"The Bridge," FX's New Crime Drama, Peers Into the Abyss With a Murder Investigation

"The Bridge," FX's New Crime Drama, Peers Into the Abyss With a Murder Investigation

From then on, the killings of women began to be counted. But it's likely that there had been other deaths before. The name of the first victim was Esperanza Gómez Saldaña and she was thirteen. Maybe for the sake of convenience, maybe becase she was the first to be killed in 1993, she heads the list. Although surely there were other girls and women who died in 1992. Other girls and women who didn't make it onto the list or were never found, who were buried in unmarked graves in the desert or whose ashes were scattered in the middle of the night, when not even the person scattering them knew where he was, what place he had come to.

That's Chilean author Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) writing about the crimes in Santa Teresa, his fictional depiction of Mexico's Ciudad Juárez, in his epic novel 2666.

FX's new crime drama, The Bridge, ditches the artifice of an imagined city and sets the action in Juárez and El Paso, Texas, the closest major American border town. In the opening minutes, a woman's body is found stretched across the border between the US and Mexico. Homicide detectives from both countries arrive on the scene, our American protagonist (Inglourious Basterds co-star Diane Kruger) with gringo-white iPhone cables snaking up and into her ears, and our Mexican protagonist (Oscar nominee Demián Bichir) with a healthy moustache and gentle disposition. Can these Perfect Strangers work together to solve what turns out to be a brutal and calculated double homicide connected to the large web of crimes occurring in Juárez?

That's the cynical perspective on The Bridge, an adaptation of a successful Danish/Swedish TV series. The hopeful one? Finally, we have something millions of Americans will take in that deals with the killings in Juárez, where hundreds of women have dissappeared or been murdered since the early '90s.

Like the modernists before him locating the First World War as the event from which all contemporary chaos springs, Bolaño uses the unsolved crimes of Juárez to let out a long howl about the terrifying state of things in 2666. His novel, a sprawling work about art, entropy, and death, offers no closure. For nearly 300 pages in the almost 1,000-page work, he flatly describes the murders of multitudes, and the corruption that allows these atrocities to continue. Nestled within this ordeal, entitled "The Part About the Crimes," there is a section comprised entirely of jokes about women. 2666 is, among other things, about the culture of misogyny that allows this violence to continue, rape culture before the phrase was commonplace on the Internet and in newspapers. All of the novel's events and characters are eventually linked to Santa Teresa, Bolaño's Juárez. It becomes a black hole threatening to swallow the world. You feel its pull, and Bolaño convinces you there's no escape. Each of the novel's five parts conclude there. All roads lead to Santa Teresa.

The Bridge, in its first episode, is only taking a stroll around the abyss. Shots between scenes capture the traffic around the border, these rivers of red brake lights like circulating blood in veins. The body our unlikely pair of detectives find, in the first "oh shit" moment of the night, turns out to be two bodies. When the crime scene team prepares to move it, the corpse comes apart at the waist in a gaudy overhead shot that reinfoces the disconnect between the two nations. The upper half of the body belonged to a conservative American judge. The legs belonged to one of Juárez's lost girls. 

At some point in the racing through the night to police HQ and autopsy tables that is the opener, you notice the horse on Det. Sonya Cross' (Kruger) jacket. Horses have been shorthand since the fifth grade for "weirdo girl," only Kruger's character is a woman who likely has some kind of mild autism. This a most extreme supercop we're dealing with, one who has to be reminded to make eye contact with other humans. Let's hope Kruger starts to rein in her distracting performance, less bugging of the eyes and what not, as the season progresses.

You should stick around to see. The other threads picked up in the premiere create suspense: a wealthy widow with connections to Mexico whose recently deceased husband has been hiding something in the basement of their ranch; a shady white man with aggressive sideburns who's abducted a Mexican woman and shuttled her across the border in the trunk of his Impala; a pair of reporters at the border, one of whom's car was used to deposit the body in the opening. Let's see what the supercop and her weary new partner can get into. Let's see how close to hell the show is prepared to take us.

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Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano) 

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