The Bridge’ mixes culture clash with murder for compelling TV

FX sure picked the right time to premiere “The Bridge.” After all, what better time is there to air a show set on the American-Mexican border than during Congress’s ongoing debate about immigration reform? But “The Bridge” isn’t a political series, at least not on the surface. Rather, it explores the differences between life in the United States and Mexico through murder. It’s a unique concept that might just make for one of the most promising new programs of the summer.

It all starts with a body found on the Bridge of the Americas. El Paso detective Sonya Cross (who has Asperger syndrome) and grizzled Juarez cop Marco Ruiz are called out to investigate, and they quickly agree that Cross will take the case. Then it’s discovered that the body is actually made up of two people – the upper half of an American judge and the legs of a Mexican prostitute. It’s a crime that involves both America and Mexico, which means the very different Cross and Ruiz will have to work together to find the killer. And they have to act fast, before the murderer strikes again.

I haven’t seen the Danish/Swedish series “The Bridge” was based upon, but I can’t help but surmise the remake is far more interesting. That’s because it’s not just a show about an international murder – it’s really an exploration of American and Mexican cultures and the people who are influenced by them. The vast differences between the nations are made clear as Cross and Ruiz investigate the same case. While Cross is mentored by her supervisor Lieutenant Wade, Ruiz has to force his way through a party just to ask his boss whether he can look into the murder. As he explains to Cross, in Mexico much of the police force is corrupt, and the deaths of numerous prostitutes in Juarez go virtually unnoticed.

Like “The Killing,” “The Bridge” is beautifully shot and well-written, going beyond the murder to focus on the lives of the detectives investigating it. Thus, we see there’s good and bad in both America and Mexico. Ruiz isn’t a crooked cop like his colleagues, and he truly cares about the victims. Meanwhile Cross may care too much, like when she refuses to let an ambulance with a heart attack patient cross the bridge to prevent disturbing the crime scene. Her Asperger syndrome prevents her from reading social cues, leading to some outrageous-to-the-point-of-humorous awkward situations.

Driving the show are captivating performances by Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir as Cross and Ruiz, respectively. Though Kruger hasn’t quite lost her German accent, she captures the character’s steely determination while also showing the vulnerability of someone who knows she’s different but can’t understand how to fit in. Bichir, fresh off of his recent Oscar nomination, is so compelling that it’s not difficult to imagine him as an actual hardened detective. Annabeth Gish and Matthew Lillard are also intriguing as characters not completely defined yet, and it’s nice to see Ted Levine back on television in a role similar to the one he played on “Monk.”

In recent years cable has become the place for excellent dramas, and “The Bridge” is no exception. With a show like this, FX is on its way to becoming HBO for free television.

5 out of 5 doubloons

Sean Quinn can be reached at sean.quinn@student.shu.edu

Author: Staff Writer

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