‘The Bridge,’ borderline police story
From FX, another quirky cop procedural--she's got Asperger's
July 3, 2013
In the last decade or so, TV procedurals have often featured crime fighters who seem to be a little off. To cite only a few examples, the lead characters in “Monk,” “Perception,” “Numb3rs” and “Homeland” have mental quirks that would normally be handicaps but may actually help them be brilliant sleuths.
FX’s ambitious new crime drama “The Bridge” has a novel take on this cliché. Its main character, an El Paso police detective, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), has what appears to be a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome, but her disability actually makes her less effective in her work. In fact, nothing she does in the series’ first three episodes reveals extraordinary brilliance.
If that’s a joke, it’s too subtle. More likely, the show’s creators simply forgot to include the requisite scenes of Holmesian ingenuity.
In fact, many aspects of “The Bridge” are just a little off. Fortunately, most of the show is close enough to keep us engrossed and entertained, if not enthralled. The cast’s talent and star power carry us over the bumps and dips.
The premiere episode, airing next Wednesday, July 10, at 10 p.m., opens with a confrontation between Sonya and a Mexican state police detective, Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), when a female corpse is found straddling the borderline on the bridge that runs from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, just after a mysterious blackout. A stickler for the rules, Sonya refuses to wave through a car carrying an American who just suffered a heart attack. Both more volatile and more easy-going, Marco lets the car pass.
When the police try to move the corpse, it splits in two. It turns out that the top half is that of a Texas judge who is strongly anti-immigration; the bottom half belonged to one of the hundreds of young Mexican women who have died or gone missing in recent years in Juárez.
Soon Sonya and Marco are working together on the case, which gets bigger. (Spoiler alerts!) A burned-out newspaper reporter, Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard), is held hostage remotely by the killer, who reveals political motives that go beyond immigration.
An eccentric social worker, Steven Linder (Thomas M. Wright), is seen transporting a Mexican prostitute across the border and later turns up near the scene of a mass murder of Mexicans who were entering the U.S. illegally. And Charlotte Millwright (Annabeth Gish), the wealthy widow of the man who was having the heart attack on the bridge, learns that her husband was involved in some shady cross-border activities.
Although the scripts keep the expanding story followable, some aspects are, as mentioned above, a little off. The serial killer reveals technical and logistical skills that would seem to require a team of sociopaths. If he’s working with a group, one of them would probably point out that you shouldn’t fight for the oppressed by killing them.
Sometimes Marco and Sonya’s relationship recalls the mismatched buddy cops so popular in movies and on TV. But their clashes provide little in the way of either comedy or drama, so the writers probably should have toned this motif down.
Sonya has been given a textbook case of Asperger’s that is sometimes played for comedy, if not for outright laughs. She’s so insensitive to people’s emotions that she can’t understand why Marco’s wife calls him while he’s at work. We can believe that Sonya can’t grasp other people’s need to reach out, but the script makes it sounds as if this were the first time she’d ever seen or heard of such behavior.
We wait in vain for the writers to give us an example of Sonya’s disorder working to her professional advantage, not only because we expect it from other “defective detective” shows but also because we need to see some reason for her boss, Lt. Hank Wade (Ted Levine), to keep her on the force despite her penchant for antagonizing witnesses and colleagues and upsetting the families of victims. (Nonetheless, fans of “Monk” will be pleased to see Ted Levine back supervising a detective with psychological issues.)
It’s a credit to the principal actors’ convincing performances that these questions probably won’t occur to most viewers.
Although the scripts in later episodes will need some ingenuity to explain the murderer’s activities, the first three episodes of “The Bridge” make us care who he is and what he’s really up to. We only hope that the writers have a good idea where they’re going and aren’t saying that they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.
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