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The Bridge Ep 1.05 ‘The Beast’ sees the show regaining its focus

The Bridge Ep 1.05 ‘The Beast’ sees the show regaining its focus

the bridge s1 ep5

The Bridge Season 1, Episode 5 ‘The Beast’

Written by Esta Spalding

Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton

Airs Wednesday nights at 10pm ET on FX

At the end of my review of ‘Maria of the Desert’, I suggested that The Bridge would become a lot more interesting once it started moving its pieces around, slowly shining some light on the vague connective tissues between story lines. ‘The Beast’ accomplishes this with flair, easily the most enjoyable episode of the series to date. It’s still rough around the edges, but after the uneven quality of ‘Maria of the Desert’, ‘The Beast’ gets things back on track where they belong.

Oddly enough, it’s a teenage American named Gina (a new character) who begins to tease out the more macro plot lines of the series. Her introduction isn’t the greatest – rebellious daughter of divorce randomly runs to Juarez for shits and giggles – but what it led to what much more interesting. After being picked up by a creepy guy (a man we’ve seen before, I just can’t remember where – please refresh my memory in the comments if you remember), said creep’s sister helps her escape a very, very unpleasant series of experiences. She brings her to a makeshift graveyard full of red crosses (she says pink, but they sure as hell looked red to me), and tells her the growing myth of ‘Le Bestia’ (or ‘The Beast’), a man or group of people (“1…2…100, we don’t know” she tells Gina) killing women left and right and sending communities cowering in fear.

That scene (which was great except for the “you don’t want to become a pink cross” line) puts into context another intriguing one before it: the murders that are happening across the border are being actively ignored by the government, as we find out from Sonya and Le Bestia’s phone call. The FBI apparently knew that Gedman (the beheaded agent from the previous episode) was, at the very least, having sex with Christina Fuentes regularly – and didn’t give a shit about it. The conversation isn’t exactly an earth-shattering one (the American ignorance towards violence south of the border is well-documented by now), but when paired with Gina’s scene, begins to paint a more coherent picture of the larger systems at play.

There are some weak spots in ‘The Beast’; as excited as I am to see Bobby Cobb heading to El Paso (could they make his character any more similar to his Cougar Town role in the introductory scene?), Charlotte’s character really isn’t interesting, and is still grasping for an important connection to the overall narrative. Yes, she has an open path to the border – but why is hers so important? Is it because of who owns it (Marco informs her she’s quite a powerful woman), or who uses it (Fausto Galvan)? It’s not quite clear, and the “widow is sad” routine doesn’t quite work. Would a mature woman make it so obvious to the world that she slept with Marco, giving the secretary her wallet and calling the office a bunch of times? The secretary says she’s “seen it too many times before”, but I find it a little hard to believe that even a new widow would make such desperate, obvious attempts to contact a married man.

It’s only when The Bridge spends a lot of time in America that this problem creeps up: characters like Charlotte and Sonya don’t have the same texture and depth that others like Marco and Fausto have – the latter’s conversation about “serial killers” and what that really means is not only the best scene of the series to date, but paints Fausto with much more vivid colors than Sonya, who literally blurts out the worst possible thing she could say EVERY time she opens her mouth. I get what they’re going for with the character – but am I supposed to believe she’s never worked with a partner before, and doesn’t understand a team dynamic? Asperger’s isn’t typically a syndrome where people can’t understand what social norms are – they just aren’t able to imitate them, or express themselves (if I understand it correctly). What Sonya is doing isn’t quite that – and the way Diane Kruger is playing it, leans too heavy on the awkwardness and a robotic tone of voice in touchy moments to feel like a real character.

But for where Sonya is weak, characters like Marco and Adriana (who doesn’t appear this week, sadly) are filled in much better. I’m not sure how much I like the added drama of Marco’s wife not being the father of his oldest son, though the son’s point about his father’s selfishness certainly seems to hold some water in this episode (he just expects Sonya to be cool with him cheating on his wife, for example). His wife’s reaction is expected, yes, but it feels too sudden for their marriage to suddenly fracture at this exact moment in time (during a case while she’s pregnant). The only way this bit of plot really works is if he’s cheated before – something that could be totally valid, just not something that we know at this point, and it’s not really made clear if the scene is trying to convey something or not.

As a whole, ‘The Beast’ feels like a much more focused version of The Bridge, using its sprawling landscapes and characters in conjunction with each other, introducing new characters to actually make the world smaller in some ways (Fausto tracking down Linder in the process of burying the Mexican man hunting him also helps). It helps hide some of the more overt flaws (there are still a few wince-inducing lines of dialogue, like Daniel’s “I do drugs because they’re there” mini-speech), and does a lot of the necessary work to make (most) of the overall narrative feel more focused than the last few episodes have.


Other thoughts/observations:

– Marco telling the victim not to say anything until she got asylum was a nice little gesture to remind us that Marco isn’t a total prick.

– Fausto: “soldiers kill people… I kill people… serial killers are people who enjoy it.”

– as soon as I saw Linder ironing, I had a bad feeling there was going to be some singed flesh involved.

– why did Frye get the body and Marco the head? They make the connection, but don’t extrapolate on the idea further – Marco’s not there to wax philosophic, he’s there to steal a cell phone.

– love how the killer hangs up Daniel’s cell phone when Sonya answers, then calls her back at the office. A nice little touch.

– Linder again takes something from a dead person – what’s up with that? (and why does he throw a dead guy wrapped in a blanket out a window?)

– “If I knew, others knew. They protect.”

– the man killed in Gina’s house is her father, an FBI shrink who obviously knew something about whatever was wrong with Gedman.