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'The Bridge:' Mayhem On The Border, With Big Issues At Stake

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The FX version of the Scandinavian series The Bridge, like the Showtime version of the Israeli TV series that inspired Homeland, is a major revamp as well as a crucial relocation. With Homeland, the focus became American politics and home-soil terrorism. In The Bridge, the setting is changed to the U.S.-Mexico border. This allows executive producer Meredith Stiehm, a writer-producer from Homeland, to deal with everything that relocation provides — including the white-hot issues of immigration reform and border security.

The Bridge opens with a crime scene that couldn't be more symbolic, or more gruesome. An unknown killer has managed to place a body on a border bridge between Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas — so precisely on the border that half of the body is in each country.

That makes it, at first, a jurisdictional issue for the respective first responders: an El Paso police detective named Sonya Cross, and a Chihuahua state policeman named Marco Ruiz. Sonya is played by Diane Kruger, the German actress from Inglourious Basterds. Marco is played by Demian Bichir, who was Mary-Louise Parker's Mexican husband in Weeds and Oscar-nominated for his supporting role in A Better Life.

In an early scene from the premiere, Sonya claims the on-the-border murder case, but within hours, she reaches out to Marco when a new development changes things. Oh, and Sonya, like Claire Danes' character in Homeland, is doing her job while struggling with a disorder.

The killer is making a point — the first of many — in a way designed to ensure that the issues he wants to address demand international attention. And very soon, his agenda involves many characters who, at first, seem to have little to do with one another. But, as one promotional tag line for this series says, "Everything is connected" — beginning with those two bisected bodies.

The supporting cast includes Ted Levine as Sonya's understanding boss — a role that's similar to but less comic than the one he played on Monk, the comedy mystery series about a detective with a serious case of OCD. But The Bridge plays everything straight — except that Bichir, who's so charismatic and unpredictable as the Mexican cop, is just as likely to break into a wry smile as a sudden outburst. And Kruger's Sonya is flat-out unpredictable; the two of them, like the two mismatched investigators of The Killing, make this new murder mystery an intriguing character study.

The three episodes of The Bridge that were available for preview suggest an increasingly complicated story line — and provide enough startlingly intense moments to keep you not only involved but captivated. This Bridge, I'm guessing, is heading somewhere good.

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