The Bridge, Season 1, Episode 11 “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll”
Written by Dario Scardapane
Directed by John Dahl
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on FX

Although The Bridge has struggled with the Tate story line throughout the season, they’ve never run out of ways to use him as an emotional vehicle for Marco Ruiz, bringing their feud to a head in “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll”, a dramatic hour that squeezes every possible ounce of tension out of the final showdown between Tate and Ruiz – and then smartly switches perspective to Sonya as the other shoe drops with a massive clang to the floor. Ironically, the effectiveness of the events on the bridge (and at Tate’s house) only stand to point out the problems so far this season (and challenges that exist in the near future), giving an interesting – if problematic – dichotomy to the micros and macros of the show.

The construction of the serial killer plot has always had major problems: whether it was Tate’s innate ability to do whatever he wanted, or the growing feeling that there wasn’t the sociopolitical edge to the crimes we expected (thanks to the first few episodes), the whole La Bestia story (which still doesn’t appear to be solved) has morphed into something new in every episode. In a way, it gives the investigation the feel of a living, breathing creature (as many murder investigations), much more dynamic and engaging than the cut-and-dry style of many other cop shows. But as the scope of the story grew smaller (leaving Mexico lagging further and further behind with each week), it morphed into this overwrought personal vendetta against Ruiz, a guy who has a problem keeping his dick in his pants.

We’ve discussed those issues at length for the last few episodes since Sonya and Marco have hunted down Tate: when it all comes to a head in “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll”, it leads to some pretty devastating television. Yes, the standoff at the Mexican/American border does seem a little shoved in at this point (Tate put the bodies of two dead girls on both sides of the border to make a point to a cop that banged his wife? What the what?), but as Tate puts more and more pressure on Marco, trying to break him, the camera steps back and lets Demian Bichir carry the dramatic weight: which he does with pleasure, delivering his finest performance yet, struggling to reconcile who he thinks he is, with the person Tate is trying to point out that he may be. Even when Tate’s dialogue starts dipping into the ridiculous – his quote about Marco’s appetites being the tip of the iceberg – the camera keeps its eye on Marco, almost as if to say “Yeah, Tate wasn’t the greatest idea for a criminal… but look how devastating this shit is to Marco!”

The Bridge S01E11 promo pic, "Take the Ride, Pay the Toll"

Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel like the writers of this show are torturing a womanizer. Marco’s son dies – but for another person’s mistake (his son was killed by Daniel’s friend, remember?). The middle third of the episode weaves Sonya’s chase to find Gus with the final interactions between Marco and Tate, after Marco refuses to shoot Daniel and Tate does it for him, sending Daniel over the edge of the bridge and into the shallow water – and again shows The Bridges talent at building suspense, keeping us inches away from Sonya until she breaks through the wall and looks into the tank where Gus was being trapped.

It all leads to the climatic moment – which in a very odd way, is used as a defining moment for Sonya, rather than Marco. When she lies to Marco about his son being alive, it’s not meant to be a convincing one: it’s meant to define Sonya as a human who is capable of empathy, rather than the robotic person who doesn’t comprehend simple emotions (one of the bigger problems in the first half of the season). A weird turn to take? Yes, but it’s actually quite a powerful scene, watching Sonya cling onto Marco as he lies on the bridge: for the first time in her life, she’s comforting another human being (instead of avoiding the idea of comfort altogether, whether for herself or with others), the first sign that she’s beginning to finally heal from her childhood and open herself to others.

Once the situation at the bridge is handled (let’s just not talk about Tate taking off his vest), the show uses its last few minutes to linger on the aftermath. Marco gets mad at Sonya for not letting him kill Tate and lying about his son (but, c’mon, that won’t last long), and Alma checks in on a terrible-looking Daniel, whose redemption comes full circle as he connects to another being after finally hitting a low point (literally) in his life (though this might lead him back into the drug problems moving forward, if he survives). Smartly, the show doesn’t try to push forward into anything else: there’s no return to the very odd, disconnected opening (where Ray brings down the body of his old associate and stashes it with some other unexplained, mangled bodies on the other side of the tunnel), and the episode closes on Marco walking out of the hospital as the soundtrack tells him to “keep on pushing” to the light.

The narrative of Tate’s season-long machination of the El Paso and Juarez PD just to ruin his old partner might not be what many signed up for with The Bridge: regardless, the creative minds of the show never backed away from it, relying on Bichir’s fantastic performance to carry the weight when the sometimes-silly plots just couldn’t. Where does The Bridge go from here? The logical guess would be to turn its attention to Charlotte and/or good ol’ Steven Linder (next week’s episode is titled “All About Eva”, which suggests the ladder), but as the show heads into the penultimate episode of its freshman season, the canvas is blank once again.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– Sonya: “I need a gun.” Tim: “I have several.”

– part of me thinks a big opportunity was wasted with Gus to broaden the scope of the series. Instead of killing him, having him join the gang controlled by the man Marco takes orders from (Galvan, who has all but disappeared) would’ve been able to tear Marco apart in similar fashion, forcing him to figure out who he really is and what he’s doing with his life.

– Hank warned us, y’all: “he’s in control now. There is NO good outcome here.”

– Will we ever find out how Tate had so much technological knowledge? How the hell did that bridge light switch work a second time?

– The shot of Marco walking down a hallway to slowly reveal that he’s walking to the morgue is a devastating moment.

 

– Randy Dankievitch


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