The Bridge Season 2, Episode 2 “Ghost of a Flea”
Written by Elwood Reid (story), Damien Cave & Elwood Reid (teleplay)
Directed by Daniel Sackheim
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET on FX
I’m glad The Bridge appears to be getting right to the point in its second season; after a premiere that felt more scatter-brained than carefully orchestrated, “Ghost of a Flea” (mostly) pulls everything back into orbit for a morbid, if slightly over-exerting hour. It still feels like a very different show than the first season, both in plot construction and how it delivers its story to the audience. Is it a better show? Only time will tell: but at the very least, it feels like the show’s beginning to figure out it’s own identity.
And what is that identity exactly? With quasi-religious enforcers who dress “downright devout”, dead transvestite bar singers, and splatters of blood everywhere, The Bridge is certainly sacrificing some of its more nuanced attempts at storytelling in the first season. At times, this overt quality pays dividends: violent moments like Marco’s paranoid outburst are more unsettling, and Fausto and Eleanor are given visually-rich introductions into scenes, creeping in and out of the shadows like the maggots protruding from the dead DEA agent’s body.
It also comes with its disadvantages: when it comes to building atmosphere in non-visual ways, “Ghost of a Flea” continues to struggle a bit. It’s most evident with these ‘evil’ characters, too: both Fausto and Eleanor speak in vagueries, one about loyalty, the other about seeing the “light” and suggesting a level of religious fanaticism that seems too over-the-top, even for this new, grittier version of the show. And this new tone drags down heldover elements from the first season: in this new foundation the show’s building, there isn’t room for a lot of deeper character work with Sonya – who spends the episode being her “usual self”, complete with Hank audibly telling Jack Dobbs that she gets “too focused” on things. There isn’t much character to be found there – and the same applies to Marco, whose spiraling personal life has turned him into this morally compromised, noir-level drunk detective.
The problems with Marco are a little more unsettling: given Diane Kruger’s strong, determined performance, Sonya always makes for a fun presence when the show’s getting into it’s cartel-related mysteries (it’s so over the top, but the way she studies crime scenes are my favorite scenes on a regular basis). Marco’s character in the first season was tied in so deeply to the David Tate story, which makes Fausto’s declaration of “vengeance” for Marco’s son less satisfying: it’s something I’d rather the show forgot, focusing rather on Marco’s attempts to rebuild his life, rather than fall into the same patterns that got his life ripped apart (and his son killed in the first place).
And then, off to the side, there are the other elements: the $60 million Adriana and Daniel are chasing around is tied into this all somehow, though the show is only giving us more dead bodies as evidence thus far. Is this Eleanor’s work? Who knows – but using unexplained corpses as mysteries can only work so many times on one show, and the more bodies that are taxidermy (“that dog was a hero!”), rotting, or collected as collateral damage, the less effective the “thriller” aspect of the show becomes. It feels formulaic – people find clue, go to clue, dead body/someone dies, repeat – and it works against the show’s attempts to build intrigue into its central dramas.
It’s the yin and yang of redeveloping a show’s tone on the fly: there are parts that will easily fit into this slightly less heady, louder version of the show, and others that will struggle to find the same rhythms as the show’s more dramatically indulgent moments do. The encouraging thing is that for the most part, “Ghost of a Flea” is a lot more direct and consistent with how it’s approaching these stories: given some time and some more world re-building, The Bridge could become a much more appealing watch than it was in its haphazard first season. I’m willing to give it a chance: with such a collection of great performances, there’s plenty of chances for The Bridge’s various elements to snap into place, and find that harmony between meticulous character study and viscera-drenched thriller.
– Linder? Charlotte? Anybody seen them? I guess Eva being sent off was their way of saying “Fuck it, we’re wiping our hands of that shit”?
– did that kid actually think he was going to get laid? That story line was just laaaaaaame.
– Hahaha, quirky federal agents are just nerds like the rest of us! Rejoice!