TV Review: The Bridge 1.2, “Calaca”

Rating: I know it’s only the second episode, but I’m really enjoying this series so far. The Bridge’s second episode,...

Joseph Kratzer

Contributor

the bridge calacasRating: ★★★★☆

I know it’s only the second episode, but I’m really enjoying this series so far. The Bridge’s second episode, “Calaca,” which, like the premiere, is a bit longer in running length (something unusual I really applaud because I just picture the showrunners and producers bein’ all, “No, this episode needs to be 52 minutes, we need those extra minutes for this one so that’s the way it’s gonna be!” all boss-like and whatnot) continued that which was introduced so well in the premiere: the tight execution of its characters’ seamless yet substantial development as three-dimensional people and the detailed world-building which includes not only the settings but their inhabitants’ collective mythology. As I’ve mentioned previously, The Bridge may sound trite on paper with its politically motivated serial killer hunted by odd couple detectives, but but every element of the series so far has been integrated so authentically and effectively that it’s a real pleasure just to see a show get it so right.

“Calaca” further cemented The Bridge as a series deeply rooted in the concerns of humanism, specifically showcased through the contrast of its characters. Sonya’s somewhat naive, matter of fact dedication to her work with how things are done in Juarez demonstrates a pragmatic attitude which extends beyond her job. When she and Marco head down to follow up on records of bodies dumped in the same house where Cristina Fuentes’ body was originally dumped before being relocated to the border, Marco’s captain is as appalled by the American detective’s frank inquiries as she is by Marco’s apparent obedience to his captain’s desire to let sleeping corpses lie. Though Sonya’s seeming inability to consider why anyone wouldn’t do their job to the best of their ability is attributed to her apparent autism, her general frustration reflects that of those idealists who rightfully refuse to tolerate anything less than the ruthless and objective pursuit of justice, even in the face of very real physical danger.

It’s this latter circumstance, the influence of the drug cartels which effectively rule over governmental proceedings in Juarez, by which Marco, a man who truly loves his family, is motivated. Whereas his captain has been shown as a man whom merely enjoys his seat of luxury afforded by his compliance, Marco is a good cop and a good man who is not only actively concerned for the safety of his wife and kids, but for the justice Cristina Fuentes deserves as his interrogation of her former pimp illustrates. Marco’s conflicting priorities are genuine and this contrast makes him a character one wants to not only follow but invest in and root for.

But what makes both leads characters one is willing to invest in extends beyond their work ethics. This episode continued to comment on Marco’s recent vasectomy as a symbol of his evolved sense of masculinity. Though he continues to receive ridicule from coworkers (his captain’s jabs were not nearly as friendly as those of his assistant’s from the previous episode), not only does Marco perform his job admirably and with great presence of authority (as evidenced by the remarks of the prostitute Marco questions after literally peeling a man off her mid-act), but his wife is now pregnant with their fourth child. Not even medical science can stop this man.

Regarding Sonya’s personal life, the episode let viewers into her world via a desire for human connection. After being influenced by learning that occasionally one’s spouse will interrupt professional time for personal time – calling your husband at work just to hear his voice – Sonya later goes to a bar and within a matter of 30 seconds or so finds a suitable mate and successfully invites him back to her place for sex because despite her social abnormalities she looks like Diane Kruger. Sonya’s bar pick-up was immediately humorous, but this comedy belies the extreme practicality with which Sonya conducts what is meant to be one of the most intimate acts people can share with one another. Not to suggest that a woman getting what she needs from a man without placating to typical social conventions is something to be laughed at or condemned, but it is interesting to note the reversal of typically portrayed gender roles in this instance which is afforded a person as attractive as Sonya is despite her unusual social behaviors.

Aside from the bar pick-up, there were other details of Sonya’s home life revealed in her apartment. In addition to being a fan of Ramen noodles, there were a couple shots of what appeared to be children’s drawings on her fridge, in particular a depiction of a shadow figure towering over a little girl, the universal designation of childhood trauma. Learning more about this aspect of the character as well as her connection to her deceased sister promises to further define an already strong character.

Part of what makes The Bridge as intriguing as it has been is the detached manner in which its secondary and tertiary plots are conveyed. Though there’s no rush to connect these to the primary story yet it’s clear they will at the right time. Seeing Charlotte Millright so defiantly make sure her late husband’s associate’s lawyer knows precisely what three bean casserole actually is after so distastefully refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the tunnel on her property while talking down to her ranch hand was satisfying as it implies this character is more than merely the epitome of privilege she initially appeared as. Watching Charlotte promises to be a substantial arc of the season. In addition, the dynamics of Daniel Frye and his journalist cohorts is authentically entertaining and absolutely smacks of The Wire’s fifth season.

I’m also really enjoying the ambiguity with which we’re watching the mysterious coyote, Stephen. I can’t tell if it’s too obvious that he’s the killer Cross and Ruiz are chasing indicating he may only be a pawn, or if it’s just right because he actually is the killer. Technically we haven’t seen his face when apparently watching the acts of the serial killer (just boots). So is Stephen orchestrating these heinous crimes or is he one of the cogs in the machine the killer wishes to abolish? Obviously Stephen likes to take advantage of the lax security surrounding the women of Juarez, yet he sympathizes with the killer (demonstrated by his remark about the judge, that she “had it coming,”) who is clearly trying to illustrate that conditions need to be improved in the region. It’s a curiously extreme and seemingly contradictory means by which to call attention to injustice – by committing the injustice with extreme prejudice, sort of like calling attention to evil by embodying it. It reminds me of the sympathetic anti-corporate terrorists of Canada’s time travel thriller, Continuum.

The introduction of the man hunting Stephen is interesting as well. At first I was happy to see someone I thought was another decent human being other than Cross, Ruiz, and Wade working to defend one of the dead girls of Juarez, the recently seen kidnapped and probably burned in a bonfire at the beginning of the episode Eva Guerra. The tenacity and ferocity with which he was first seen conducting his search (his hammer made me recall the infamous Oldboy scene) made me think this was Eva’s brother or boyfriend. But after his Anton Chigurh styled murder of Stephen’s neighbor and the accompanying line about how something was stolen from him and he wants it back I have to conclude unfortunately that this is Eva’s pimp.

In the television landscape redefined by DVRs, file sharing, and streaming services, it’s incredibly refreshing to see series which indicate that networks have caught on and are adapting accordingly, slowly turning the old model of TV seasons obsolete in which shows typically spend their initial collection of episodes either attempting to pander to mass appeal with crisis of the week episodes or otherwise working out the kinks. The Bridge is among the most self-assured and steadfastly confident series of the year and it clearly shows. The details revealed (as well as withheld) about each of the characters introduced and how seamlessly they’re integrated into the varying plots is an impressive and enjoyable feat to experience, one which clearly signals this series as one worth watching.