It's become very obvious to me that The Bridge showrunner Meredith Steihm was one of the strongest voices in the Homeland writers' room, because The Bridge has already reached the levels of insanity that Homeland took just over one season to reach (I'm thinking specifically of Season 2, Episode 3, "State of Independence," when Brody went on that crazy car ride into the country with the bomb-vest maker, but feel free to choose your own wacky Homeland moment). "The Beetle" confirmed one of my worst fears for the series, yet also fluffed a new pillow for us to sit on and enjoy The Bridge in a different way.
First, the fear: All the subtle intellectual themes and wide-angle explorations of the tensions surrounding the Mexico-America border that were so attractive when the series first began have jumped off the bridge and drowned in the Rio Grande. This is now an on-the-nose show about a killer who's out for revenge by killing people, and who just so happens to be personally connected to the cops investigating the case. It's painful to admit this, but it's really disappointing to think about what the show could have been and what it is now.
However! The Bridge has taken on a new identity as primetime's biggest shock-stravaganza, a series of events so bizarre and so far off-base from the show's origins that I can't help but be absolutely enthralled by it. It's an unsustainable model and I can no longer call The Bridge a "great drama," but hot damn! I am SO in to see what happens next and look forward to every episode with fanatic drool.
Case in point, would any of you have expected our unmasked killer David Tate to shove a live, pin-pulled grenade into Alma's hands and lock her in a remote cabin in the desert? I certainly didn't! Would you have guessed that such a smash-bang pile-up ending would happen shortly afterward? Not me. Back to the Homeland comparison, David Tate's new M.O. reminds me a lot of when Abu Nazir went from mythical Taliban figurehead with a purpose to abandoned-warehouse slasher-movie killer. It's hard to tell whether this is a desperate act to get the water cooler talkin' or whether it was the series' plan all along, but when a show is in the middle of going bonkers—as The Bridge is now—it's awfully hard to look away.
Last week, "Vendetta" took a sharp turn not when it revealed the killer,
but when it changed his motives, and "The Beetle" ran with that new idea
and became a sequence of weird serial-killer games. And even though The Bridge is now just kicking around the rubble of what it might've been, seeing David Tate fake-romance Alma while knowing that he had some ulterior motives was still nerve-wracking (and fun!). The episode had a blast playing around with what we knew, showing David, Alma, and Marco's two daughters having fun at the park while David smashed beetles and called Marco to taunt him when Alma's back was turned. But instead of stretching things out for multiple episodes with Alma being suckered by David's suave moves, David decided to accelerate his little game and drove Alma and the kids out to a vacant shack where he gave her a surprise: a live grenade with the pin removed! *double take* Say what!? Is The Bridge actually a prequel series to the Saw movies or something? Are all cop shows like this? Because this was absolutely ludicrous. (And great, in a way!)
We also discovered that David had been catfishing Gus the whole time as Zina—Gus's fallback plan if he and Sonya didn't work out—when Zina and her pierced face finally showed up and told Gus that she'd moved and changed her phone number months ago. It was David who'd been cooing and ;)'ing at Gus via text, because David's plan went so DEEP that he was willing to enter the mind of a teenage girl. Yes, it was awfully convenient that after not seeing her for months, the real Zina showed up just before Gus was planning to meet David, but a lot of credibility and attention to detail ended with last week's episode. The cops attempted a reverse catfish on David by using Gus's phone and planned a meetup, but the cops who missed the cop class on being discreet—the ones who were obviously peering over roofs with binoculars—spooked David. So David Tate had a waiter deliver a note to the Gus impostor, and on that note were the GPS coordinates of the shack where Alma was currently massaging a grenade. Marco saved her, yada yada yada.
Why did David give Marco the exact location of Alma and the girls? Who knows. Maybe he's not very good at this psychotic murderer thing. Maybe he just wrote down random numbers that happened to be the coordinates of the shack. I think we're supposed to think he gave Marco the coordinates as a distraction, so that he could get the real prize: Gus. Sure enough, later that night Gus and Sonya were driving to a safehouse when here was Mr. Crazy Pants in a giant truck, plowing into Sonya's car, flipping it, and cutting up Sonya's pretty face. Oh. My. Gosh. The grenade-in-the-hand surprise was surprising enough, but adding a late-night broadside car-crash to the mix? This show really is going loony-toons, and it doesn't look like it's going to stop. The insanity ended with David dragging Gus away, ensuring another round of enjoyable kidnapping escapades. You're aware that there are still four episodes left in the season, right?
We haven't even started on this episode's side threads. Even those were extra weird in their own way. For some reason, Charlotte was wandering around her horse barn by herself and walked right into an ambush from Graciela. Ray's bugged guns had pissed Graciela off, and she wanted answers. But instead, she got a pitchfork right through the gut. This show is relentless! If you are an actor who's landed a recurring role on The Bridge, you may as well immediately start looking for a new job, because the show kills more people than malaria. It's the texting-while-driving of television shows. And once again, the only character in The Bridge who's genuinely likable is Cesar. Not only did he blast Graciela's henchman with a shotgun, he dug a giant bunk-grave for both corpses and already had a plan to decompose the bodies extra fast. When Charlotte asked what they should do next, Cesar was a stone-cold pimp: "I'm going to take my wife out to go see a movie and pretend none of this happened." Cesar is THE BEST. Charlotte owes the guy a big fat raise and maybe even some of those sexual favors that she passes out like candy on Halloween.
Now the entire tunnel operation will fall into Charlotte's lap, and she has to figure out how to manage it or get rid of it completely. I'd expect that Ray will have something to say about that, given that he may never learn his lesson about bad business. However, Charlotte probably won't listen to him since his negligence has brought the cops into her business. But then again, this is Charlotte we're talking about, and it's really amazing that she doesn't lock herself in her car everyday. It's also remarkable that Charlotte, who is barely a mentally functioning human being, is somehow now queen of the smuggling tunnel despite all her failures and missteps. Way to go, Charlotte!
As for our old pal Linder, he didn't do much in "The Beetle," but that's the thing about Linder: he doesn't have to do anything and he's still my favorite character. Really all he did was show up at his buddy's ranch and confess to Ava that he killed Hector, which was a big step, but until we have any clue as to where this is going, it will seem pointless. But who cares?! This is a man with Brillo pads on his cheeks and a tongue that's swollen with bee stings. He can sit in a rocking chair watching the local news and I'd still be fascinated. What I liked was how terrible he looked, even for Linder:
Is that a character on a major television show, or is it the ghost of Ichabod Crane? Next time, put some concealer under your eyes to get rid of those bags before you tell your crush you killed her husband. Oh, I just remembered that there was something important we learned in his two scenes. He finally told us what happened when he was burying Hector's body and Galvan showed up: Galvan took Hector's body. Actually I guess we already knew that considering Hector became Galvan's knife block, so maybe we didn't learn anything. I'm convinced the writers decided to completely ignore Galvan and Linder's confrontation in the desert and hoped that we forgot about it.
Look, I have no idea where The Bridge is going or what it thinks it's doing. It may not be the great epic I thought it was going to be when I compared it to The Wife after Episode 2, but it may have become even more entertaining by gratuitously going for thrills. It's not something that will keep audiences around forever, though.
– I will say that the opening scene, the flashback to David Tate arriving on the scene of his wife and son's fatal hit-and-run, was pretty awful and melodramatic in a way that would make telenovelas cringe. The Bridge made an effort to evoke some sort of sympathy for David and to depict how much he was harmed by the sudden death of his family, but all I could concentrate on was the length of the scene (three full minutes!) and those guttural walrus-in-heat sounds that David was
– I hope Sonya was with it enough to remember the license plate number on David Tate's truck.
– Where was Ray? Off buying some bronzer or having his tips frosted? Maybe getting a barbed-wire bicep tattoo? Was there an Ed Hardy sample sale?
– This week's Sonya-isms: "Is it hard to sleep next to the same person every night?" And then, "He's going to be very good at this. He's not going to make mistakes," in reference to the person who had Marco's family and was about to kill them.
– I also liked the oddness of this exchange... Linder: "I've been thinking about her in a special way." Ranch owner dude: "That's natural, Steve. Let's discuss this over a ham salad." Linder: "I am so glad you said that, I've been so hungry as of late." Ranch owner dude: "That happens over such things, after my first kill I couldn't get enough cheeseburgers." WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT?
– Does anyone even really care about Sonya or Marco at the moment? In fact, are either of them among your five favorite characters in the show? Right now, I'd say Linder, Galvan, Cesar, and Tim Cooper (and why the hell not, Ray) are my favorites. Who are yours?