'The Bridge' Premiere Recap: A Border-Crossing Killer

FX's new drama opens with a gruesome murder and its political implications.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series premiere of FX's The Bridge.]

Like the body discovered in its first minutes, The Bridge is divided in two.

The premiere of FX’s new drama, aired Wednesday, opens as a cowboy-booted figure, driving a black BMW, mysteriously knocks out the security cameras on the bridge from El Paso, Texas, to Mexico and places a corpse on the border -- and the killing’s gruesome details unravel throughout the episode. The victim is an anti-immigration judge, the body is sliced in half — and the bottom half really comes from the corpse of a young Mexican girl.

The episode mashes up serial-killer drama and political exposé, bringing the series’ binational not-yet-buddy cops together at the bridge crime scene.

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Detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), of El Paso’s finest, brusquely claims American jurisdiction over the case. She has Asperger’s — but this is never revealed in the episode, so when she refuses to compromise the crime scene by allowing an ambulance to cross the bridge carrying a hysterical woman and her husband having a heart attack, she seems only obsessively dedicated to her police work. The ambulance drama puts her at odds with easygoing Chihuahua State Police detective Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir), who authorizes it to pass.

Texas and Juarez

Things get political for both Cross and Ruiz. Discovering the body’s legs come from one of the dead girls of Juarez — a real-life group of hundreds of women killed in the region in the past 20 years — Ruiz rejoins the case, but investigating may prove difficult due to the Mexican police’s corruption and inefficiency. Ruiz consults his captain, playing cards with cartel head honchos, before pursuing the case, and he explains to Cross criminals’ method of police bribery: “Take our silver or take our lead.”

The two find the judge’s legs, in the desert and surgically drained of blood, with her wallet nearby missing her identification. Ruiz suspects the killer could be a doctor and might have taken the I.D. as a trophy.

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Cross’s crusty police chief Hank Wade (Ted Levine) advises her that the judge’s political leanings mean the Feds will try to take over the case or set up a task force. Wade emerges more intriguingly as a protector to the standoffish Cross, and her unexpectedly teary eyes when he announces his retirement is an emotional high point of the episode.

The Killer?

A man named Steven Linder (Thomas M. Wright) grants a Mexican teenager passage across the border in his trunk, then locks her in his trailer in the desert — and takes her ID But Linder, all sideburns and blank stare, is so textbook creepy his antics might be a red herring.

The El Paso Times

The premiere heats up only at the end: The black BMW is owned by El Paso Times journalist Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard), who crumbles wonderfully from lazy cynic to sniveling mess when he’s locked in the car with a bomb. Cross and Ruiz arrive at the scene. But instead of exploding, the bomb’s cell phone timer receives a message from the killer explaining his frustration that the States’ white dead garner more attention than Juarez’s hundreds of Latino victims.


*A little too coincidentally, the ambulance Ruiz let across the bridge launches a separate plotline. After her husband passes away in the emergency room — but not before confessing he no longer loves her — Charlotte Millwright (Annabeth Gish) returns to her sprawling Texas ranch. There, her groundskeeper leads her to a secret door her husband kept buried beneath an old house, but we don’t learn what’s inside. Dead bodies? A pile of dinero, a la Walter White?

*Cross has a tragic family backstory, mentioned only briefly. She quips “My mother used drugs” to an interviewee, and she’s attached to the truck that belonged to her dead sister.

The Bridge's opening season continues next week at 10 p.m. on FX.

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