The Bridge (FX): Are We Ready To Dive Into Another Serial Killer Tale?

FX TheBridge Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir

The Killing. Dexter. Hannibal. The Following. The Fall.

The current television landscape almost has enough shows about serial killers to start a homicidal baseball team. Now The Bridge has entered into the fray with its own take on the madness that drives serial killers to kill. But do we really want to watch another story where the primary focus is on brutal violence, often perpetrated against women? From the shows above, I watch and am admittedly addicted to two of them (The Killing and Dexter) and I have intentions on catching up on two more (Hannibal and The Fall), but I often find that all of the death, violence and darkness can be overwhelming. That’s usually when I watch Bunheads‘ reruns. But while The Bridge is starting with a familiar theme, the violent death of two women–one an American judge focused on anti-immigration laws and the other a young woman from Juárez whose death went unsolved a year before– what sets the series apart, and makes it worth our time, is its timeliness and strong sense of place.

In the pilot, the cultural divide between Juárez and El Paso was drawn with a confidence and clearness that I found both admirable and instantly enticing. Mexico/U.S. border politics are a hot button issue (which, now would be a good time to remind everyone to focus on the show and check real life politics at the door), one that for those of us who don’t live near the border are completely abstract. The Bridge opens up this world and never shies away from displaying the corruption on both sides. In Juárez, we have an honest cop in Ruiz, who is working within an office where his chief is taking money from cartels. In America, we have a pampered wife with a staff of immigrant workers caring for a vast estate and a dead husband with a secret room that no doubt contains something she’ll wish she could unsee. Meanwhile, there’s Steven Linder, straddling both sides of the line and framed here as our killer as he coldly captures a woman like some sort of calm Anton Chigurh figure, but we all know the story is bigger than one man.

As the message on reporter Daniel Frye’s aborted car bomb conveyed, this a killer with a political agenda:

“Why is one dead white woman more important than so many just across the bridge? How long can El Paso look away?”

But The Bridge constantly reminds us, from the small encounter between Ruiz and his son to Sonya’s awkward interview with the dead judge’s husband, that the political is always personal. Here we have a series that is opening a door to a much larger world. The case is about a serial killer. The series is about justice, injustice, cultural clashes and an oddball pair of partners: one genuine and open, the other a brilliant cop when it comes to the mechanics of a case, but who has difficulties connecting on an emotional level.

It’s these layers and this fascinating locale that help me look past the fact that this is yet another story about women being victimized because at least here, I know that just like on The Killing (which is, like The Bridge, based on a Swedish drama), these women and their deaths matter to the series. They’re not merely pieces of a puzzle; the injustice of their deaths will drive Ruiz, and as we’ve gotten hints that Sonya’s sister’s death haunts her, I suspect deep down Sonya’s motivations will line up with her reluctant partner’s. While there are more than enough procedurals that treat murder as nothing more than mysteries to be solved, there are precious few dramas that dive deeper, that make us feel the weight of not only the deaths, but of the cultural climate we inhabit. In one episode, The Bridge has positioned itself to do just that, and for now, I’m ready to go on this journey with Sonya and Ruiz even as it leads into yet another television landscape plagued by darkness.

What did you think of The Bridge pilot? Are you suffering from TV serial killer fatigue? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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