TV Review: The Bridge 1.13, "The Crazy Place"

Red

rating: 4

"The Crazy Place," the first season finale of The Bridge, acted very much as a preview of the second season. Right off the bat Sonya inquires about Hank's impending retirement, which he admits to willingly putting off, and announces she intends to work the Dead Girls of Juarez with Marco who, while back to work, is still clearly harboring significant anger at the losses he's recently suffered. The two detectives' relationship was successfully salvaged in the previous episode, and now they have a mission statement. While Sonya and Marco are set to dig deeper into the corruption of Juarez police, and Daniel and Adriana get their own mysterious MacGuffin to track down, Charlotte is busy having her new role as the CEO of her own illegal tunnel corporation established, though I can't decide if it's a position I totally buy. "Place," as every single episode this season has been, was an excellent production in every facet from the performances and writing to the direction and tone, but I can't help but feel it was still slightly less than the sum of its very fine tuned parts. Don't get me wrong; I'm very pleased it was renewed and we'll get to see showrunners Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid refine their narrative for another 13 episodes next year. But on the whole I have to acknowledge that despite my love for The Bridge, there were some misses among the many hits, and "Place" was no exception. The opening scene of Sonya and Hank felt somewhat on the nose, spelling out Sonya's renewed passion for setting right the world of Juarez and its inhabitants. Perhaps I'm slightly biased due to the article I read by Grantland's Andrew Robert Powell on The Bridge's one-sided portrayal of the environment along the border, but Sonya's tenacity for achieving what should be as opposed to what is, a characteristic I think has absolutely been earned by both Diane Kruger's performance and well as the writer's characterization of Sonya, felt less organic than the vast majority of the dialogue on this show. This isn't such a negative criticism though considering how efficient and effective the various exchanges among characters have been throughout a show the premise of which could easily be laughable if not offensive in less capable hands. Despite the lack of subtley of Sonya and Hank's scene, I'm glad to have seen that Hank's retirement, an element introduced in the pilot then never really explored again, was addressed and not forgotten. It's little touches like this that convince me the show deserves the opportunity to grow into something truly memorable. The details of both the border culture explored throughout the show as well as those of its characters are what elevate it above the tropes it exercises so well. Though the grief Marco carries is by no means a minor detail, too many shows have their characters shrug off traumatic experiences such as Marco has suffered, and although he has returned to his job, Marco's pain has not been swept under the rug, and its consequences were evident in "Place." Watching Marco viciously beat the Juarez cop identified as the man who delivered Eva to her monstrous rapists wasn't just satisfying on visceral and narrative levels (I loved how clear it was made this man is a new father, a family man, like Marco once was), but it illustrated what will be Sonya's biggest challenge moving forward €“ whether she can incorporate her desire to enforce the law with the shady means by which she'll have to employ to do so. Sonya accepted Marco's violence in the moment, but it clearly disturbed her, and I think watching Sonya reconcile these aspects of her profession may prove to be even more interesting than seeing whether Marco will resolve his profound sense of loss (even though I cannot wait to see the history between Marco and Fausto's fathers explored). What's emerged as another clear strength of this series is how well its partnerships work. Just as the mismatched, odd couple detective trope was expertly earned through the details exhibited in and consequences demonstrated by its characters, the playfully antagonistic relationship of Daniel and Adriana, Ace Reporters Extraordinaire, was very successfully achieved and anchored by thorough and authentic characterizations. "Place" didn't see much of Daniel, as it was concerned more with Adriana's personal struggle, which will be explored further next season, than Daniel's addiction issues, which were masterfully defined throughout this season. As last week saw Adriana fall out with her mother in a heated confrontation of the former's sexuality, this episode watched them reconcile over the apparent loss of their sister and daughter, the latest victim of yet another abduction. In addition, Adriana will have to assist Daniel investigate the journalistic gold mine they stumbled upon as she not only is his better half professionally and ethically, but I assume Daniel likes having her wheel him around. While the "weird is good" jackpot of discovering a cartel's abuela banker (babysitting about 65 million dollars) can definitely be seen as a little too neat and convenient, we watch these characters to see them work interesting cases, not interview old women for their secrets of longevity (ironic then that the journalists found her dead). Watching these two journalists discover the identity of Millie Quintana should prove to be well worth the ease with which the story dropped into their laps. The Charlotte and Steven plots, while also effective in establishing how far their characters have come over the course of this season, are slightly marred by plot development which may feel just the tiniest bit gift-wrapped. After Charlotte's murder of Gabriella (and Tampa Tim) and Ray's theft of Fausto's drugs, Charlotte could have just as easily been shown being buried in the desert this episode as she was being ordained by Lyle Lovett as the newest addition to Fausto's criminal enterprise. Naturally Charlotte will grow more influential in Fausto's organization because a general narrative rule states that living characters are typically more fun to watch than dead ones (supernatural/sci-fi undead characters aside), but the unpredictability of this series, while almost always an excellent use of strategic ambiguity, could sometimes veer ever so slightly toward a sense of the random €“ until of course it pulls off its goal. Watching Charlotte further cultivate her ruthlessness next season (and finally get rid of Ray) should be very satisfying next season. And if seeing Steven hold Eva's hand weren't so damn sweet I'd be way more upset we didn't get a greater impression of what his presence in season two will be, assuming there is one. I found Steven the most captivating character of the show so I sincerely hope this isn't the last we've seen of him. Other than the revved up tension of the David Tate, "I hate you, Marco Ruiz," revenge campaign chase, The Bridge has been a seductively slow burn, a refreshingly intriguing pace for the overstuffed TV crime thriller genre which tends to lean on rapid fire plot twists and character reveals rather than building solid suspense. "The Crazy Place" aptly ended on a fittingly haunting tone. Though there were no 'splosions of flame or even passionate embraces (Ray's rude ass-slapping aside), the closing shot which slowly dives into Marco's eye was an appropriate and effective image for the slow descent into his own lack of humanity, the series' most pervasive and pertinent theme. I've said it numerous times before, but I'll say it one more time: The components of The Bridge sound as tired as they do familiar when read briefly, but the expertise with which they are brought to life by the show's cast and crew poises it as potentially in the same league as its contemporary heavy hitters like The Shield or Terriers (both also FX series). While "The Crazy Place" was definitely more denouement/transition than it was big, flashy finale, and displayed the slightest bit of clunkiness among its plots, overall it, like the first season on the whole, also clearly demonstrates its ambition to be remembered as much more than yet another crime thriller, and I'm eager to watch it hit its mark. Foils
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Fed a steady diet of cartoons, comics, tv and movies as a child, Joe now survives on nothing but endless film and television series, animated or otherwise, as well as novels of the graphic and literary varieties. He can also be seen ingesting copious amounts of sarcasm and absurdity.