What The Critics Are Saying About FX’s New Series, ‘The Bridge’

We didn’t get screeners for FX’s new series, The Bridge, which kicks off tonight (to be fair, we also forgot to ask for them). Based on the teasers and television spots, the talent assembled, and the premise, however, it looks outstanding, like a denser, more compelling The Killing with a dose of social commentary coursing underneath it. The show begins with two body halves — from two bodies, actually, an American judge and a Mexican prostitute — on either side of the Mexican-American border, which leads to an investigation into a serial killer that involves drugs, Mexican-American relations, and immigration. Diane Kruger plays an American investigator with Asperger’s teamed up with Oscar-nominated Demián Bichir, who is working the Mexico side of the case. Matthew Lillard and Annabeth Gish, among others, also star.

Personally, I’m just excited that there may be a great drama during the summer to break up the slog between Sundays (Under the Dome is clearly not that show). The reviews for The Bridge, so far, have been mostly effusive. Let’s take a look.

Alan Sepinwall singles out Demian Bichir’s “marvelous, totally natural performance,” dismisses any concerns that there’s no more to the series than a murder investigation (i.e., The Killing problem) and attributes its success largely to one thing:

But what makes “The Bridge” special, and potentially great, is an attribute more often applied to real estate than TV drama: location, location, location.

— Meanwhile, The New York Daily News notes that watching Diane Kruger’s performance is “pure pleasure,” and suggests she’s the lynchpin in the complicated series:

At times, the show feels almost as dense to viewers as the case feels to the characters. It’s got an inherent intrigue, though, and even before we fully understand the mystery, Kruger has us rooting for Cross to solve it.

Time magazine again points out that The Bridge is far more than the just a serial killer procedural:

But what’s most compelling about The Bridge is that it emphasizes not the psychology or forensics of the case but its context … The Bridge, true to its name, is a story of two opposite worlds coming together; as a mysterious caller, possibly connected to the crime, points out, “Why is one dead white woman more important than so many dead just across the bridge? How long can El Paso look away?”

Tim Goodman over at THR notes that, though the serial killer at the center of The Bridge is a heinous one, there’s more to the series than that.

The Bridge, does something fairly incredible early on. It manages to take a serial killer – the It Character on television these days – and bury his heinous crimes beneath a more compelling angle: the tensions on the U.S.-Mexico border and the contrasting lifestyles of citizens in both countries. This is all the more impressive because the serial killer works in a way that’s as creepy and horrific as Dexter or Hannibal

Grantland calls it “outstanding,” the Sioux City Journal likens it to Twin Peaks, and Maureen Ryan at HuffPo notes that the show deftly incorporates immigration and border issues into the storylines in “thoughtful and suspenseful ways.”

It was Matt Zooler Seitz rave over on Vulture that has the most compelling review from a humanistic standpoint, however.

The show’s people may lack compassion, but The Bridge clearly doesn’t. It cares as much about the young prostitutes and drug cartel foot soldiers in Mexico, the immigrants who sneak over the border, and the “coyotes” who prey on them as it does about the American reporters, police, businessmen, and politicians.

There are a couple of naysayers, however. For instance, Variety likens it to the dreaded The Killing:

FX has helped set the bar pretty high for moody crime dramas, and held up against that standard, “The Bridge” simply doesn’t measure up. Infused with gritty atmosphere and an intriguing setting — set in motion by a grisly crime along the Mexican-U.S. border, evoking memories of “No Country for Old Men” and “Touch of Evil” — the tone comes much closer to “The Killing,” and stumbles badly in its mismatched detectives.

The Las Vegas Weekly also calls it “ponderous and slow” and didn’t really care for the murder mystery.

It’s hard to reconcile that ghoulish villainy with the show’s heavy, serious tone, and the efforts at social commentary are undermined by the inherent silliness of the murder mystery itself.