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TV review: ‘The Bridge’

The Bridge

• 9 p.m. Wednesday

• FX

* * * 

Posted 7:45am on Monday, Jul. 07, 2014

These things figure into the opening scene of Season 2 of The Bridge: a near-silent Lyle Lovett; the song Wind, Sky, Sea & Sand by the eccentric singer-songwriter Lee Hazlewood; and a whole lot of blood.

It’s a striking, atmospheric scene (thanks in large part to the moody song) that raises more questions than it answers — and judging by its early episodes, this season of The Bridge isn’t going to give up answers all that easily: We won’t see Lovett again, for instance, till the fourth episode.

We will see Franka Potente (Run Lola Run, The Bourne Identity) as a terrific, creepy new character, a mystery woman connected to Mexican cartels who’s a menace to just about everyone she meets.

There are some echoes of Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo character in Fargo, as Potente plays the outsider who comes along to wreak havoc. But the role is a big change of pace for her, and she quietly elevates every scene she’s in.

But the central characters remain the same. Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), an El Paso detective with Asperger syndrome, once again teams up with Juarez cop Marco Ruiz (the excellent Demian Bichir) to work on a case that straddles both sides of the border. As in the first season, the story gets a little muddled, and a subplot in which Cross gets involved with the brother of a man who killed her sister stretches credibility even for this show.

Although Season 1 of The Bridge won a Peabody Award for raising awareness of border issues within its mystery story, the show still struggles to put across the connections and differences between El Paso and Juarez, especially in how much Mexican culture influences the Texas city; the cities are portrayed as more divided than they really are.

In a note to critics, executive producer Elwood Reid says that while Season 1 adapted a serial-killer plotline from the show’s inspiration, the Danish-Swedish drama Bron/Broen, the producers’ primary interest is showing “the shadow world” of the El Paso/Juarez border. Those elements are there, but not as forcefully as they could be (the series is still shot in L.A., although Reid has said he’d like to shoot on location more).

But the series’ style and characters (including such returnees as Matthew Lillard’s ethically challenged, alcoholic reporter and Thomas M. Wright’s enigmatic social worker) transcend its plot problems. And Season 1 got better as it went along; Season 2, which starts out stronger, looks like it will be a more-than-worthy continuation of a series that still needs work, but is definitely worth watching.

Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872 Twitter: @rphilpot

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