A review of tonight's “The Bridge” coming up just as soon as my beard affords me special powers…
“There will always be blood. You can't change that.” -Eleanor
These late-season episodes have done an excellent job of pulling the many sprawling plot threads together, and “Beholder” goes a step further by reminding us how so many of the characters are tied to one another through tragic pasts that have left them damaged and isolated enough to be on their current violent and/or self-destructive paths.
We know that Sonya's life was inexorably changed by her sister's murder, and here we find out that the homeless woman she visited a few episodes ago is her mother. It's unclear exactly when and how Mama Cross' life spiraled out of control, but when Sonya sits opposite Eleanor, we are reminded not only the ways in which they were abandoned and/or irreparably harmed by parents, but the ways their isolation has turned each of them into adults with very rigid and specific moral codes that are so wildly different from one another.
In one of the most aesthetically beautiful scenes the show has ever given us, Linder and Eva finally consummate a relationship he's been hoping for almost from the moment he brought her across the border. But even with the desert halo wrapped around Eva as she shaves Linder(*) and then sleeps with him, it's not presented as a Happily Ever After. She's a kidnapping and rape victim who cries after sex, and while his demons have mostly been alluded to, one has to imagine how many of them it would take to turn him into the strange individual we've been watching for the past two seasons.
(*) Thomas M. Wright is not a freakish-looking individual in real life, and for a few moments after Eva shaves him, his face and body are relaxed enough that you can see how much of Linder's odd appearance simply comes from the rigid, hunched posture Wright gives the character.
Marco travels back to his old childhood haunt, in search of Fausto. Though his old friend Cuco tries to talk him out of this suicide mission, we know that what Marco went through in season 1 has left him as a man with nothing to lose – the only kind of man crazy enough to attempt to arrest Fausto Galvan. And though Fausto has for the most part been presented as a well-adjusted kingpin, there's also that marvelously tense and sad sequence where he crashes the quinceañera and asks the terrified father to pretend for the night that he doesn't know whom this uninvited guest is. He's a monster, but one who has had almost everything taken away from him, and who's aware of how close he is to the end of things. He is not a sympathetic character in any way, but the show understands him well enough to know that he would be genuinely hurt by the lack of invitation, even as he has no business being there.
As all the pieces move into place for the conclusion of the season – including Alex Buckley springing Eleanor from custody, and Linder plotting his final revenge on Eva's attackers by stalking Captain Robles – “The Bridge” gets bolder in its thematic talk of the differences between the U.S. and Mexico, especially in that great scene between Marco and the state prosecutor, who argues for the advantages of his country's openly corrupt system over the corruption disguised as patriotism that he sees on our side of the border. Both the prosecutor and Eleanor acknowledge that what Sonya sees as a war is just one minor skirmish in a much bigger war that will go on long after all these players leave it, and long after this TV show has ceased chronicling it.
Like Marco Ruiz, “The Bridge” has little to lose at this point. The ratings aren't good, the reputation of season 1 may be overshadowing the good of season 2, and it's unclear if FX has any interest in renewal. But if it's going down, it's going down swinging.
Some other thoughts:
* The series has still never had any characters utter the word “Asperger's,” but the DEA agent – played by the ubiquitous Adam Arkin – tells Sonya “there's a diagnosis in your file.” I imagine that's the closest the writers will ever come to that, though it's interesting that he also asks her about medication. There's no medicine to actually treat autism, even the mild form Sonya has, but people on the autism spectrum often have associated symptoms (inattention, impulsivity, anxiety, anger issues) that can be treated with meds. Sonya has difficulty with social interaction, but she doesn't appear to have the kinds of symptoms that could be mitigated with pills.
* Given her usual bluntness, I'm surprised Sonya doesn't come right out and tell her mother something like, “Please leave town because a homicidal cartel fixer wants to hurt me and knows who you are.”
* Just as the quinceañera scene was both scary and sad, so was the hostage video scene both scary and funny. There's definitely a black comic version of this show that just focuses on Obregon matter-of-factly carrying out various heinous activities for Fausto.
* Got a big laugh out of Frye simply breaking the lock to Joe's garage to get the files once he knew where they were. This story's at a stage where he no longer has the patience for niceties. Also interesting – and sad – to see Adriana choosing the investigation over Lucy. She and Frye are nothing alike in most ways, but he has definitely infected her with his obsession with chasing the story to the end, no matter the cost.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org