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‘The Bridge’: Timely, Original, Confusing and Not for Kids

As far as concepts go, FX’s “The Bridge” managed to snag something original. (Well, except that it’s yet another “loosely based” idea stolen from across the pond. Only this one’s imported from Scandinavia.) The show focuses on two detectives working opposite sides of the Mexican-American border on an ever-more-complicated murder case.

And obviously, it could not be more timely. With the topic of immigration on the forefront of the American mindset, it’s fascinating to get a personalized window into the world of the border.

The mismatched-buddy-cop trope is well worn, but this show manages to breathe some new life into it. Demian Bichir brings a certain depth to Mexican Det. Marco Ruiz, a good-hearted cop who tries to do the right thing in a complex world. Diane Kruger (“I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence!”) plays his American counterpart, El Paso Detective Sonya Cross, who is significantly more prickly.

According to the show’s website the character has Asperger Syndrome, but I haven’t seen too many symptoms up to this point, so maybe it’s something they’re saving for later? The two predictably have clashing styles of solving cases, i.e., while Cross pushes a young witness of a brutal murder to describe the killer, Ruiz offers her a cigarette and kind words.

Unlike most buddy-cop shows, an overarching story thread holds this one together, instead of 60-minute gift-wrapped packages. While an interesting direction to take, it’s frankly confusing as heck, even for someone who’s been following the show from the beginning. Subplot upon subplot get slathered on like so much hot sauce, each with its own set of characters, and I’m at a loss as to which count for the overarching storyline and which are just a side story.

Maybe its part of the show’s brilliance, and everything will all be made clear as the season goes on, but right now, it’s less than helpful. Every scene sends me running to the internet to figure out who that guy is, or what on earth those two are talking about. In addition, vast portions of key dialogue are in subtitled Spanish, lending authenticity to the show but requiring rapt attention to the television set if you want to know what’s going on.

All in all though, I’ll be sticking it out with this one for a while, seeing where they take it. But I don’t have kids in the house. Make no mistake, though. FX is known for its gritty dramas (Hello “Sons of Anarchy”) and when they warn the show is for “mature audiences,” they mean it.

Today’s headlines about the border are ugly, with cartel wars, brutal murders and mutilations, and trafficking, both in drugs and humans—and “The Bridge” features it all. The camera barely blinks through grisly deaths (and their aftermaths), naked bodies (both dead and alive), and just about everything else, including a fistfight between two men in tighty-whities that heavily features a hot iron (yes, the kind you use to get wrinkles out of your clothes).