The Bridge Season 2, Episodes 9 & 10 “Rakshasa”/”Eidolon”
Written by Marisha Mukerjee/Patrick Somerville
Directed by Guillermo Navarro/Colin Bucksey
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET on FX
For all the talk around the internet of how The Bridge solved “the David Tate” problem of season one by removing the whole Serial Killer with a Personal Vendetta crap from the proceedings, “Rakshasa” and “Eidolon” both prove – as the entire season has, really – that the show hasn’t really ‘solved’ this issue at all, even after killing off David Tate a few weeks ago. They’ve merely replaced it, morphing a scorned employee of a main character’s wife into a one-off villain whose personality and characteristics are as random as the motivations David Tate seemed to have throughout season one’s episodes. I’m obviously talking about Eleanor Nacht – and while the performance and dramatic storytelling around it continue to be entertaining, her presence is a glaring flaw in an otherwise wildly entertaining two hours of The Bridge.
When “Rakshasa” and “Eidolon” are at their best, they’re working in the immediate aftermath of two events: the ‘sale’ of Red Ridge and the fallout from the blood bath that occurred during it, two events operating on a larger scale than anything else the show’s ever attempted. When it’s focused on Fausto’s inability to maintain his power – or more importantly, pointing out that power was not earned, but given to him – or Marco and Sonya trying to find Hank, The Bridge is as exciting as any show on television, reaching anxiety-inducing peaks reserved for shows like Hannibal or network-mate The Americans.
All of this works because it’s relentlessly driving forward, refusing to take the easy outs most shows would. The characters are acting intelligently, pushing through most simplistic narrative barriers (like Marco being confused over what happened, or Hank escaping or giving up the information Eleanor wanted) most other dramatic stories would use to build tension. Instead, the tension is designed around the scripting, using short scenes that rapidly progress stories – like Marco and Sonya’s car ride, where Marco pieces together the Red Ridge massacre in a matter of minutes – allowing it to continuously build on the events of Red Ridge, an explosion of bullets and blood that we originally saw the aftermath of in the season premiere. Odd placing of this particular event in the overall narrative aside (take Hannibal using its first scene of the season as the catalyst for the last scene of the season, rather than the tenth episode), the bloodshed at Red Ridge – which occurs after Galvan realizes Eleanor has betrayed him, just as Eleanor realizes with Charlotte moments later – exposes the real story at the heart of this second season in devastating fashion, seen when Agent Buckley pays a visit to his CIA superiors and discusses a successor for Fausto Galvan’s organization, which kept the peace on the other side of the border for America’s most infamous intelligence agency.
It’s a jarring narrative shift for the show, one discussed in a single scene separated from most of the characters directly affected by it – but it gives meaningful context to the actions of many characters this season, be it the dead DEA agents, the CIA, or Galvan as a drug lord (his violent approach may be out of insecurity, knowing how limited his control over his own power is). And this is where these otherwise terrific episodes of The Bridge runs into a problem; Eleanor Nacht is neither interesting or engaging enough to give meaning to this divide of power across the border, and the US government’s failure to keep it south of their own land. Eleanor Nacht, like David Tate, is an aggressor designed to challenge a powerful, respected character on the show, with motivations that border on nonsensical.
The more we learn about Nacht, the more these questions arise. Why would a carefully measured woman leave her precious ledger in the car while she bought an energy drink? Why would such a conservative woman working to keep her acorn-eating, rapist father alive be skimming money off the top, or trying to take over the organization? Why send Jaime driving down open roads with bloody bodies in the trunk? Sure, Nacht is a terrifying on-screen presence, thanks to Franka Potente’s detached performance and her flashy, “dark” behavior – but at the end of the day, she’s a cardboard antagonist, prone to the same random motivations and dangerous, quirky characteristics that allow her to upset the status quo of The Bridge‘s world, but never exist as much more than a short-term antagonist with unsettling personality traits.
There’s a lot more of Nacht than political subterfuge in these two episodes; and while they’re entertaining, they can’t quite reach the heights they initally appear to (especially with so little Adriana and Daniel to enjoy, a disappointment in the aftermath of Adriana’s tragic personal loss and Daniel’s relapsing). Hank may live or die (as may Fausto), but the real story is not Nacht’s influence: it’s the facade of Galvan’s, one he is willing to protect by kidnapping Cerisola’s daughter, even though it’s already been taken from him. Nacht is just a religiously-tinged psychopath with a deus ex ledger sitting somewhere on Red Ridge property: she’s not the real frightening evil waiting on The Bridge, simplistic and at times, silly. For a show that’s improved as much as The Bridge, Nacht feels underneath this new, headier version of itself: yes, it’s entertaining, but vapid in ways that The Bridge has grown out of in almost every other aspect of the show.