The Bridge "Take the Ride, Pay the Toll" Review: The End of a Nightmare

By Tim Surette

Sep 19, 2013

The Bridge S01E11: "Take the Ride, Pay the Toll"

"Take the Ride, Pay the Toll" was a perfect example of how many new dramas are dressing themselves up as their successful predecessors and expecting to just earn a quick pass into the Great Drama Club. We're currently in an era where cable thinks that all it takes is a combination of grim subject matter, a tough guy screaming, and cool POV shots, and while I've mostly enjoyed the rickety first season of FX's The Bridge, it's one of the poster children for this current phenomenon. (I'd put Showtime's Ray Donovan and AMC's Low Winter Sun in there too, but in the interest of full disclosure: I only watched the first two episodes of each of those shows before deciding they weren't for me.) 

On paper, this episode had it all. A ticking clock counting the seconds until a character's demise! A standoff with a lot of shouting and a smug psychopath! B-O-M-B-V-E-S-T! Cops scrambling! Three major characters getting shot! That's good, right? Yet the bridge standoff that dominated "Take the Ride, Pay the Toll" didn't feel like great drama to me. It didn't slap me around like it should have. In fact, at times it felt like a chore that I just wanted to be done with. Whereas previous episodes of The Bridge had that fun element of zaniness mixed with an accelerated pace and a handful of micro-developments, "Take the Ride, Pay the Toll" slowed down and dragged after a promising start.

David Tate's latest mega-elaborate torture plot had him revisiting the site of his family's hit-and-run death with Marco, which just so happened to be on THE bridge. With no regard to traffic or anyone looking to get into Mexico for a quick bum tickle, cheap tequila, or generic prescription pills, David blocked off the bridge and removed his jacket to reveal a vest made of Semtex. He then asked Marco to grab Daniel out of the trunk and shoot him in exchange for the location of Marco's drowning son, a ploy that was made somewhat obvious last week. It was pretty standard psycho-killer stuff, and a little less sophisticated than what I've come to expect from a killer who's displayed such creativity and showmanship in his previous outings. In fact, let's rank David Tate's torture tactics! With your host, David Tate!

Official Ranking of David Tate Torture / Murder Plans

5. The bomb vest on the bridge and the demand that Marco kill Daniel in exchange for his son's safety. Kinda trope-y, and it dragged on too long. Not to mention that it didn't exactly work out for anyone.

4. Daniel Frye trapped in a car with a bomb and the beheading of Gedman. I love a good beheading, and this was his first big plan that we got to see. Not a bad way to start a career as a professional jerk!

3. The barrel slowly filling with water with a duct-taped Gus inside. It was the green glowstick that really showed David's attention to detail; it provided just enough light for Gus to see what was going on. And the level of sustained horror for Gus was quite impressive! Chinese water torture... with a twist.

2. The throat-slicing of Santi Jr. at a gala held in honor of Santi Jr.'s dad. Ouch! That's gotta hurt Santi Sr. almost as much as it hurt Santi Jr.! And the way David did it by just excusing himself and heading toward the bathroom like it was nothing was impressive.

1. The locked cabin and the live grenade for Alma, with the two daughters inside. Still the most fun ordeal of all! Alma could have been in there for days. 

But what really made the bomb vest plot the worst of the bunch was its repetition. There were no new details to divulge, there was no swinging pendulum of who was in control, there was no new character development. It was David Tate monologuing over and over again about the accident that killed his wife and son and how he wanted Marco to feel his pain. It was Marco repeatedly auditioning for the Yelling Hall of Fame by scream-asking about Gus's whereabouts shout-denying that he's the kind of man who could kill Daniel Frye as part of David's latest sick game. It was Sonya saying that some things didn't fit and that other things were part of David's plan. It was Daniel, shutting up for once, which seemed so out of character for him that I wasn't sure that was actually him. Aside from Daniel's sudden case of the mutes, these were all things we'd seen in the last few episodes. The Bridge didn't save anything new for us.

There were some little sparks, however. Like when Marco couldn't shoot Daniel (even though he got close like five times) and David shot Daniel anyway, sending him toppling over the side of the bridge and into the Mexi-sewage below. That river is NOT sanitary. If Daniel came out with only five syringes poking into him and just a little bit of some spring breaker's diarrhea leaking into his open would, he'd be lucky. There was also the moment when Sonya showed up after finding Gus, and she told Marco that Gus was alive so Marco wouldn't shoot David, but Marco didn't listen—so Sonya shot both Marco and David (just little baby non-fatal shots) and salvaged as much as she could from what was a really bad day for everyone. 

But otherwise, the standoff was a lot of the same circular chatter about how David was pissed that his wife and son were dead and Marco's howling "Wheerrrrrre eeeessss myyyyyyy sonnnnnnn!" and "Ahhhhm nottt gunnnnaaa dooooooooooooo that!" (Marco's screams simultaneously hit my emotional core and my funny bone. I feel bad for the guy, but I laughed, too. When was the last time Marco said anything at a normal volume? Episode 7?) 

It wouldn't have felt so tension-free if The Bridge had done a better job of elevating these characters in previous episodes. Instead, Marco became a character who we didn't really like as his weaknesses were exposed. What little we did know about him was that he was a committed adultery on a wife who loved him, he wasn't a good dad (even though he wanted to be), and he'd been involved in some shady dealings as a police officer, all of which overpowered the decent human being we knew was in there somewhere. It's not that I don't care about Marco (I want to like the guy), it's more that after 10 episodes, I don't love him, and that's where this episode struggled—there wasn't enough potency to the supposedly high stakes. The fact that Marco's son was taken from him didn't change the fact that Marco isn't a guy who you'd go out of your way to root for.  

I liked the attempt to push Sonya and Marco's relationship somewhere new when Sonya lied to Marco about Gus being alive and Sonya defended her decision with "I only did what you taught me friends would do for each other." Even if Marco's lessons were about small-time things like loaning someone twenty bucks for flowers or keeping misplaced wallets hush-hush from untrusting wives, it showed that Sonya was listening and that she was making an effort to change her ways. Contrast that with how Marco has been developed (or lacked development) and it's easy to see why Sonya is such a popular character among all of you. I wish earlier episodes had spent more time on the education of Sonya Cross, because this scene would have resonated more and upped Marco's stance with us. Instead, Sonya's attempts at normal socialization were rebuffed by Marco, and he told her they weren't friends and that they were over. That made me a lot sadder than when Gus died, and it's because Sonya had been trying so hard to help Marco and Marco was too blind with "Wheeerrrrrreee eeeees myyyyyy sonnnnn" rage to see it. 

At the end of the David Tate nightmare, no one came out a winner. Marco was the biggest loser, which is exactly what David wanted, but that didn't necessarily make David a winner because he'd planned to have Marco shoot him (how that completes his plan, I don't know). Sonya got screwed, too. She was minutes away from being the hero (though the way she tracked Gus by chasing pipes throughout a house didn't make a ton of sense), and instead she ended up partnerless and friendless. Daniel sustained a laundry list of injuries, including brain and spine trauma, but at least he survived. And the poor drivers who were just trying to make quick cocaine runs were stuck on that bridge all night long! David Tate buzzkilled a lot of people's nights. 

There was only one non-cop scene in this episode, which happened to be the pre-credits opening, and that's too bad because it was probably the best scene of the night. Ray dragged his dead friend Tim through the tunnel, probably to drop him off in Mexico as if he was an unwanted pee-stained couch, but then found a bunch of tunnel people dead. Spooky! Then Ray shot a Mexican guy down there—the guy may or may not have been the shooter who killed the other people—and framed Tim for doing it (convenient!). Then he made off with a mysterious package with a scorpion logo on it. Was it drugs? Money? Information? Live scorpions? What were those people doing down there? Why was that one gun gold-plated? Why didn't Ray wear gloves? I don't know, but the whole thing had me clamoring for more. And I never got more because the rest of the episode was spent telling us that David was still mad about his dead family.

I'm about to walk down to FX Headquarters in La-La Land and punch a hole through the office wall of whoever is in charge of deciding how much screen time Stephen Linder gets in each episode of The Bridge. That's two weeks in a row that our favorite weirdo who never lets a shirt button go undone has been absent, as the series changed its focus from statement on society to slasher spree. He has to be back next week though, right? 

The biggest question going forward is "Where does The Bridge go now?" There are two episodes left and only Ray and Charlotte's story has any hint of momentum. But it's so self-encapsulated that none of the other plots can smoothly intertwine with it. So what's left? I don't think Marco and Sonya having a long conversation about friendship and making up is enough to send Season 1 out with a bang. A trial or continued investigation into the David Tate case would be a snoozer. Linder is literally in the middle of nowhere, picking daisies or something for his crush. And Galvan must be on vacation, because he hasn't shown his scary face in a long time. I don't know what The Bridge will do for its final two hours, and it's not one of those "OMG where will this go?" good feelings; it's a bad feeling that the end of Season 1 won't do much at all.


– One more thing on David's plan: Say Marco did shoot Daniel, how was David going to hold up his end of the bargain and save Gus? Did he ever plan to save Gus? Did he have another remote control on him to turn the faucet off to stop filling the barrel? Or was he just going to give away the location of the barrel and leave it up to the cops to get there in time?

– No Cesar again this week either. Cesar where are you? How was the movie? What did you see? 

– Has the ATF realized that Tim is missing? Or was Tim right and they're so disorganized that they have nothing going on. Those gun bugs were planted a long time ago, but the ATF hasn't done squat (at least that we know of). 

– FX still has not renewed The Bridge for Season 2. Earlier this year, the network re-upped on The Americans after three episodes, even when it wasn't blowing up the ratings. I have to think that the chances we'll see more of The Bridge in 2014 aren't looking good. It might depend on how FX's pilots look, but The Strain needs a spot in the lineup, and it could be a great summer series.

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  • aprushinski Sep 25, 2013

    What happened with the detonator? David Tate said that if he took his thumb off the detonator, everything would blow. Then he tosses it to the side a couple of scenes later and nothing happens. What did I miss?

  • ddstephens Sep 24, 2013

    Come on Tim this was a good epi..Yes it was slow and I got really tired of Marco the tool screaming like no ones business, I can't stand Marco. But Gus dying and the way he acted towards Sonya really broke my heart. I even had tears on parts of this one. I don't know how it will pan out for Daniel but I hope he gets better. I like him, he makes this show interesting. I really hope they renew this show. I would like to see where it is going. Yes they just didn't show enough of the nut job Ray arch. And where the hell is LINDER...the epis are just better with mumbles in them.

  • danyzapata Sep 24, 2013

    Come on you dont like Marco because you stereotype him as a mexican macho, when you don't even know how to define the "macho" word.
    yes its going really slow, and its crazy how much they spent on the bridge but the fact that this shit page dares to say "And the poor drivers who were just trying to make quick cocaine runs were stuck on that bridge all night long!" when they are the primordial reason of weapons in México doesn't make sense at all ;) yea people come to México to get high as well they can go to California...

  • Vicky8675309 Sep 24, 2013

    I enjoyed this episode but wanted more Charlotte (I don't care about Cesar, i.e., the dutiful laborer~~so far a "nobody" imo)

    Brief synopsis of next 2 episodes:

    All About Eva (episode 12)
    Sonya uses Linder's latest problem to repair her relationship with Marco. Charlotte forms an unlikely alliance.

    The Crazy Place (episode 13)
    Sonya and Marco search for a missing girl. Charlotte meets someone who knows too much about her new business venture. Marco makes a decision that could change everything

  • marcusj1973 Sep 23, 2013

    I don't think the problem is not liking Marco enough to create some drama, it was not liking Gus enough. If we like Gus we want him to live and as such, want he and Marco to build the relationship they both want. But Gus was almost a non character who's only relevance to the entire story is being the kid of the guy who we've been following around. Not a very compelling reason to wish for his safe return.

    If I'm honest, I thought this was the season finale and felt a little cheated that Ray and Charlotte's arc was left hanging and got zero resolution on mush mouth. But there are two episodes left? What exactly are they going to do to fill two episodes with the same pacing and content of the previous 10?

    I don't know what was the intention for either, but unlike 'The Americans', I'm not seeing any real long term viability here. It's not like Sonja would ever return the favour, cross the border and become Marco's partner in Mexico and with Tate in custody, there's no reason for him to stay.

    If I had to make a call, this is one and done, either by design or by reality.

  • julianwiley Sep 22, 2013

    "Marco became a character who we didn't really like..." I'm really turned off my Marco now; not because he's a serial cheater, but because his machismo/ego gets in the way too often. He spent half the time on that bridge trying to dominate the situation (not a good time to beat your chest when the other guy is wearing a bomb vest). And in an earlier episode, when he (loudly) proclaimed: "I am a man...I am a father...!" Dude, we know your gender and familial status...humble yourself a little bit and try to make saving your family a priority, m'kay?

  • ElisaDiaz Sep 22, 2013

    I still don't buy any of the reasons to not like Marco, but at least you brought up the cultural difference - what you call "machismo". When he was saying that sentence, I believe he was referring to his humanity - his life wasn't a game. Because Sonya was telling him that Tate was "playing" with him. There is nothing "macho" like about it. Somebody claiming that your life is something serious, that's all. BUT you have eventually interiorized Marco as a latin man with latin attitudes and you don't like that. That's fine, but remember that we are all a part of our cultures with their faults and greatness. He is not treating women badly (I remind you that cheating in wives is a universal practice) but he is gifting them flowers and protecting them as he has been taught a nice men should do. Now, I find a bit harsh to dislike somebody just for that. It is insensitive.

  • julianwiley Sep 24, 2013

    I will admit that I missed the mark on the context of his declaring his manhood and fatherhood in an earlier episode. But if he's just a part of his culture (faults and greatness), then why was his son Gustavo disturbed by his behavior? Please forgive me; I wasn't intentionally implying that his Latin roots had anything to do with his behavior (in my book machismo occurs in pretty much every culture -- some more subtle than others). So I'll amend my dislike and say that his ego was a problem for me.

  • ElisaDiaz Sep 24, 2013

    I didn't see the ego thing myself as you describe it, but you know what, i think that the reason why we are inclined to like Sonya better is that the show has given us more explanations about her motives. Without saying anything explicit about her condition, we know that she struggles. So we have easily forgiven her about not wanting that ambulance to go through the bridge (you know, episode 1, to save a human life) and other similar strange reactions. However, nothing has been said about Marco's motives yet. When he cheated on his wife or slept with his friend's wife, what led him to do that? We can see he's not the kind of guy that abuses of child prostitutes, for example, and he seems to love his wife. But he still acted wrongly in some situations and we don't know any of his thoughts about it. He just looks selfish to us. I have been thinking that maybe the show wanted to give Sonya a head start of sorts, as she is presented as "Detective Frosty" :). But don't know.

    I appreciate your politeness when talking about this subject. I imagine the cultural contrast subject will come often with this show, since it is a part of it.

  • Grazzy Sep 22, 2013

    Big yawn. Gus being killed didn't really surprise me - they didn't kill Alma so of course they would have to kill someone "important". Couldn't care less, honestly. And Tate had a bomb vest on! Right from TV's super-killer handbook: I can't stand these tricks anymore. Stopped caring about this series a couple of episodes ago.

  • MgavanderSlui Sep 22, 2013

    Why do Americans make remakes of perfect series ? It is an awesome series in its original Danish Swedish . Don't understand it Just leave it alone

  • gmanBegins Sep 21, 2013

    Ever since this show turn into just another "personal vendetta" It's lost all its intrigue for me. (What happened to the social commentary on Mexico/ USA relations?) This episode was the worst of the series for me. All the build up just for THAT?!?! I'll give the writers credit on three things(1) Killing a important character.(2) The pre credits scene (3) The intensity of the showdown. But of course it just went on too long and left me flat. I also gotta give props to Damon Bechir ,the dude is money. If this series gets cancelled get him on another one PRONTO!

  • tryptz Sep 21, 2013

    I thought it was awesome, they broke my heart. They killed Gus. Tate's anger seems irrational and misplaced. It was just scary to me honestly.
    I really liked Gus.

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