The Bridge S1E5: The Beast

kyra: “The Beast” finally puts to rest the notion that Stephen Linder is the serial killer because it is not physically possible for him to have been in that doctor’s house. Given that is the case, I find the storylines generally are either so separate that you don’t understand how they connect, or so heavy handed it’s obvious they will connect. Case and point, the episode introduces a neglected rich white girl who decides to take a sojourn into Juarez because daddy doesn’t love her as much as his girlfriend’s fake tits. Putting aside the ridiculousness of this girl going into Juarez when she most assuredly has been told how dangerous it is, the whole time I was thinking ‘well this has gotta connect somehow’ and sure enough by the end it turns out dad was involved. It just seemed a little forced at the end, which was impossible to avoid because they introduced her in this episode.

On the other side, there is Charlotte, who seems completely disconnected from everything except for the tunnel running on her property and her flirtation with Ruiz. Why is she important? We still really have no idea. Additionally, with Linder ruled out by the audience as a subject, we know Marco is barking up the wrong tree. He has some involvement fucking with cartel business, resulting in a visit from Galvan, but he too feels disconnected from the serial killer plot line.

I think the answer is that they may simply not be fully connected. As I said early on, Meredith Stiehm is trying to explore an entire world, and I have even heard rumors that the serial killer case will be solved before the end of the season because that isn’t the end goal. The end goal is an exploration of Juarez and El Paso. However, so far, this is still the exposition stage of the story. It’s leaving me with an increasing number of questions that are being answered slowly rather than letting me enjoy the ride.

 

Buckeye: If you’re expecting a thorough portrait of the contemporary reality as it exists along the El Paso-Juárez border, I doubt that The Bridge is going to meet your expectations. If, as kyra suggests, we’re still in the “exploration phase” of that reality, then I’d posit that the show has explored precious little. The drug trade? Unmentioned. Cartel violence? Glossed over—you’d think one serial killer was tormenting the entire state of Chihuahua all by his lonesome, when despite La Bestia’s body count we know that’s not the case. (You’d think a show concerned with a realist depiction of the border would care to inject the phrase “drug-related” into its dialogue; if The Bridge even has, it sure hasn’t registered with me.) Illegal immigration? Well, everybody seems to be aware of it, but nobody who’s not actually immigrating has any opinion to share. I believe The Bridge has documented one issue emanating from our fraught border relations relatively effectively—as in, it’s met its goal of realism—in its portrayal of the messy and fragmented but ultimately necessary alliance between American and Mexican law enforcement. No department on either side of the border knows who’s in charge, and the Americans’ and Mexicans’ competing investigatory rulebooks dictate that the police follow no overarching rules, because one party has little use for the other’s standard operating procedure.

kyra’s onto something—we have multiple storylines that should connect but so far have not, leaving us with a typical serial killer thriller (fat chance persuading me that Señor Galván didn’t know what a “serial killer” was, even if some maldito gringo first used that term) and an underdeveloped noir in the form of the rich-widow-slash-tunnel-for-undocumented-immigrant plot strand. Its the noirish potential of those scenes—the mysterious glitter-nailed Mexican lady who runs the smuggling ring and orders the execution of thoroughbreds; Bichir’s Ruiz, because his outsider status allows him to bend the rules, making him a possible natural heir to Philip Marlowe or Jake Gittes—that intrigue me most, but unfortunately Stiehm and crew expend most of their energy on the Beast’s tail, more than happy to obstruct our path by littering the episodes with some red herrings (Linder, most prominently) and plot devices (Sonya’s Asperger’s—there’s no way Ruiz’s wife would’ve found out about him cheating on her once without Sonya blurting it out, because she has no filter). For example, Charlotte could make for a femme fatale—¡Jesús Cristo, Ruiz already slept with her!—but The Bridge renders her clueless as to her deceased husband’s affairs, instead of keeping the true depths of her knowledge ambiguous the way great noirs do.

Here’s how Meredith Stiehm responded when asked by Alan Sepinwall about her designs for the show:

But the border is so interesting and El Paso and Juárez are so different in that they’re so close that we feel like there’s all these other stories to tell. And we’re both just crazy about “The Wire.” And so our model in our minds of this is the way “The Wire” became about so many things in the city.

Fair enough, and The Bridge has a few stories to tell. But I’d argue that to this point, the stories aren’t exploratory, they’re generic: All I’m expecting The Bridge to reveal to me, based on what I’ve seen, are developments related to the plot, not descriptions of any culture clash along a politically contentious strip of land. The Wire this isn’t, at least not yet.

Random Observations:

kyra: Sonya’s density is reaching epic proportions with her ignorance of manners at dinner with the Ruiz’s. I mean give me a break.

kyra: Something that quality shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have a great handle on is how they mix in comedy with the drama. This show delivers comedy with one of those fat whiffle ball bats, which mostly takes the form of Sonya injecting some awkwardness with her bluntness or that other cop in the office cracking some Southern-sounding quip.

Buckeye: One of the relationships I’m keen to see develop is that between Sonya and Wade, her ostensible father figure (in addition to her boss). The two of us speculated that their rapport might match that of Carrie and Saul on Homeland, but to date I don’t think The Bridge has fully fleshed this mentor-mentee pairing out.

Buckeye: Not much else to add, for now, I don’t think, though I’m guessing a lot of these disparate plot strands will start linking together in the coming weeks.

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