In the few weeks since I last reviewed an episode of The Bridge, the show’s dramatically changed. It’s dropped entire story lines to focus its attention on the all-knowing, all-predicting-and-planning bad guy, whose identity has changed no less than three times in the last couple weeks. ‘Old Friends’ continues down this path, feeling less and less like the pilot every day, and more like a fractured set of narratives connected by one goofy, increasingly convoluted central plot. Is it still entertaining? Thanks to the performances of the cast, it sure is: but it’s not really an interesting show at this point, just one with a lot of blood and dramatic moments.
At this point in the season, the whole Daniel Tate/Kenneth Hastings story that’s dominating everything has become the least interesting part of the show: in ‘Old Friends’, he moves from manipulating and attempting to kill Marco’s entire family (a plan he abandons at the last minute, actually handing his family back to him in the previous episode), to focusing on Marco and his son, the perfect capper to his revenge fantasy. He lost his son, so Marco must lose his son now, too – a continuation of the disturbingly awful plot that’s been growing since Sonya figured out that Daniel Tate wasn’t really a dead man.
When The Bridge began, the murders at the bridge appeared to be something culturally significant, a way to enter two worlds separated by an open border, and how their law enforcement systems worked. Slowly, that narrative has been shed away: problem is, all that’s left is this overwrought personal drama of an angry wife who packed the kids in the car to leave Daniel Tate, only to die in a car crash when Daniel Frye’s rich friend crashed into them on his way to buy some coke (and not bothering to stop along the way). Somehow, this leads to Daniel killing women, turning off all the lights on the border, enacting an extremely difficult, multi-tiered (with multiple layers within each tier) master evil plan…. all because his wife slept with his partner.
Seriously? As we watch a broken down Sonya try to keep up with Marco (why is she the only one injured in the car crash? Daniel Tate doesn’t have a scratch on him) throughout ‘Old Friends’, it’s almost impossible to feel a lot of this is just silly. Why tie up Mexican women in the woods? Why spend six years hiding, faking a suicide and magically curing a debilitating pill addiction, to plan the world’s most elaborate revenge fantasy? “Rage”?
It’s all very nonsensical: from how he knows to find Daniel Frye outside that very AA meeting at 7am in the morning (when he hadn’t planned to go to one until late at night, while Daniel Tate was on the other side of El Paso, setting up Gus’s watery death trap), to how he’s been able to sabotage every well-laid plan by the police, this semi-bald, bearded average Joe is somehow thwarting the efforts of dozens of talented people, doing whatever he wants and going wherever he pleases, with no fear of being out in the open whatsoever. He’s the magic, all-knowing, all-seeing and hearing (wait… how did he find out that Marco was sleeping with his wife?) enemy who will eventually come undone over some dumb detail – and watching him run around playing with Marco and the El Paso PD’s heads is not the most entertaining material anymore.
And if they are characters unconnected to the main narrative, they’re shoved so far to the side they feel like afterthoughts: both Linder and Galvan are gone for this episode (and Linder barely appears in the two before it, chasing down the girl he brought to the farm because he was having sex dreams about here), and Charlotte spends her time killing someone who is working for the feds (five minutes after bitching that she got nothing but a mansion and a shitload of property from the dead husband who wanted to divorce her). I don’t understand why, but she’s on a power trip after killing the woman Ray “muff dove” on (Ray: “I don’t even know what that means!”), and somehow thinks its a good idea to keep Ray around, with the ATF sniffing around her and a freshly-minted murder on her resume. Who is this woman – how did she go from meek waitress in Florida to the sniveling, scared woman from early episodes, and then to ruthless murderer? It’s a very rapid progression, and with her only known emotional states thus far are “pissy” and “horny”, there aren’t many reasons to pay attention to her character.
The same goes for Daniel Frye: at times, it feels like Matthew Lillard is on a show that actually cares about its characters, giving us this delicate, nuanced portrayal of an asshole trying not to be an asshole anymore (think Jimmy McNulty, late s3/what probably happened off-screen season 4). Lillard’s scene in the AA meeting is fucking terrific (the best thing the show’s done in the last three episodes), but it feels so unconnected, so unimportant to the main narrative (where all our attention is right now), that it robs the moment a bit of its impact when Frye talks about life as a drunk. Yes, I suppose its wrong to say its unconnected to the main narrative: but even on a good day, the connection between the two Daniels is paper-thin (at best).
Now, this all isn’t to say that ‘Old Friends’ isn’t entertaining: Bechir, Lillard, and Kruger all continue to put in terrific work (and others, when they’re given the rare opportunity to breathe outside of plot machinations)… but with so much focus and dramatic action revolving around a silly serial killer story line (that is something totally different than it was ten weeks ago), The Bridge feels like an easily-distracted pulp drama, with an interesting world it is struggling to tell engaging stories in.
- after Sonya turned the sink off, it sounded like running water could still be heard in the distance. I thought maybe Gus was being stashed there when nobody searched the place thoroughly (huge blankets covering things and they leave them on?)… however, maybe I’m just hearing things and making unfounded connections.
- why would Tate let Marco keep his gun? Oh that’s right: he’s invincible.
- why now? why wait six years to do this?
- I don’t know how accurate of a depiction this is (please tell me if it is or isn’t in the comments if you know) but Sonya’s behavior after she gives Marco the news of her son is odd. She gets empathetic (something someone just explained to her a few episodes ago), then she’s quiet… then ten seconds later, she’s back to demanding info and “putting the pieces together”. Don’t get me wrong: the less overwrought feminine emotions we can have, the better – it’s just an abrupt shift from a scene initially focusing on her humanizing characteristics , then moving attention right back to her more traditional, rigid and antisocial ones in that particular scene.
- Frye: “12 steps can suck my dick.”
- Sonya doesn’t like bananas.
- Charlotte: “more like a curveball in my ass.” Ray: “that’s more of a slider.” I love Brian Van Holt on this show, even if his character is extremely dissonant with the show’s tone.