Review: 'The Bridge' - 'The Beetle': I would catch a grenade for you
A review of tonight's "The Bridge" coming up just as soon as we discuss this over a ham salad...
I wasn't too crazy about last week's revelation that our criminal mastermind is conducting a very elaborate vendetta against Marco and the other people he holds responsible for the death of his wife and son. It just seemed too crazy even for a show that has a healthy dose of eccentricity. (I love every awkward, twitchy thing Thomas Wright does and says as Linder, but he wouldn't be out of place if you digitally inserted him into a "Twin Peaks" rerun.) Having had a week to consider it, it still feels like a misstep, albeit one where Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid are following the Scandinavian original.
That said, the Reid-scripted "The Beetle" took that insane plot twist and applied it to a lean, mean and taut hour of television. Tate is still a mad genius, but his ambitions and plan here were spare and simple: take Alma and the girls out to the desert, maybe grab Gus as well, and let Marco experience everything Tate himself went through six years earlier. No cackling villainy — Tate even gives Marco the GPS coordinates that will save Alma, once he decides to target Gus instead — and both Catalina Sanidno Moreno and Demián Bichir were terrific in playing the despair and then relief both Alma and Marco went through during this ordeal. Keith Gordon's a good director of suspense, and he kept the level of tension and dread high throughout.
I also appreciated the lengthy flashback to Tate discovering his wife and son at the accident scene — one of several sequences in the episode where Gordon made the passage of time seem agonizing through his use of dissolves — which both humanized Tate as much as any serial killing madman can be, and set up a neat bookend for the closing scene where he crashed into Sonya's pickup and abducted Gus. (I also liked the way Gordon staged that; it's become so cliché these days to shoot towards the driver's window as a car comes out of nowhere to t-bone them that it's no longer surprising at all. This one felt genuinely sudden and shocking, even as it was yet another case of Tate being omniscient.)
We appear to be close to the end of this arc — next week's the tenth episode, which is the length of time that "Bron" season 1 ran, and Stiehm has said this investigation won't take up the whole season — and as I've said, I'll be glad to be done with it and see what other cases Sonya and Marco get mixed up in. But "The Beetle" took a plot development I didn't like at all and made it work for an hour. I'll still be happy to move on to other stories, but this at least provides some hope that the denouement of the Butcher story could work.
Some other thoughts:
* HitFix's Liana Maeby had several hundred words to say about Sonya's leather jacket. Like the pickup, the jacket is Sonya's sister's; I wonder how she'll respond to losing the truck.
* RIP, Graciela. I will miss you and your unconventional negotiating tactics, but Charlotte taking control of the tunnel is the first time since early in the season where I've been interested in Charlotte herself.
* The first time Linder's friend Bob appeared, I was deficient in pointing out that he's played by Jonathan Gries, whom some of you will think of as Uncle Rico from "Napoleon Dynamite," some as Ben Linus' abusive father on "Lost," some as "Broots" from "The Pretender," and some as sweepstake-winning genius Lazlo Hollyfeld in "Real Genius." (He's the subject of one of my favorite exchanges in that movie, though he's not in that scene.)
* Sonya does not want to be called a MILF: "I don't have children." So very, very literal, and also not good at comforting scared teenagers.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org