The Bridge–A murder mystery not to be missed

Review by C.J. Bunce

FX’s two-season series The Bridge aired nearly a decade ago, a murder mystery filled with twists and intrigue, and an irresistible combination of acting talent.  It’s in the league of Longmire and L.A.’s Finest, in that with so many series and networks, you may have overlooked this gem in its initial run.  A story of cops at the U.S./Mexico border, unresolved crimes and out-of-control bureaucracy, it was actually a remake of a Danish/Swedish border series of the same name that has also been adapted into series in the UK, Russia, Austria, and Singapore.

Border wars may be an obvious source of conflict for good storytelling, but it’s the efforts to work together by its unlikely heroes played by Diane Kruger (National Treasure, Inglourious Basterds), Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight, Alien: Covenant, Godzilla vs Kong), Ted Levine (Monk, The Fast and the Furious), Thomas M. Wright (The Stranger, Outsiders), Matthew Lillard (Scream, Scooby Doo), and Emily Rios (From Dusk Til Dawn, Men of a Certain Age) that makes the series an overlooked hit not to be missed.  It’s streaming now on the free streaming network Freevie (formerly the iMDB TV channel) and Amazon Prime.

For only two seasons (26 episodes), The Bridge has many subplots and mysteries to suck viewers into.  The first is a dead body left on the border line between U.S. and Mexico, and the jurisdictional issues that arise when the evidence points to crimes on both sides of the border.  Note: The special effects department gets a workout, too–this series is not for the squeamish.  A wider plot about the CIA in bed with the Mexican drug cartels is a long-term story thread that had the potential to be drawn into a third season had the series not been canceled.

Kruger plays Detective Sonya Cross of the El Paso Police Department, a padawan of sorts under Levine’s Lieutenant Hank Wade’s wise tutelage.  Cross suffers from some kind of social disorder related to PTSD and her sister’s death, which gets fleshed out along the way.  She partners on and off with co-star Bichir’s Detective Marco Ruiz, a homicide detective from the Chihuahua state police.  Ruiz survives by playing both sides of a jurisdiction run in a delicate balance by a corrupt cop boss, Captain Robles (Juan Carlos Cantu, Better Caul Saul, Twin Peaks), and drug kingpin Fausto Galvan (Ramón Franco, The X-Files, House, Medium), while juggling a poor family life of Ruiz’s own making.  If you get tired of Cross’s oddities, keep watching–they get ironed out over time, as does Ruiz’s failings.  Together they become a crimefighting duo you’ll look forward to coming back to in each episode.

Along the way you’ll encounter Wright’s carefully revealed, creepy character, Steven Linder, a guy who picks up women off the streets of Mexico and spirits them away to his trailer on the U.S. side.  His unique relationship with Bond girl (Spectre) Stephanie Sigman‘s Eva Guerra is a series high point–one of those rare bits in television that demonstrates the prowess of the show’s writers.

An even stranger subplot tracks Annabeth Gish (The X-Files, Midnight Mass) as a recent widow of a much older millionaire.  She inherits a ranch and the drug-smuggling tunnel underneath, which she manages under the direction of Alma Martínez (Batman vs Superman, The Terror) as another Mexican mob boss, an ex-boyfriend (Brian Van Holt), and farmhand (Alejandro Patino)–each involved in memorable antics.

Assisting the police efforts to uncover the murder plot behind the dead body and the drug smuggling is washed-up journalist Daniel Frye played by Lillard, and ambitious younger reporter Adriana Mendez, played by Rios.  The pessimistic drunk and wide-eyed rookie embody all the great reporter fact-finding tropes from the best journalism movies.

This leaves rooms for other memorable characters viewers will not be likely to forget: Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity, House, Psych) as a cartel accountant with hidden… talents, Lyle Lovett (The Player, Castle) as a cowboy hat-wearing lawyer/thug/cleaner, series director Adam Arkin as an FBI chief, Johnny Dowers as a Ron Swanson-infused El Paso detective, Patrick’s brother Don Swayze as an opportunistic grifter, John Billingsley (Enterprise) as a bank manager, and the always young looking Carlos Pratts (McFarland, USA, Major Crimes) as Ruiz’s son.

Expect plenty of sex and violence and the grimier side of humanity.  It’s all a necessary contrast for the series’ protagonists to try to pull themselves out of.  Same succeed, some don’t.  If you missed it in its initial run, catch The Bridge now, streaming on Freevie and Amazon Prime.

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