The Bridge Season 1, Episode 13: “The Crazy Place”
Written by Elwood Reid & Dario Scardapane
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Returns for season 2 in 2014 on FX
Randy Dankievitch: And with a crazy stare from Marco Ruiz, the tumultuous first season of The Bridge comes to a close. At times it was enthralling – and at many other times, frustrating: but always intriguing, even when the show was in the midst of its David Tate nosedive (which unfortunately still exists… but we’ll get to that). ‘The Crazy Place’ is all of that wrapped into one neat 43-minute episode, a series of promising and not-so-promising new directions for the second season. If anything, the season finale reinforced the strongest pair of characters at the heart of the show: and pointed out the one or two dynamics that still need serious work heading into next season.
The Bridge has done one thing very, very well: Marco and Sonya’s budding friendship, something the show’s carefully cultivated over thirteen episodes, using simple (sometimes cliche) “head-butting new partners” stories – but the writers have allowed these characters to really know and understand each other, seeds that bear their fruit in the final two episodes as Marco reels from the death of Gus, and Sonya struggles to find a way to reach out to him. Some might simply attribute this to the terrific performances, but give the narrative credit where it is due: they’ve handled their interactions with care all season, even when Sonya was emoting some of the more simplistic traits of her character. It shows in their final, quiet scene together this season: the sheer lack of dialogue needed for these two people to understand each other was a beautiful, subtle payoff to their budding friendship throughout the season.
Other parts were a little rougher: anything involving Charlotte still feels goofy, whether it’s the lawyer who does all the legal work and disappears, her keeping Ray around, or meeting Arliss Fromme – a character who I know Simon has some very strong feelings about. Simon?
Simon Howell: The least promising aspect of “The Crazy Place” as a sign of The Bridge to come is easy to miss. Lyle Lovett returns for a too-brief appearance in which he smooths over the post-Graciela vacuum, and in that scene, Lovett refers to Charlotte as “captivating,” while mentioning that Fausto Galvan is of a similar mindset. Really? Alright, sure, they’re mainly talking about her physical appearance, but this is a series that contains a half-dozen characters who range from fascinating to at least engaging, and Charlotte doesn’t come close to making those ranks. If Season 2 is going to ask us to find Charlotte, a character whose design has been haphazard at best, “captivating,” the series is in serious trouble.
Matters elsewhere are more positive, but not without some serious pitfalls. It’s safe to assume that Emily Rios and Matthew Lillard will be elevated to regular status next season, given that they’re now embroiled in a juicy new story – and, since, of course, Adriana’s sister has gone missing, which might be the most predictable plot move the series has yet attempted. They’re just as intriguing a pair as Marcos and Sonya, if not more so, so the prospect should be welcome, but the fact that Daniel’s very first story upon returning to work just happens to involve millions in illicit cash is a bit rich. As for Daniela’s disappearance, The Bridge seems to have a real problem with reducing its female victims to…well, just that. By the end of the season, we still knew nothing about what Eva was/is like (despite the presence of an episode actually called “All About Eva”), and we don’t know much more about Daniela. Is it that the writers haven’t come up with a way for these girls to be abducted and abused without making them seem naive, in effect blaming the victims? Whether or not that’s the case, The Bridge needs to find ways to distinguish its missing-person cases if it’s going to end up more than geo-politically accurate misery porn.
Randy: The whole dirty money story/Adriana’s sister going missing is indicative of everything I love and hate about this show: the stories come out of two totally ludicrous premises, one’s brand-new, and both involve numerous characters that we’ve either not yet met or only know the slightest of details about. Is La Bestia on the prowl again, or was Adriana’s sister picked up because of the $65 million in cash they found at a dead old lady’s house (who they just HAPPENED to be writing a story about… of course)? Why didn’t they do anything to Daniel, then? Wait… who is Adriana’s sister anyway…. there’s a lot of interesting things happening with these story lines (why $40 million was in euros, for example), but introducing them in a season finale (disconnected from most of what came before it, and around it) is a very odd narrative choice that further points out what an odd structure this first season took.
(By the way, I agree with you Simon: why can’t these writers make Eva a character who talks or matters? I suppose this will come more with knowing about Linder in season two, but this whole story feels like a very odd way to frame police corruption in Mexico… and while we’re asking questions, what in the hell was that convent prison all about?)
Speaking of Fausto – if he’s going to be this show’s Big Bad, we need to see more of him. I like his constant self-serving nature (“I don’t have partners… I have employees”), but there has to be more to him than threats and long shadows – and a sudden willingness to help one of his employees do something that could potentially put him at risk. We haven’t seen quite enough of him for their “relationship” to feel like a living entity – and of course, it brings David Tate back into the fold, a character I think Simon and I both hoped would be mentioned only in passing moving forward.
Simon: The notion of Marco turning to Fausto for help killing David Tate is…depressing. Partly because it’s meant to be – it’s difficult to watch Bichir ignore Sonya’s good advice – and partly because it drags the Tate case out even longer. It’s smart to keep Marco’s ties to Mexican organized crime present and significant, but I’m not convinced this was the most compelling way to make that happen.
But this is the constant struggle between great and mediocre, waging war over the soul of The Bridge. In remains what it has been since the beginning: a mixed blessing. There’s been a handful of incredible moments and sequences, some great performances, some resonant characters, and a world worth building upon. Only time will tell if Meredith Stiem, Elwood Reid and co. can harness the series’ strengths in the service of a worthy set of narratives. Based on this finale…well, the jury’s still out. Fits.