Season premiere review: ‘The Bridge’ – ‘Yankee’

A review of “The Bridge” season 2 premiere coming up just as soon as I defend my Rush t-shirt…

In my advance review of the season, I noted my relief that “The Bridge” had moved beyond the silly serial killer plot that consumed so much of season 1, while ultimately feeling like the series hadn't improved significantly overall. Through the five episodes I've seen, there are fewer lows, but also not quite as many highs. The new story arc, and the introduction of so many significant characters keeps things moving at a nice clip, but I found myself missing some of the lingering weirdness that season 1 seemed to have more time for.

We do get some of that vintage strangeness at the open and close of “Yankee,” though. The episode begins with everyone's favorite business card-wielding drug lawyer Monte P. Flagman showing up at a housing development in the desert that's the sight of a massacre – and Monte's been at this game long enough to simply hike up his pants when he enters a room with blood-soaked floors – and ends with the apparent perpetrator of that massacre, cartel fixer Eleanor Nacht (Franka Potente) naked in a truck stop, washing away blood and asking a pair of teen boys for help. Those are some creepy scenes with effectively haunting imagery (as we also get in the penultimate scene, with Eleanor's dead associate trapped in the hybrid car as it drives itself in a circle), and definitely do a nice job of setting the tone for the new season.

What we get in between is largely expositional. Even with several main characters like Steven Linder and Charlotte and Ray sitting this episode out, we still have to catch up on how Marco is doing since Gus's murder and the end of his marriage (unsurprisingly, he's not doing well at all), move onto this new phase of Sonya's backstory as she hooks up with the brother of her sister's killer, check in with Frye and Adriana as they continue their investigation into the money laundering, and get to know some of the new characters like Eleanor (who very clearly doesn't like to be touched, or ignored), Joe from the DEA(*), Mexican prosecutor Abelardo, Jim Dobbs' brother Jack, and more. 

(*) Played by Abraham Benrubi, aka Jerry from “ER” and Kubiak from “Parker Lewis Can't Lose.” Obscure casting footnote: Benrubi once starred in the original pilot for the road trip drama “Going to California,” but when the WB passed on it and Showtime picked it up, he was replaced by Brad Henke – who's also in this episode as the ailing Jim Dobbs. It's a small world, even for very tall actors, though I wouldn't expect the two characters to share a scene, given their respective circumstances.

Marco's end of things is something the show has no choice but to deal with – no man could go through all that he did in season 1 and not come out of it a wreck – even as it tries to move beyond the David Tate shenanigans. While he's down in Mexico moping, drinking and being shot at by his fellow cops, Sonya has her own family tragedy to grapple with again with the news that Jim Dobbs is dying. I really liked the scene where Jack lays out all the ways his family suffered as a result of Jim's crimes, all while Sonya is stimming and trying to remain calm; there are moments where the show lets Sonya veer too close towards becoming Sheldon Cooper(**), but other little ones like that which demonstrate the different ways in which she functions. And given that Sonya has maintained this odd friendship with the brain-damaged Jim solely to feel some connection to her dead sister (and in a futile attempt to get answers that Hank's bullet will forever deny her), it does not seem out of character for her to then turn to Jack for sex. There's a whole lot of surrogacy going on in that room as the pants start dropping. 

(**) Though the moment where Jack asks what she's doing and she says, sheepishly, “Foreplay?” reminded me much more of that time George Costanza's girlfriend asked what he was doing in the bedroom and he replied, “Pleasuring you?”

It's good to see Frye and Adriana playing such prominent roles (and to have both Matthew Lillard and Emily Rios in the main cast now), but their investigation into the money laundering seems likely to intersect with whatever it is Eleanor is up to with the local bank (including the intern who gets maimed for spilling tea on her dress), the murdered realtor, etc. And while I'm happy to have two of the show's strongest characters – and an odd couple pairing that's in some ways even more delightful than Sonya and Marco – get more to do, I would hate to see them get in danger again. Frye already cheated death about 17 times last year, Adriana's sister is gone, and when you add in the assorted tragedies heaped on Eva, Sonya, Marco… at a certain point, one begins to wonder if the only happy, well-adjusted individual existing on either side of that El Paso/Juarez border is Detective Tim Cooper.

It's an interesting start to the new season, at the very least. With so much plot and so many new characters, an exposition-heavy premiere is all but inevitable.

Some other thoughts:

* Hey, it's Brian Baumgartner from “The Office” as Frye's AA sponsor, who is rightly skeptical of Frye's plan to get by drinking just two beers a day. 12-step programs aren't for everyone, but this seems a very poorly-conceived scheme, Daniel.

* No Linder this week, but Bob pops up to again provide Eva with sanctuary. And in the process, Hank fills us in on some of Bob's troubled past as a tweaker someone who committed felony assault with a dirt bike (even if it was, as Bob insists, “a stand your ground thing”).

I wound up reviewing the entire first season, even if it was brief some weeks, and my hope is that I'll be able to do the same this time, even with press tour, Comic-Con and other summer distractions coming up. It certainly helps that it airs in the middle of the week, as opposed to the never-ending Sunday night pile-up (which will probably prevent weekly coverage of fellow FX drama “The Strain”), but we shall see.

But as for the premiere, what did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at