THE BRIDGE Series Premiere Review

The Bridge

The plot-loaded 90 minute pilot of THE BRIDGE was, for the most part, a plodding first episode lacking any character development save its protagonist Frank Leo (Aaron Douglas.) But this Canadian cop drama is good. Actually, it has the potential to be great but it suffers from writing that can best be diagnosed as bipolar and a sprawling mess of characters and plotlines. The latter two may be resolved by the next episode, since the characters have been introduced (and forgotten, but introduced all the same) and the primary storyline of rooting out every corrupt cop from the police chiefs to the rookies established.

Police officer Frank Leo is a man of integrity. He works in the Bridge Division of the Toronto police force, protecting the wealthy suburbs on one side of the bridge and the projects on the other. The son of a widowed cop, he has morals and loyalties. When an old lover, Rose, asks him to sleep with her, he refuses as she is married. When a fellow officer is kicked out of his house and found sleeping in his car, he gathers the other officers and they get the guy a hotel room. This is Frank Leo’s show and as a character he’s compelling enough to lead but there was a reason Aaron Douglas was a supporting character in Battlestar Galactica. He lacks the intensity and charm and charisma that make performances by Cranston, Baker and Hamm so memorable. It’s not that he’s bad. It’s just that I can think of a dozen other actors who could do just as good, if not better, a job than Douglas. Judging from the pilot he does not yet own the role, most evident in the poorly written, acted and frankly preposterous scene where his character tries to blackmail a priest. I’m not against blackmailing anyone, be they priests, rabbis, ministers or my fourth grade teacher. I’m just against scenes that suck.

There is hope. The show’s writing can be good. Such as the scene in which Frank goes down to his regular pub where his ex-lover Rose is lying on the bathroom floor, a gun to her head. The writers make you like Frank. None of the clichéd ‘we’ll get through this, I forgive you’ crap. He just takes the gun from her and tells her to go home. When she confesses that she set him up, the writers add a harsh yet brilliant layer of depth to the Frank Leo character. He leaves the loaded gun beside Rose and says: “But it’s okay to ruin mine, huh? You know what, go ahead, shoot yourself, you’re dead to me.”
But then there are lines that are so cringe-worthy you will get whiplash (unless that did it for you.) Lines like this: “Sometimes I think the world is held together by nothing but God’s tears.” Screen fades to black. Jesus weeps. Neck brace secured.

The director of the pilot, John Fawcett, must be applauded for the interrogation scene between the officers and Internal Affairs. The camera circles from the interrogators smarmily accusing the cops to the cops pertly deflecting their accusations. Then a mole is shrewdly and shockingly revealed. But Fawcett nullifies any credit he may had earned with that scene of great direction with an eye-rolling montage: when Frank’s actions have so infuriated the top tiers of the police that they wiretap the Leos’ house, the use of Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma creates an atmosphere of such aural drama that the visuals of men pressing little pen-cap shaped gizmos inside lampshades and behind picture frames is not only jarringly anticlimactic: It’s also lame. I mean, seriously, the music, more dramatic than the pipe organs used in The Godfather‘s baptism scene, just bugged me to no end. Pun fully intended.

Overall, a good show trying and certainly able to be a great show. It could do with taking itself less seriously, developing its minor (promising) characters and hiring writers with an ear for dialogue. The 90 minute pilot was not well done though the final 20 minutes were so good that they almost made up for the chaos that was trying to differentiate one brunette from the other, one bald man from the other (seriously what is up with the look-alike casting?) Plus, any show that includes the high speed pursuit of a hobo-killing granny is fine by me.