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Wednesday 10:00 PM on FX

The Bridge S01E05: "The Beast"

Hey The Bridge! Way to find your groove! Even if your groove is a drunken Elaine Benes type of dance. In its follow-up to last week's intense head-lopping, desert-roasting hour, FX's new crime-drama-slash-political-soapbox turned in another strong (and odd) episode tonight. No longer must we have to ask ourselves, "What's up with that chick with the terrible manners and buttered-noodles fetish?" or "Is that weird dude with the marbles in his mouth killing women?" Those peculiar details don't stick out as much as they once did, now that we're a little more used to them and the case is moving forward. It's time for next phase of The Bridge, where all the extremely vague setup of the first three episodes is out the door and the show can continue figuring itself out. And The Bridge is much better for it. 

The killer had a pretty mellow episode this week; he was either content with the reception for his "message" about the U.S.'s blinders toward Mexican crime or he was stewing over the fact that his very public stunt of webcasting Maria's rotisserie was foiled by Sonya. "Resting on his laurels," I think Daniel Frye called it, so let's go with that. As I said last week, I'm not even sure the killer wanted Maria to die, and I figured he had purposefully rigged a time-sensitive clue (the shadow of the pumpjack) to make sure she lived. The guy is a smart cookie. All Mr. Killer really wants is to point out the American law enforcement's preference for lighter skin tones, which makes him more dangerous to the system than to the general population. 

I'm not going to pat the guy on the back and buy him a beer or anything, but can we at least commend this killer for actually having a moral agenda for his killings? Look, I want to make this clear, murder is bad! BUT if you're going to do it, at least have a decent reason. This killer is more of a symbol of social uprising and discontent than a butchering maniac, and that gives The Bridge more weight than the rash of TV's other new serial-killer dramas. He's not some idiot with a fancy suit and a British accent talking about the greatness of Edgar Allen Poe and spewing bullshit about the beauty of death. This killer is out for change, and if you aren't a xenophobic nationalist who's frightened of foreigners, you can at least understand what he's calling for even if you don't agree with his methods. Again, just so we're clear, murder = bad. But also, the out-of-control violence in Mexico = bad. People have killed for stupider reasons.

Though the killer wasn't particularly busy in "The Beast"—he did ring up Daniel to chat, though we don't know why—the cops sure were. Or at least the FBI was busy log-jamming Sonya and Marco's investigation, if you want to be technical about it. Their man Gedman (last week's headless fed) was up to some shady stuff, including frequently hanging out with Cristina Fuentes a.k.a. the bottom half of the two-toned body left on the border in the series premiere, and according to the killer, the FBI knew about it. Seeeee? It isn't just Mexican cops who are crooked, and Gedman was targeted for exactly that reason. Not only is the killer shining a light on the American indifference to the atrocities against Mexicans both inside and outside Mexico, he's also got some dirt on a federal officer who used the country as a playground. Theory time! I think that's why the killer called Daniel, so that Daniel could report Gedman's indecent actions to the world and make the FBI look bad, thus bringing even more notice to the killer's cause.

Contributing to the stall in the El Paso PD investigation was Maria's recovery, but once she was a little less crispy she gave them a whopper of a clue: The killer's car had a "cage" in it, just like one you'd find in a cop car. Things immediately got juicier as Sonya postulated that meant the killer might be a member of law enforcement. And shortly afterward, the FBI finally handed over Gedman's file, which contained more black ink than a newspaper. But Sonya and Marco did get the name of Gedman's shrink, and Team Texico arrived at the doc's house to find him dead from a really bad shaving accident. However, I think someone murdered him! And if that empty police car (complete with cage) in the driveway was any indication, our killer had been (or was still) in the vicinity. 

Our "extra" story this week followed Gina, a young shoplifter with lousy parents. Bailed out by her busy dad and abandoned by her deadbeat mother, she just strolled on down to Mexico and sat on some stoops until a kidnapper invited her into his house to share some beers. Well that was stupid, Gina. I don't know what she was trying to accomplish. Maybe it was a cry for help; nothing gets your parents' attention like a heavy ransom! But eventually Gina was saved by the would-be kidnapper's sister/roommate, and she went back home where everything would be "normal" (after an odd side trip to a mass grave full of dead girls—seriously, who walks by something like that in the middle of the night?). Although what happened when she got there was only "normal" for ultra-violent Juarez, not America. It was Gina's dad who was Gedman's shrink, and she claimed to have seen the murderer rip her dad's throat open. And just to make things more exciting, she said it was "The Beast," the same person/thing responsible for the murders in Juarez. 

In this week's Linder Watch, mush-mouth had to iron some things out (haha, I am GOOD) with Ava's pissed-off pursuer Hector. Hector showed up at Linder's door while Linder was pressing some clothes in his undies, some questions were asked, and then it was fightin' time! That fight, and Hector's life, ended with Linder smashing an iron into Hector's noggin. Poor Hector. He was just a simple man looking for bloody revenge on whoever helped his woman escape his evil clutches, and next thing you know he was being rolled up in a rug and thrown out a window. That's an awfully quick entrance and exit for Hector, who in the larger context of the show never amounted to anything more than an empty threat. Yeah, his murder now means that Galvan is tied to Linder, but we spent an awful lot of time following Hector around for several episodes while he looked creepy, only to have him die. I'm not sure I understand the thought process in building him up and killing him off so quickly. But then again, there are a lot of things I don't get about this weird little show.

For example, why was it so easy for Marco to take Daniel's phone? That phone was Daniel's everything, it was his key to the killer, so there's no way Daniel would forget about it. And Daniel knows that Marco and Sonya would do just about anything to get their hands on his phone, so when Marco showed up and clumsily spilled coffee at his desk, forcing Daniel to go fetch some cleanup gear, wouldn't it be painfully obvious to Daniel that when he came back to his desk and Marco AND his phone were gone that Marco took it? Wouldn't a guy like Daniel immediately march down to the police station—or at least call Sonya—and demand his phone back, seeing as how his career hinges on it? Yet a whole day went by and we didn't hear a thing from Daniel. I've turned my house upside down after not having my phone for 30 minutes, and all I have on the thing is a saved game on Spell Tower. Daniel's phone is the key to an international serial-killer investigation. Maybe the situation will be explained next week, but details like these are something that The Bridge, a detail-oriented crime drama, has to get precisely right if it wants to be worth watching, and Daniel's phone was a major point of contention for me in the episode. 

But even though the phone thing really bugged me, "The Beast" also did something really well this week: It lightened things up. With the episode's treatment of mutton-chopped miscreant Linder, socially inept detective Sonya, and cultural mixing, The Bridge finally showed signs of embracing its awkwardness and clearing up its voice with some dark comedy. Sonya having dinner with Marco's family was funny, and she committed a terrible faux pas in handing over Marco's wallet and declaring that he'd left it at Charlotte's (though I have to remind you that, just like with Daniel and his phone, Marco seemed completely oblivious to losing his wallet—doesn't anyone around here notice when their livelihood is missing?). And I just about lost it when Linder dropped Hector's body out his window and onto the hood of a car and mumbled out a "Jesus." The combination of his reaction (what did he think would happen?) and that mouthful-of-rocks voice was just too much. But the most awkward moment came when Charlotte greeted her douche-toy friend from Tampa, who might be the worst male on the planet. "You call I come, if you know what I mean." "Pilates? Niiiiice. Look at you, the hot widow." "Let's have a few drinks and then I'll show you my new tattoo." Barf, barf, and barf. This show is SO weird. And Charlotte, you are pure trash. Try keeping your pants on and grieving for a minute. Just because one of your horses died doesn't mean you have to let everyone ride you. I think I understand her stepdaughter now. Team Stepdaughter!

The Bridge, I think I'm finally understanding you. Despite having a distinguished exterior that looks like a classic crime drama, underneath you're quirky and awkward. Many shows take on the personalities of their main characters, and that's certainly the case here, as both The Bridge and Sonya Cross look like one thing on the outside, but are frickin' weird on the inside. 



THE BORDER BETWEEN THE STORY AND THE NOTES

– I'm still not seeing much great police work on the show, as the killer is controlling everything. It's "stumble on a clue, interview a witness or get some information from the FBI, and go from there." 

– Here's an easy way to find the killer: Let him keep killing people and leaving bigger and bigger beads behind, and after about a dozen more murders, look for the guy who's rolling a giant bead down the street. That's your man! 

– Is Gus not Alma's son? Did I miss some detail? Gus said, "I know you're mad at my dad," instead of "I know you're mad at dad." And Alma told Gus he was welcome to stay in her house, as if she wasn't his mom. 

The Bridge's withholding of information continues, frustrating as that may be. But today we finally got the name of the woman who's threatening Charlotte to keep the tunnel open: Graciela Rivera. 

– Who wears pants that drop wallets every time you take them off?

– I'm still a little annoyed with the show's editing. We must have seen at least three 15-second intervals of Gina walking through the streets or sitting down, with no purpose other than to remind us that she was still part of the episode. The same thing happened with Linder after he killed Hector.

– Compared to other characters' arcs getting folded into the main story, Gina's intro and incorporation was quick, with both happening in the same episode. The same thing happened with Galvan last week, and it's much better than how the series was handling characters early on. Charlotte (aside from a brief exchange on the border) and Linder spent several episodes on their own before we saw how they fit into the larger story, and I don't know, to me it felt like the show was trying too hard to add mystery where it wasn't necessary. But that's what's great about television and its ability to readjust over time; The Bridge has already corrected that.

Previously Aired Episode

TONIGHT AT 10PM

Season 2 : Episode 4

Next Episode

AIRS ON 8/6/2014

Season 2 : Episode 5

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