Monday, July 22, 2013

The Bridge

The Bridge
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe

The Bridge is a show about a Mexican-American task force at trying to catch a serial killer.

Spoilers Ahoy!

I'm so disappointed by this show. I wonder if I would have had lower expectations had I watched the the trailer or any marketing but I really liked the idea behind it. The Mexican drug lords have turned the country of Mexico into a war zone. They have made the country dangerous and the violence has occasionally spilled over the border. A task force created with the specific purpose of solving these crimes is a good idea for a series because it could tackle issues such as corruption within the Mexican police, the culture differences between the two countries, and the sensitive political issue of immigration. It could be an exploration of how the two countries are very different, the problems with both, and how this impacts their relations. Don't get me wrong: The Bridge does tackle these issues but not in a compelling manner. The Bridge tries it's best to be a smart cop show but it ultimately comes up short due to weak main characters, a ridiculous plot twist at the end, and an inability to really engage the audience. I get the sense that The Bridge is trying to be the next great cop procedural but it's nowhere near smart enough to really make it work. Worse than that is that there are multiple moments where a lot of the scenes felt pointless or were it was outright dull. I like to think that there's potential in every series. There is nothing to stop the Bridge from pulling itself together and becoming a great series. I'm simply given nothing that warrants coming back to see if this series is going to return. I didn't connect with any of the caricatured characters, the serial killer plot-line is already ludicrous, and the numerous tangents ruined any narrative momentum the slow pacing might have had. The pilot for the Bridge is simply weak as none of it's elements are properly executed to create a compelling television series.

I was on board with the Bridge when it first begun but then it quickly started to make mistakes. It constantly promised that the FBI was going to show up to theoretically take away the case. Sonya has to force her boss to ensure that she is leading the task force because it's her case. Only the FBI never comes and the task force is only referenced. This is a serialized show so it's likely going to come at a future episode but it seems like an awfully slow response time by the federal law enforcement for such a high profile case. The plot kept going off into tangents that barely felt related. I'm guessing a connection will be set up in a future episode as the bad guy in this episode becomes a suspect but he's likely just a red herring. I have no idea how the wealthy widow plays into this series at all other than her husband's illegal activities being tangentially related to the border. That's not good enough to actually be important to the main plot. The biggest problem I have is with the end. A journalist we barely know gets into his car only to find out it's been rigged with a bomb and the car refuses to let him out. The natural assumption is that he's going get blown to pieces but he has time so he tries to get out before calling the bomb squad. Their not really able to do anything but he doesn't blow up. It was all a trick to get the female detective to listen to a message by the killer that he plans to start operating in the United States because nobody cared in Mexico. That's when the pilot lost me. I'm sorry, but that was simply idiotic. It took me out of the realism that the series had strained to set up until that point and it made the antagonist feel typical. The plot for the Bridge promises something gritty before going into a twist that doesn't fit with gritty because it's so over-the-top. This is a twist that works on 24 because the tension would have been running high. Tension that didn't really exist in this episode. This is a twist that would have worked on the Mentalist because it doesn't take itself too seriously. The Bridge doesn't have the right tone to pull it off.

The one aspect of the Bridge that the show got right is the female detective, Sonya Cross. Sonya is a member of the El Paso Police Department that solves crimes. Of course, she's not just any detective because she's a special one. Only her specialness isn't defined by her intelligence or ability to observe details but because she has Asberger syndrome. This might not make her the most compelling character on television but it does make her more interesting. She's a detective whose by the book, has trouble relating with the family of the victims, she doesn't like change, and has to be reminded to use eye contact. She might be good at her job but she has a tendency to get herself in trouble due to her disorder. We've seen detectives who are similar in that their intelligence gets in the way of them being able to properly deal with humans but Sonya is set aside because she has a disorder that acts as the reason. Her difficulty with human interaction is a strong obstacle for her to overcome because it's necessary for the job. I wouldn't say I'm going to root for her because it's hard to like her but at least the audience can sympathize and understand her. She can also act as a good role model to show how she can overcome her limitations (in the sense that she has trouble connecting with people) to have a successful career. The Bridge managed to create a strong character to build itself around that truly stands out from other detectives. That's no small feat but sadly everything else around her simply doesn't work.

The rest of the characters don't fare so well. Sonya's boss is Hank Wade, a caricature of Texans. He speaks in a heavy Southern accent, doesn't know how to use modern technology, and is barely developed at all. He's more of a joke than a character only he doesn't serve as the comical relief whatsoever. Sonya's partner is Marco Ruiz, a Mexican cop who tries his best to survive in a corrupt system. He points out how the drug lords like to present their offer to Mexican cops as either taking the money or taking a bullet. He's tried to be a good cop within a system that has stopped caring about solving crimes. He has failed himself as he's forced to admit that he hasn't solved many of his crimes as his bosses prefer he doesn't investigate them and because there's just too many of them. The violence is that bad. I guess there should be something compelling about a detective trying to do his job in a system that's aimed at stopping him but Marco is too bland to care about. He's largely content to just be there and there's little sign of depth in the character. Demian Bichir tries his best but even he can't bring this dull character to life. At least his presence is necessary in order to represent the Mexican side. There is a wealthy widow, Charlotte Millright, who starts to learn the truth about her just diseased husband. She's not that interesting and she feels very much like filler rather than an integral part of the show. The final main character is Steven, a lawless man which the show references that he rapes and kills a Mexican he helped get over the border. I guess he might be a suspect for the serial killer but he seems more like a red herring than anything. Even so, many of his scenes felt wasted rather than integral.

All in all, I wasn't impressed by the Bridge. The one thing it gets right is with Sonya Cross but everything else falls apart. Hank is a caricature while Roiz doesn't really have any personality. The other main characters feel more like distractions than as actually being relevant to the plot. The actual plot starts out serious enough but is unable to deliver on it's promises before jumping the shark with an over-the-top plot twist at the end. It's a show that is filled with wasted scenes and dull moments. It has a promising premise with interesting themes but it's executed too poorly to actually recommend. I wanted to watch the Bridge but it ultimately was the biggest disappointment of the summer.

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