FX's The Bridge wrapped up its first season last night, and having not seen the Danish series Bron, on which this version was based, I can't say how it compared to the original. But as a separate entity unto itself, I think this show has a lot of potential, even if the first season was weighted down by a standard serial killer plot that prevented it from exploring the more interesting aspects and storylines hovering around the fringes.
Set on the border between El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico, the show set up a story about a serial killer who was kidnapping girls in Juarez, and forcing our two leads to partner up in an investigation regarding the disappearances. Those leads are Demian Bechir as Marco Ruiz, one of the only non-corrupt cops in Juarez, and Diane Kruger as Sonya Cross, from the El Paso police department. This partnership and eventual friendship is one of the most successful and intriguing parts of the show- when we first meet Sonya, who has Asbergers, she is such a robotic, cold, slightly alien presence that I wasn't sure if it was the character or Kruger's acting that was so off-putting. But as the season progressed, she gradually began to grow on me, and surprisingly without a drastic change in personality. By the end of the season I'd done a complete 180 on the character and found myself genuinely liking her- which I think is actually a tribute to Diane Kruger's portrayal. She manages to endear us to Sonya without fundamentally softening her through some kind of romance (which is how Claire Danes's character on Homeland was softened), and she remains the uptight professional she's been throughout as well as the socially awkward and sometimes hilariously abrupt oddball. The only thing that changes in her is a genuine, friendly affection towards her partner Marco, which is a moving and natural development that we see step by step as the season progresses. It was quite an impressive evolution.
Demian Bechir on the other hand, is fantastic from the start as the warm, friendly Ruiz, hampered by problems in his marriage, family and work life, pressured by the police corruption and cartel forces that depend on the collaboration of the cops. The city of Juarez is itself a character in this series, shown as kind of a hell on earth, where anyone can be murdered or kidnapped at any moment, sometimes right in front of you. There are a myriad of subplots involving different aspects of Juarez's various crime scenes, all of which are ongoing and not even brought to a head in this first season, such as the entirely separate story involving Annabeth Gish as the woman who inherits an illegal underground tunnel from her dead husband and finds herself knee deep in cartel smuggling. There's also Matthew Lillard and Emily Rios as reporters for the El Paso Times who find themselves interacting with the police and various criminals, and both of them are quite good on the show (Lillard surprisingly effective) as well. Finally there's the series' most mysterious and perplexing character, Steven Linder, played by Thomas M. Wright, a weird loner who evolves, like Sonya, from a baffling question mark early on into a (spoiler alert) rather lovable and kind of hilarious kook by the end, who I can only hope has more screen time in the second season.
So on one level, it's a labyrinthine show that wants to showcase all these different characters and all these different facets of Juarez crime, but on the other, it had to follow the main thread from the original series, which was a hunt for a serial killer that was intriguing at times in the beginning, but led up to a rather cliched and unoriginal conclusion that the show itself didn't even wait until its season finale to wrap up. It's hard to explain this plotline without giving away nearly every twist, but suffice it to say the killer himself was only mildly interesting when all was said and done, and the various stories surrounding the rest of the show remain far more enticing. There's potential here in every frame, and with all these great characters and performances (including Buffalo Bill himself, Ted Levine, who's great as Sonya's police chief), I think this show will benefit enormously next year from being able to let go of its serial killer plot and devote itself to fully exploring the details and complexities of the city it's set in. I'll definitely be sticking with it.