The Bridge 1.11 – Take the Ride, Pay the Toll

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Previously on The Bridge:  David Tate is such an efficient multi-tasker!  Who else could spend roughly 36-hours grabbing a collision victim and spiriting him away to a far worse fate, snagging a barely-in-recovery reporter to drug and kidnap him, and then lure his nemesis into accompanying him to a mystery destination under threat of killing his son?  Oh, and Charlotte didn’t let sappy prom memories keep her from taking out an old friend, while poor Sonya ignored bunches of debilitating injuries to try and find Gus.

“You ain’t smellin’ too good there, Tim-bo,” Ray the Skeevemeister Man-Toy LaDahBingBong tells his former pal as he drags him…somewhere.  Could it be part of the tunnel?  A secret room connected to Graciela’s operations?  A random hideout in Juarez?  The important thing is, Tampa Tim’s dead-stench can now join the reeking odor of three other dead bodies seated around a table.  How did those stiffs get there?  Not a clue, my friends.

Look out, Ray, bloody footprints leading away from the corpses! “Stay cool, bro,” he mutters repeatedly, borrowing a gun from the table.   A wild killer appears!  Ray shoots him dead!  Then he puts the gun in Tim’s hand, and fires at the already-dead killer again.  “Take it easy, Tim, or don’t take it at all,” Ray advises.

the bridge 1.11 take the ride rayray wut

After Ray showed surprising initiative, what with framing his dead friend, I half expected him to start checking Tim for gold fillings.

He pauses to grab a package with a scorpion on it.  Maybe it’s drugs.  Maybe it’s a bunch of secret documents.  Maybe it’s filled with leeeeetle baby scorpions.  Whatever contents the package holds, Ray is clearly off on a new adventure in crime.

So, okay, the opening with Ray made almost no sense.  But it’s weirdly enough the most successful scene of the entire episode.  It created a bunch of tantalizing questions, featured nerve-wracking moments, and threw in a possible new direction for the Charlotte/Ray/Ranch side-story, because package! Scorpions!  What the hell is happening now?

David Tate takes an apprehensive Marco over the border to the Bridge of the Americas.  He refuses to provide info about Gus, instead droning out the horrible story of how Caleb Tate died alone and afraid.  “Right about here, in fact,” Tate announces, using his car to block lanes of traffic.  OF COURSE, he’s strapped a live bomb to his torso.

the bridge 1.11 take the ride marco tate

Oh right, a bomb. Tate would have pulled a better shocker if he had flower crowns strapped to his chest.

Marco shouts for everyone on the scene to run like hell. Tate presses a switch, but doesn’t explode: instead, he stages a light-show on the bridge before opening the car’s trunk to reveal: oh, you poor bastard, Daniel Frye!

Back at the El Paso station, Hank presses Sonya to reveal she lied about Marco going to meet Tate.  As she bends stiffly to take her pain pills, she’s reminded of the sound of the pipes at Walter Chambers’ house, and thank you, I KNEW that entire scene couldn’t have been only a misdirect.  Even though the police have already searched the house, she has to return there and see if she can find anything leading to Gus.

Tim Cooper arrives with the news that Tate has Marco on the Bridge with a bomb.  “I need a gun,” Sonya tells Cooper when he’s told to accompany her back to the house.  “I have several,” he deadpans.  You know what?  If we’re lucky enough to get a second season, let’s have more Tim Cooper, please!  Hank gets ready to head to the bridge, telling a lurking Adriana she’ll only be in the way though she wants to see Frye and cover the story.  “Please!” she implores him.  “Aww,  hell,” he says gruffly.  I LOVE YOU, HANK!

Let’s have a shot of Gus in his glo-stick lit container prison so we can see how close to death he is.

the bridge 1.11 take the ride gus in tank

Water rising?  Check.  Muffled sobs and yells?  Check-a-rooni.  When I saw this, I wanted to feel the tension, wanted to fear for Gus’s life.  But with Sonya cottoning on to clues so early on in the episode, it was tough to muster the worry or engagement.

At the bridge, Tate goads Frye into revealing to Marco exactly what role he played in all of this.  We already know this bit (maybe it should have been revealed here for serious drama?), so it’s far more interesting when we switch to Hank arriving in his truck and handing out orders.  “There is no good outcome here,” Hank tells Adriana grimly when he realizes Tate’s activated “the dead-man’s switch” on the bomb.

Remember how Tate seemed pleased Marco had brought a gun?  “Now point it at him,” he instructs, gesturing at Daniel Frye.  This doesn’t seem particularly shocking to me — why else haul Frye onto the scene, if not to use him against Marco, who is after all Tate’s main target?  But meanwhile there’s an absolutely lovely background moment where we hear Adriana whisper, “Daniel!” even as Hank wrenches himself back from calling out to Marco.

It’s like the action over at Gus’s container.  I’m totally game to be scared!  But the scene isn’t played out in a compelling way.  We’ve all seen those water-levels-rising sequences before, and this take unfortunately doesn’t breathe new life into the scenario.  Now, here on the bridge, I absolutely want to feel riveted as I watch Tate and Frye and Marco.  But Tate’s mocking and calm speeches reiterating points we already know feel like we’re stretching the moment out before the climax at the end, making the drama way too thin on the ground.

Over at Chambers’ house, Sonya and Cooper skip turning on the lights so we can have atmospheric flashlight-searching.  Sonya remembers seeing the start of a pipe system at the sink earlier; the police follow it at her lead all over the house until they reach the garage.

At the bridge, Tate lays the scenario out explicitly: if Marco kills Frye, Gus lives.  Though Marco chokes out, “I’m not going to do that,” Tate goads him on.  And honestly, we don’t need the shots of diminishing space left for poor Gus to breathe; Tate’s done nothing to make us think he’ll honor any kind of bargain between himself and Marco.  But Marco, beleaguered and distraught, doesn’t realize this.  “I’m sorry,” he says brokenly as he raises the gun to shoot Frye.

the bridge 1.11 take the ride marco gun 02

Is that a gun I see before me? Yes, Marco, it is.

Though Tate tries to feed Marco’s anger by holding up Frye as just the sort of white American who helps ruin Juarez, Marco yells, “You’re stalling!”  Guys, you know I love this show, but the episode feels like it’s stalling as well.  Demian Bichir gamely does the best he can with repetitive actions and dialogue.  Marco can’t shoot Frye!  He must shoot him for Gus’s sake.  Against his will, he’ll do it!  He won’t!

Finally Marco roars out, “I’m not like you,” and for some unknown reason, tosses his firearm over to the crazy calm serial killer covered in Semtex.  “You’re not saving anyone,” Tate comments, barely blinking before he shoots Daniel Frye, sending him careening off the bridge as Adriana yells out his name.

“Plaster,” Sonya points out at the dust behind the freezer in the garage.  “Sssh,” she murmurs, finger to her lips and listening for the sound of water.  After the head-scratching choice to feature a pipe-following sequence (are pipes supposed to be wildly enthralling?  Because protip: THEY’RE NOT), Diane Kruger brings the tension back in its human element.  We know what’s at stake for her, and it’s part of the new person Sonya has become over the course of this season: not just saving a victim, not only catching out a killer, but pushing herself to the brink of pain and exhaustion to save Marco’s son and honor her commitment to her partner.

Back at the bridge, the standoff is stalled, despite Daniel Frye’s recent dramatic exit.  With the roundabout just re-covering familiar ground (Marco and Hank again tell the snipers not to shoot; Tate again reminds us if he goes boom, Marco will never find Gus) all my thoughts are on freaking Daniel Frye.  I need him to live and recover, and for him and Adriana to fight crime together!  God knows this scene wasn’t a proper Daniel Frye scene at all — did he get more than two or three words of dialogue?  Cripes, a mouthy jerk like Frye should have had oodles of aggressive and incendiary things to say here!  It would have added considerably to poor Marco’s broken and repeated phrases.

Back at Chambers’ house, Cooper breaks down the wall so Sonya can rush to the water tank.  Cooper screws open the top, and in one of the best shots of the episode, our point-of-view switches to look out of the green-lit water, as though we’re already drowned.  “Gus!” Sonya shouts, muffled through the water barrier, and thrusts her hand inside the container/toward the camera to reach for the boy she’s come to save.

Okay.  OKAY!  Here is the switch at last to the fantastic tension we know this series for!  The next scene shows Sonya staggering into a patrol car and driving away.  Obviously she’s headed to the bridge to stop Marco, but what the hell has happened to Gus?  Everything in the episode has led us to think — and I would say almost placidly so — that Gus will be saved at the last minute.  But Sonya’s game face reveals nothing but her determination to hurry to the next crisis.  Suddenly we’re unmoored and re-engaged with the drama again.

“Your appetites ruin everything,” Tate scornfully tells Marco, revealing he knows about Marco’s most recent affair.  Marco again pleads to know where Gus is, and AT LAST Tate changes the script, saying, “He’s in a cold, dark place,” (just like Tate’s son Caleb when he died) and dares Marco to shoot him.  Look, I found Marco’s dialogue unimaginative here, but you know what?  Demian Bichir does his damnedest to make it good, and any dramatic credit this scene gains is all due to his stellar acting.

Sonya arrives, and while everyone else holds their positions, she immediately runs to Marco and Tate, calling, “I gotta stop him!” to Hank.  And it’s not protocol, it’s not safe, but she’s freaking charging in with her debilitating injuries, ready to do whatever is possible to salvage this untenable situation.  Tate lashes out, claiming, “Gus is dead, Marco!” even as Sonya, barely able to speak, insists Gus is alive.  “Don’t kill him, Marco, that’s what he wants you to do,” she pleads.

Marco, unsure who to believe, repeatedly asks her if Gus is alive.  “Yes!” she shouts in answer, but we’ve just seen in these last two eps that Sonya might lie if she thinks she can help someone.  Her main goal here is to stop Marco, not to deliver the truth.  Despite her seemingly-assured affirmations, Sonya (through Kruger’s fantastic subtle cues and reactions) somehow through repetition brings us to the horrifying realization that Gus probably didn’t make it.

As soon as Marco realizes his son must be dead, he takes aim at Tate.  Sonya, with her freaking mangled arm and seeping wounds, clips Marco’s shoulder, shoots Tate’s leg, and derails the entire situation.  THIS, this was amazing drama, and it’s fascinating and a little frustrating that this episode couldn’t pull off that level of heightened tension all the way through it.  As Hank apprehends Tate, he grins at Marco.  Marco sobs, devastated, while Sonya holds him, herself looking overcome and undone by what’s just happened.

the bridge 1.11 take the ride sonya holds marco

Sonya and Marco in the devastation.

Back at El Paso CAP, police and detectives navigate the evidence while Sonya sits completely still in her chair.  You know, every other scene, Sonya’s worn some version of a white shirt, but here she’s wearing black, though her dazed state of mourning is so evident we don’t really need the signal.

“Marco would have killed Tate,” Sonya tells Hank as he tries to persuade her to go to the hospital.  “Yes, he would, and you prevented that.”  For the first time in an age, Sonya smiles.  It’s a fabulous moment, so clearly illuminating Sonya’s investment in Marco rather than her more habitual adherence to rules and legalities.  But what should she say to Marco now?  “Just go see him,” Hank advises.  “He could use a friend right now.”  “A friend,” Sonya repeats, and Kruger really delivers the sense that this is just fully dawning on Sonya now.

At the hospital, Sonya charges in to tell Marco she’s brought him clothes for when he’s released.  “I don’t want you here, Sonya,” he says heavily, and oh.  Oh.  MY HEART!  Though he keeps ordering her out, she insists on talking until he listens, because they’re friends.

the bridge 1.11 take the ride marco sonya hospital

*gross sobbing*

“I tried my best to save Gus,” she rushes out, and did what she had to do to stop him from shooting Tate.  Gah, poor kid!  “Because that’s what he wanted, and you’re not that person,” she says with assurance when he demands why.

“I am that person,” Marco insists.  “We’re not friends, Sonya.  We were partners, and that’s over.”  Hi, rip my heart IN TWO, why don’t you, Marco?  He repeats he doesn’t want to see her, wants to be alone, and though she keeps saying, “Okay,” in a shell-shocked voice, she doesn’t move.  “Go, just go,” he finally shouts.  Cripes, they’re both completely broken at this point, and now with Marco rejecting Sonya, they don’t even have each other.  She leaves and he covers his eyes with his arm, weeping.

Oh my god.  DANIEL FRYE IS ALIVE?  Apparently he’s totally battered with “massive internal injury, brain, and spine trauma.”  But he’s alive.  After hearing the news, Adriana pushes her way to see him (clearly Frye wouldn’t have any friends or family who would be on hand) and takes his hand.  These two!  It’s amazing how their relationship has developed.  God, I hope we get a chance to see not only what will become of Daniel Frye, but how Adriana and he will deal with what promises to be a horrendously difficult recovery together.

Marco limps down a hallway in the basement of the hospital.  It’s one of the finest dramatic showings for Demian Bichir these past few episodes as Marco arrives at the morgue to say goodbye to his son.  When the attendant leaves him alone with Gus, toe-tagged on a metal tray, Marco silently strokes his son’s hair.  He bends down, mashing his cheek against Gus’s forehead, and hugs him desperately.  Then, with a one hand touching Gus’s still chest, and one hand on his own aching heart, Marco turns and walks away.

We have two episodes left to this season, and still no news as to whether FX/FOX will renew The Bridge.  Whatever happens, I hope we’ll see The Bridge return to some of the larger social issues that marked the outset of the season.  For a show that began with two dead female bodies, one Caucasian, one Mexican, and focused initially on all the lost girls and women threatened and sometimes destroyed in both El Paso and Juarez, we find ourselves in an overtly masculine and race-irrelevant place in the narrative right now.  Here’s hoping the final two episodes will stay clear of the obsessive focus on Marco and Tate’s similarities and fathers to their sons, (which, rich a subject as it might be, really failed to deliver the drama in this ep) and return to the matters of how gender and race and nationality unfairly determine what kind of world the characters find themselves in on either side of The Bridge.