In my review of “The Bridge’s” pilot episode, I referenced HBO’s crime/epic “The Wire” in relation to the tricky balance of social commentary this show is trying to pull off. I didn’t make the reference because I think “The Bridge” is on its level, but because it’s a show one can easily tell its writers adore. In an interview with Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall, “The Bridge’s” co-creator Meredith Stiehm referenced the HBO critical darling saying “And we’re both just crazy about “The Wire.” And so our model in our minds of this is the way “The Wire” became about so many things in the city. It wasn’t just a cop show.”
Stiehm and the rest of the writing staff’s hearts are in the right place, I mean is there a better show to take inspiration from (I think not)? That said, one of the problems “The Bridge” has (that “The Wire” never did) is starting from the gate with too many storylines. Whereas “The Wire’s” first season had a simple hook (cops get wiretap on crooks) made complex through exquisite writing, “The Bridge” is struggling with many disparate, unconnected (at the moment) storylines that are too formulaic and simplistically told. It’s a problem that can be mended as the series moves forward, and “Calaca” is mostly a step in the right direction.
The episode started off with everyone’s favorite wealthy widow Charlotte Millright (Annabeth Gish) finding out her husband smuggled immigrants using his hidden tunnel. She’s then given money by Monty P. Flagman, a tall southern gentleman wearing a cowboy hat (Anyone else get a Twin Peaks vibe from him?) who’s telling little, but implying something insidious. Millright’s story is giving off a very Catherine Zeta-Jones ala “Traffic” vibe, but so far there hasn’t been too much to be interested about. I’m willing to give her storyline the benefit of the doubt, but the great shows make set-up so engaging it doesn’t feel like set-up, something this narrative branch definitely isn’t pulling off. Were then thrown into the journey of a group of Mexicans trying to get across the border, a storyline that came from nowhere but was very intriguing. From this group we meet a determined young woman, unnamed as of now, who tries her best to help those around her. Ultimately, she fails helping them as the desperation for something to drink gets the best of them. We found out later that the killer from the pilot connects to whoever poisoned the water and killed nine of the travelers, which brings us to our lead detectives.
Even though TV shows are usually labeled as either dramas or comedies, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, most great TV dramas are littered with moments of comedic brilliance. They somewhat need to be given how much stress; anxiety, and pain are characters go through. So I was relieved to see “The Bridge’s” comedic scenes work as well as they did. Sonya Cross’s inelegant sexcapades with a random guy she picked up from a bar were both insightful to her character and just pretty funny. The scenes also made her character more relatable, I mean who hasn’t picked up their Ipad after some good anonymous sex to examine some chopped up dead bodies. It’s the perfect end to a romantic evening. I also enjoyed the scene that followed with Det. Marco Ruiz and his wife in bed. While I’m still holding off judgment on Diane Kruger’s portrayal of Det. Cross (given what I mentioned in my review last week about her character), Demián Bichir is giving a great understated performance as Ruiz. When his wife tells him she’s pregnant, he gives off this great smile that conveys many things: the first being how can we afford it, the second being how the hell did this happen, I just had a vasectomy. Like Sonya’s sexcapade, it’s a very funny character moment.
In the pilot, we met the character Steven Linder (Thomas M. Wright), a loner who likes to terrorize women. “Calaca” introduces us to an unnamed young man who like Det. Ruiz is looking for a young girl. Unlike Ruiz, this character has no boundaries and is probably a psychopath. The scene where we see him strangle a woman is eerily similar to how we meet Anton Chigurh in “No Country For Old Men.” So far both of these stories are enticing, but nothing too noteworthy as of yet.
The last important storyline, and one that melded into Sonya and Marco’s, followed alcoholic newspaper reporter Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and co-worker Adrianna Perez (or woman whose father conveniently was a navigator or something else equally absurd) who get a phone call containing a code that leads them to the people who died trying to get across the border. Enter Det. Cross and Ruiz who find the connection that ties the first murders and these: a bead?
– Did not know that Sonya’s supervisor, Lieutenant Hank Wade, was played by Ted Levine aka Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs.”
– Best Line of “Calaca” goes to Daniel Frye “Oh, awe, for the record officer, you’re bedside manner sucks dog balls.” I mainly love this line because of Matthew Lillard’s delivery.
– Officer Cooper, aka southern Ron Swanson, is busying fighting the good fight in the war between good and bad bacteria.
– The Deputy Sheriff may say he’s gunning for that task force, but by the way he staked that coyote up I would say he’s auditioning for NBC’s “Hannibal.
– Did anyone else laugh hysterically when Widow Millright dumped the three bean salad all over Monty P. Flagman’s things? I can just picture her making the salad, thinking “Oh this will be sweet, wait till he gets a taste of this spite salad.” If it was supposed to be an empowering moment it didn’t play.
– Finally, I didn’t give a score to the pilot so here’s my score for both: “Pilot” = C / “Calaca” = C+
Feel free to comment and give me your thoughts on “Calaca” and/or “The Bridge” in general.