Last week, in a message to critics that was included with a bunch of promotional material, the newly solo showrunner of The Bridge, Elwood Reid, said the following:
In its inaugural season, my partner Meredith Stiehm and I took an existing story and format, the Danish-Swedish drama Bron/Broen, and adapted what became The Bridge for American television.
We loved the characters and story of Bron/Broen and stayed relatively true to the original story, which was centered around the hunt for a serial killer. That said, the serial killer thread was not the most interesting aspect of our adaptation. The most interesting thing to us has always been the shadow world of the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. And that will be the focus of The Bridge, this season and beyond.
This is excellent news.
Let me back up. I thought the first season of The Bridge was pretty good. The only problem I had with it was that there was a potentially great show tucked inside it that was getting drowned out by some of the surrounding noise, the prime example being the whole We Must Find The Serial Killer plot that bogged down the first half to two-thirds of the season. We’ve seen that before, a lot, and while it’s fine for a show to be that if you can find a novel angle from which to approach it (I mean, True Detective and Fargo were both We Must Find The Serial Killer shows at their heart, really), The Bridge never got there for me on that front. There were just too many mysterious phone calls and hidden car bombs and girls left to die in the desert WILL THEY GET TO HER IN TIME TUNE IN NEXT WEEK for it to sit at the grown-up table with its prestige television counterparts.
And it wasn’t just the serial killer thing, either. There was soooooo much happening over the course of the season’s 13 episode run. There was the split-body murder on the bridge, and the drug tunnel, and the thing where a former law enforcement agent faked his death and started having an affair with a guy’s wife as part of a revenge plot that was years in the making, and Matthew Lillard was on drugs, and the guy who looks like Chris Jericho was humping the one lady and performing oral sex on the other lady in the SUV, and the one kid died (the witness), and the other kid died (the son), and the lady cop had Asperger’s, and … you get the idea. A more accurate title for the show might have been The Bridge and Tunnel and Serial Killer Etc. Etc. Etc.
Even with all that said, again, I still enjoyed it, thanks mostly to the parts of the show that focused on the relationship between Juarez and El Paso, and the relationship between Marco and Sonya, the cops who were forced to work together because of it. That was a good show, and when all that the other stuff took a backseat to it instead of running around blowing kazoos and holding glowsticks and saying “LOOK AT ME,” everything started to click, especially in the last few episodes. (And just to be clear, this is not meant as a sucker punch directed at busy, flashy, action-filled shows, because I love those, too. Clearly. It’s just a little funny that a show about murky border issues had trouble itself deciding which side of the Prestige TV vs. Scandal, Et Al fence it wanted to be on.)
That’s why the message from Reid is good news. By cutting out some of the loud, extraneous stuff that’s already been done a few dozen times (for better and for worse), the show has a chance to focus on what it’s done best so far and be something different. If it can do that, Season 2 could be must-watch television.
Season 2 of The Bridge returns tonight at 10:00 p.m. on FX