Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A gruesome and bizarre murder pairs two flawed detectives in hunt of a serial killer. No matter the permutation, a cop drama is always going to feel derivative and FX’s “The Bridge,” an adaptation of a Swedish/Danish series, surely isn’t ground-breaking. But it has some creative wrinkles — and it’s just damn good.
“The Bridge” builds off the murder mystery trope and immediately evokes feelings of other TV shows. There’s an aesthetic of “The Killing” (and notable things you’ll remember from “Breaking Bad” and “Weeds), but through sheer excellence of execution it works.
When a body pops up literally bridging the U.S.-Mexico border, El Paso detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) and Juarez cop Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) team-up to stop a serial killer perating in both countries. It’s the classic unlikely pairing. Marco is a laid-back, good-guy cop from a police force infested with corruption. Sonya is the obsessive investigator (with Asperger’s) who goes by the book and will stop at nothing.
There are also the fringe players who figure into the murder plot … somehow. The recently widowed Charlotte (Annabeth Gish), a creepy dude with a trailer in the desert (Thomas M. Wright who recently killed it opposite Elisabeth Moss in “Top of the Lake”) and down-and-out reporter/general jerk (Matthew Lillard) all connect … somehow.
While there’s certainly a familiarity to all this, creators Meredith Stiehm — who’s responsible for the best “Homeland” episodes — and Elwood Reid add enough color and substance The Bridge” to separate it from the pack. The odd couple pairing of Sonya and Marco works because it’s subtle, we learn enough about them early on to get invested, and Bichir and Kruger are very strong. The peripheral stories don’t all grab you, but potential is there for each.
If “The Bridge” continues the quality of its first three episodes throughout the season — and sticks the landing on the serial killer conclusion — FX will have two of the best new shows in 2013 (the other being “The Americans”), a year filled with great new shows.