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FX's 'The Bridge' Connects Dark, But Intriguing, Sides
July 10, 2013  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

You might not be too surprised -- or, at this point, interested -- by the TV arrival of yet another moody murder story with broken, deviant characters. AMC's The Killing has the market cornered on dreary, rain-soaked gloom, while Fox has outdone all comers, earlier this year, with the overachieving slaughter by the antagonist on The Following.

FX's new The Bridge, premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, has its share of creeps -- both scary moments and characters. Yet it doesn't dwell too long on the bodies. Or the depravity, although the uncovered facts of its murder premise (and we won't give away details here) are eye-opening enough.

There are plenty of unpleasant things going on, and around, a bridge connecting El Paso and Juarez, but there's a lot of good story-telling, and great acting, to go around, too.

This new series, about two detectives tasked to investigate a murder – the body of an anti-immigration American judge is left lying across the borderline of the U.S. and Mexico – is a study in contrasts. Adapted from the hit 2011 Danish series (Bron, right) set on the border crossing connecting Denmark and Sweden, it retains the same basic characters and their relationship. In this new version, that means there's the older, wily Marco Cruz (Demián Bichir, Weeds, A Better Life) investigating on the Mexican side of things, and a younger, more serious Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds) on the American side.

The twist here is that Kruger's character has Asperger's Syndrome, and has little ability or use for basic social conventions, even when it comes to romance and a one-night stand she stumbles into one night in a bar. She's ultra-direct and by the numbers, while Bichir's Cruz has seen it all, knows how and when to bend the rules, and won't stick his nose into corrupt Mexican politics if that would mean risking the safety of his family.

What starts as a murder investigation in Episode One evolves into a more elaborate conspiracy in the following two sent for review. That plot, at times, turns on eye-rolling antics by an evil puppet-master behind the scenes, pulling some unlikely strings. It's times like those when you wish The Bridge had stayed on one, because it would have been forced to stay between the guardrails.

Nevertheless, this is worthwhile territory, including examinations of wildly divergent Mexican and American cultures, the underbelly of black markets, and the harsh effects of economic disparities.

Also, there is hauntingly beautiful art direction, ultilizing the wild Texas landscape, which makes the series an addictive cinematic experience. Another plus: the interplay between the characters played by Bichir and Kruger is never dull. As strict and unyielding as her disorder makes her, he matches her with iimprovisation and cunning. The pairing has a freshness, and a spontaneity, that should carry the series along without a lot of tricks from the writing room.

Among the supportng cast, Ted Levine is here as Lt. Hank Wade -- after having last been seen as another police superior with a disordered investigator, Captain Stottlemeyer on Monk. Annabeth Gish (The West Wing) also co-stars, as a wealthy widow whose recently late husband has connections to the case. A former restaurant hostess who married her way into Texas society, she learns her life was not all she thought it was.

The Bridge is co-produced by Meredith Stiehm, formerly a writer-producer on Showtime's Homeland. Her new series, based on its first three episodes, looks to have all the gripping pace and range of the first season of that previous thriller series.

Let's hope Stiehm can keep The Bridge constructed solidly – and in one piece – rather than clattering apart, like the broken-down washing machine that Homeland eventually became.
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Around here the series had a 2-hour premier this weekend and will now shift to Wed. Presumably they're be rerunning the pilot more than once.

I don't know -- so far it hasn't grabbed me the way I expected. The crime just didn't seem that interesting, for one thing. But I'll definitely stick around to see if this slow start develops its potential.
Jul 12, 2013   |  Reply
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