TV review: “The Bridge” gets bogged down with new characters

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From the July 3, 2014 edition

When “The Bridge” premiered last summer, it set up a powerfully convincing world along the Mexico border by using a murder to bring together two detectives — and their respective cultures — from El Paso and Juarez. As the season progressed, the investigation of a serial killer had its ups and downs, but the series was mostly solid.

“The Bridge” was at its best exploring the destruction caused by cartels in Juarez and how most U.S. citizens are unaware. While the serial killer element was handled well — with some shocking twists — it’s a rote TV trope.

With the serial killer element done, Season 2 of “The Bridge” has a clean slate to examine larger ideas through the lens of Juarez/El Paso, much like “The Wire” did with Baltimore. There are hints of that in the first two episodes this season, but other plot elements overshadow those.

With Juarez detective Marco Ruiz (an excellent Demian Bichir) still reeling from the death of his son and realizing he’s not safe even in his own department, things are bad. That the cartel and Fausto Galvan (Ramón Franco) are still interested in Marco make it worse.

When the body of a cartel member pops up in El Paso, Det. Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) looks to her old partner Marco for help. Only he’s not interested.

Operating on the periphery is one of TV’s best odd couples in reporters Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios) as they track cartel leads.

The main problem with Season 2 is the addition of new characters takes time away from the potential of “The Bridge.” Franka Potente’s Eleanor is interesting, but there’s no need to spend so much time with her. Sonya unfortunately gets dragged into a storyline about the man who murdered her sister (and his brother) that’s completely unnecessary — and kind of crap.

If “The Bridge” manages to incorporate all the important new characters while building this ongoing tale of cartels, corruption and “the war on drugs,” this could be a good season. I’ll give “The Bridge” the benefit of the doubt, but a couple of poor decisions so far make me hesitant.

Photo courtesy of FX