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The Bridge - Pilot - Review

By Jorge Castro-Salinas

Speechless, just speechless. That’s how I was after watching The Bridge’s Pilot for the second time. It is different, it has a unique style. I’m glad that a show like this is airing. Clearly, it is not made for everybody, and it’s not easy on the eye. It is a show that has a different purpose and perspective than your average regular show. It boards several topics concerning Immigration and Border issues. Not only that, but it also talks about the insecurity and increasingly violent drug war in Mexico and its dynamic with the U.S. But executes one thing for sure with effectiveness, it allows American people to discover why Mexico has different policies and procedures when dealing with crime.

First things first. The show opens with an unkown figure leaving a dead body in the middle of El Paso and Cd. Juarez’ border. This prompts for law enforcement agencies from both Mexico and the U.S. to assist the crime scene. Meet Detective Sonya Cross, from El Paso PD and Detective Marco Ruiz, from Chihuahua State Police, both with totally different personalities that they end up clashing against each other. This is because, while Sonya follows the rules about preserving the crime scene, Marco is clearly more laid-back with terms such as discretion, which he uses when he allows an ambulance to cross the bridge after a man has a heart attack. Sonya ends up taking over, with Marco just having about enough dead bodies every day and just wanting to get some rest with his family. Soon, the ambitious Sonya, with the help of her superior, Hank Wade, discovers that the body is not only from a judge in El Paso, but that the corpse is actually linked with another one, which actually belongs to one of “Las Muertas de Juarez”, a group of women who have disappeared through the years, leaving no trace behind. It is important to note that “Las Muertas de Juarez” may be victims of the drug cartels, which forces the unprotected and corrupted Mexican police departments to limit their investigations about the missing women. When Marco discovers this, he joins forces with Sonya and together start a task force.

After this, I want to comment about how well the dynamic between the U.S. and Mexico is depicted. As mentioned before, Sonya Cross follows the rules and procedure. She represents the American population, which is typically independent and guided by duty to do their jobs. Meanwhile, Marco Ruiz is a relaxed but charismatic and caring man. He is aware of his country’s issues, but like most of the few just and honest people, he’s unable to do anything about and therefore is powerless. These personalities are pretty much the U.S. and Mexico, and their motives are different and unknown to each other. The pairing of Sonya and Marco it’s a perfect example of how law enforcement agencies in both countries should operate, leaving their differences aside and looking for a common goal.

The promos for this show had me wondering if this was just going to be another CSI or Criminal Minds, but this is FX, there’s always more to the story. The whole crime scene investigation topic was just the excuse to make a series like this. But there’s more to it. It talks about two completely different cultures, even if they just live a few meters away from each other, even in plain sight. The cinematography is well done. There’s so much detail, references and metaphors in every scene. You’ve got to keep an eye close on things, as it’s never what it looks like. I love all the scenes involving Demian Bichir’s Marco, especially on the Mexican side of the border. I’ve never seen an American TV show so close to the Mexican culture than this one. It reminds me so much of Mexico, me having been born and raised there. I’m actually from Coahuila, the state next door to Chihuahua, and both are very similar in terms of tradition and northern culture. In terms of scenes, I’ve got to mention the scene in which Marco visits his Captain, which shows us how deeply corrupted the Mexican police can be and how ruthless and intimidating the drug cartels are. I worked once in a newspaper for my hometown in Mexico, and I’ve got to say that the creators nailed that scene. Drug Cartels usually throw parties and invite powerful people over, bribing them with expensive and exotic things, such as the animals held in captivity. It sounds crazy, but it is how it is.

Diane Kruger was excellent as Sonya Cross. I was a little doubtful that Kruger, known for her pretty face, wouldn’t be able to embody a police detective with little personality and with Aspherger’s disease, which it can be a very tricky role to play. Instead, she proved me wrong. Her alienated actions and straight-forward comments fit perfectly on the role description. I do hope that they can show a little bit more of Sonya’s vulnerable side, just so we can get to see more of Kruger’s acting chops.

Demian Bichir was wonderful as Marco Ruiz, an ill-fated but charming police detective from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. In contrast with Kruger’s Sonya, Marco is more laid-back and relaxed in terms of criminal investigation. As a family man he has to be careful, because that vulnerability could turn him into an easy target to the cartels if he starts asking the wrong questions (or in this case, the right questions). Marco is the true representation of the Mexican population. He is full of life, charismatic and very emotional, but his inner sorrow and suffering can perfectly relate to all of those who have witnessed (or even suffered) the tragedies of the border wars. Demian Bichir knows his character very well, and there’s nobody better than him to play this role, he was born to be Marco Ruiz. Bichir, very well known in Mexico, is not just any kind of actor. He comes from a family deeply devoted to theater arts, all very skilled and recognized. Most of his career, people have recognized him as the actor who pops up in every Mexican movie and steals the scene. I saw him once on a play a long time ago, and all I can remember is his ability to be expontaneous and genuine on stage, something that I will never forget. He is not the actor who just acts in front of the camera; instead, he acts in life, embodying the character he is playing with effectiveness and style. Bichir is not just any actor, and here he shows how far his promise has gone.

Ted Levine has never disappointed me. He plays Hank Wade, Sonya’s boss and also father-figure, being one of the few who not only understands her, but also tries to change her stoical and dry attitudes. I hope he sticks for a while.

Bottom line, viewers need to be patient with this show. There has never been anything like it and talks about serious, real-time issues. It is so close to reality that it might feel slow and tedious at times, but then again, sometimes reality can get very crazy, even surreal. It raises too many questions that most of us might’ve never asked ourselves, such as: “Why does one person dies a day in El Paso, Texas, when ten die every day in Cd. Juarez, Mexico?” “What’s the difference?” “And how can we solve this issue?”

9.4/ 10
Follow me on Twitter @holtlt

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