There have been a glut of quality crime dramas over the last few years, inspired mainly by The Killing (see also, The Fall, The Following, Broadchurch, and the virtually indistinguishable Copper and Ripper Street among others), so much so that around the middle of last summer, murder fatigue — as Matt Zoller Seitz called it — had completely set in. It’s perhaps understandable, then, why some of you may have overlooked last summer’s excellent FX series, The Bridge, because it seemed like just another entry into the crime drama genre.
With a year’s separation, however, The Bridge — based on a Danish/Swedish series — has really risen to be the best among that crowd. It is dark, atmospheric, and complicated, and more than any of those other crime dramas, it’s driven as much by its characters as by the mystery at the heart of the show. Although the first season took a few episodes to really find its footing, once it did, each week it became a better, more gripping, and more hypnotic, anchored by really powerful performances from Demian Bichir, Diane Kruger, Ted Levine, and surprisingly, Matthew Lillard.
The Bridge pairs two detectives — one from Mexico, and one from America (she also has Aspergers) — who investigated a crime that took place on both sides of the border (a dead body is found with one half on each side of the border), and it does a really remarkable job of blending the politics and corruption of the Mexican police force into the search for a serial killer, who is attempting to make a political statement with his killings.
There are some other subplots that work the illegal immigration and the media angles, and it all blends in a way similar to The Wire: It has a very novelistic feel. By the end of the series, it will f**ck you up on at least a couple of occasions. It is dark, buoyed by some Emmy-worthy performances, great writing, and the kind of brilliant cinematography you can’t help but notice.
The Bridge is the show that we wanted The Killing to be, and if you need a good summer series, you can’t do much better. It begins airing on Hulu today. The second season kicks off on FX on June 24th.