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The Bridge Recap: The Toll

By the standards of The Bridge, a show that regularly juggles multiple story lines, crimes, and border crossings, the latest episode was notable for its narrative focus. The writers zeroed in on a single story line and technically, only a few things happened. But those things were major.

A crazy man, David Tate, strapped on a bomb and threatened to blow up a bridge. Sonya Cross prevented Marco Ruiz from shooting that crazy man. And Gustavo Ruiz, Marco Ruiz’s only son, died far too soon, in a most heartbreaking, haunting fashion.

That death — which, up until the last third of the episode called “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll,” seemed like it might be prevented — was upsetting, but not really surprising. This is a show that marinades in the melancholy. For Sonya’s sudden realization that Gus was trapped in a water-filled barrel nestled behind the walls of the very house she and Marco had already searched, and for that realization to lead to rescue, would have been a huge relief. But it also would have violated the tone and premise of the entire series. We don’t watch The Bridge every week out of hope for happy endings. We watch for some deeper understanding of the darker contours of the human soul.

“You will be like me before this is over,” David Tate promised Marco as he stood on the Bridge of the Americas, tricked out in his bomb vest, prepared to blow himself, Marco, Daniel Frye, and the structure on which they all stood to Kingdom Whatever.

On one hand, this standoff felt like a bit of an anti-climax. After ten weeks of Tate’s cryptic dialectical messages, his brutal killings, and, especially, after last week’s season-best episode, to see the Bridge Butcher focusing so narrowly on seeking Ruiz revenge felt a little disappointing.

But upon further examination, there’s more to Tate’s madness than mere vengeance. This FBI guy turned killer was using Marco to make a larger point, one he tried to convey via his attention-getting homicides: that as human beings, we’re all closer to each other than we think. A Marco Ruiz can easily become a David Tate if the life-altering trigger gets pulled, forcing him to cross over from one side to the other.

When Tate tried to convince Marco to kill Frye — who wound up in a coma anyway — Marco resisted those darker impulses, in part because he didn’t want to murder a man, but also because he still had hope that Gus was alive. Once he realized all hope was lost, he was ready to shoot Tate. But Sonya Cross — gravely injured detective, loyal friend, total warrior — made sure that he didn’t. Now there is no telling what Marco might do.

Think about this: When Marco was on the phone with Tate in last week’s episode, standing in the garage at Tate’s uncle’s house, he was right on the other side of the wall from where his son was dying. He didn’t save him, because he didn’t know Gus was there and was too busy running off at Tate’s request to investigate further. I am not sure how any person could live with that knowledge rattling around in his head, day after day.

And I’m not sure Marco will be able to live with it, at least not live like the man he once was. Already there are signs that his sense of empathy is eroding, that his heart is hardening just like Tate wanted. “We’re not friends, Sonya,” he told his fellow detective when she visited Marco at the hospital, a place where, by the way, she also should be since she’s been walking around for two episodes with serious injuries and the pallor of a barely breathing cadaver. “We were partners, and that’s over.”

In the scene that was the real gut-puncher of this episode, Marco then went to the morgue and kissed his poor, tragically deceased son good-bye in what may have been a farewell to the person Marco once was, too. The way he limped away at episode’s end to the strains of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds suggested he may start heading down a different, darker path.

Naturally, given this show’s obsession with dualities, Sonya Cross’s arc seems to have passed Marco’s while heading in the opposite direction. In the first episode of The Bridge, this was a woman who informed a widower of his wife’s death, asked a series of inappropriate questions, and, like a perfect ice-robot, stated, “I’m sorry if I didn’t exercise empathy.” By this week’s episode, Sonya was all empathy. As mentally wired as she is to tell the blunt truth, she managed to lie to Marco three times in her attempt to prevent him from shooting David Tate on that bridge, to say that Gus was okay because she knew he needed to hear it. That’s a major breakthrough for her. Her reward for all that progress: to be dismissed by the man she so desperately wanted to help.

There are only two more episodes left in this season, and a number of loose ends still need tying. I’d like to know who knew about Tate’s fake suicide and when they knew it. I’d like to know how involved Hank was, if at all, in that cover-up or the buried investigation into the lost girls of Juárez. And, theoretically, I’d like to know what’s going to happen with Charlotte, Ray, and their stupid tunnel, even if I am sick of that entire plotline.

That plotline could be key, though. In the opening scene of this episode, which stood completely disconnected from everything that followed, we saw Ray discover some dead bodies, kill a guy, and attempt to pin the murder on Tim by placing that shiny gold gun in his cold, dead hand. Which was unethical as hell, and also a really good way to capture the attention of Fausto Galvan, since he probably had something to do with that whole ghastly scene.

One way or another, Galvan will be coming for Ray. When he does, it’s possible Marco Ruiz may by right there with him, caving in to his shadowy impulses and preparing to project all his self-hatred over his affair with Jill Tate onto another former lover who also cost him everything: Charlotte Wainwright.

Photo: FX