FX has become one of the largest purveyors of dramatic storytelling on television, and while two of its flagships shows (Sons of Anarchy and Justified) are preparing to ride off into the sunset after next season, the network is already well on its way to establishing the next wave of must-see programming, with pulse-pounding thrillers like The Americans and last summer’s The Bridge, starring Diane Kruger as an El Paso detective that must team up with a Mexican police officer (Demian Bichir) to solve a series of murders on both sides of the border.
When a woman’s body is found bisected on the bridge between El Paso and Juarez, Chihuahua State Police Detective Marco Ruiz (Bichir) is sent to El Paso to assist with the investigation. His point of contact is Sonya Cross (Kruger), an intelligent, dedicated investigator whose complete lack of tact and social skills may be tied to a traumatic event from her past, or may be a manifestation of something else entirely. Marco’s easygoing manner immediately clashes with Sonya’s no-nonsense approach, and his decision to allow an ambulance across the bridge so that a woman (Annabeth Gish) can get her ailing husband to a hospital immediately sets things off on the wrong foot.
When more bodies begin popping up, it catches the attention of Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard), a sleazeball reporter with a drug and alcohol problem, whose decision to go poking around not only threatens to compromise the investigation, but the lives of himself and his colleague, straight-laced journalist Adriana (Emily Rios). And at the center of the case is Steven Linder (Thomas M. Wright), a mysterious stranger with a penchant for abducting women from the slums of border towns, and whose demeanor is eerily reminiscent of No Country For Old Men‘s Anton Chigurh.
Based on a Scandinavian series, The Bridge stays faithful to the source material while managing to integrate modern-day issues into the overall mystery. Troubles along the border are certainly nothing new, but the series never tries to paint one side as being any better – or worse – than the other, opting instead to show that violence, drug trafficking, and corruption exist on both sides. It’s a bold stance to take, and The Bridge‘s efforts to raise awareness around such issues as the Lost Girls of Juarez earned the series plenty of critical acclaim, as well as a Peabody Award.
While the murder mystery keeps the show moving from episode to episode, it’s the relationship between Sonya and Marco that remains the most compelling aspect of the series. As their connection evolves from distrust to respect to affection, watching Kruger and Bichir navigate these complicated waters while simultaneously dealing with each of their character’s own personal struggles makes for some damn good television.
The first season of The Bridge stumbles a bit along the path to its resolution, partially due to being hamstrung by the decision to remain faithful to the framework of the original series. But despite some “filler” episodes and a red herring or two, the performances remain solid across the board, and the final moments open the door for some very interesting events to follow in Season Two. If you managed to miss out on The Bridge during its original broadcast airing, do yourself a favor and get onboard now. I’ve got a feeling that you haven’t seen anything yet.