Cop show reveals the U.S.-Mexico divide

The Bridge of the Americas connects El Paso, Texas, with Juarez, Chihuahua. In “The Bridge,” on FX on Wednesdays, murder victim, or maybe it’s more than one, found at the exact center of the bridge brings together two of the most disparate and interesting of all “cop buddy” productions so far. The Chihuahua state police send Detective Ruiz and El Paso homicide sends Detective Cross.

Detective Marco Ruiz is a pleasant and easygoing veteran. Actor Demián Bichir is faultless in the role. He already earned great respect on this side of the border with “Weeds” (he was the gangster mayor of Tijuana), and “A Better Life” (he was the day laborer). Diane Kruger is El Paso Detective Sonya Cross. She grows on the audiences very slowly, but then her character has some kind of non-affective disorder that keeps everybody at a distance. She doesn’t seem to care for anyone anywhere, and people’s displays of affection for one another only makes her abstractly curious. If actress Kruger pulls this off, and I think she will, she’ll go down as the best mentally disabled crime solver since Adrian Monk.

Another interesting and interwoven plot has to do with a widow who learns that her husband owned one end of a tunnel leading to gangster coyotes in Juarez. In episode two, band leader Lyle Lovett makes one of his macabre appearances as a threatening attorney representing whoever owns the other end of the tunnel. Another subplot, or maybe they all come together, has a cold-blooded Anglo abducting a young Mexican woman for who knows what purpose.


The TV show doesn’t spare the teeming Juarez in its description of human trafficking, prostitution, drugs, and police corruption. Some may say it goes too far in depicting everything on the Mexican side as dark, chaotic, and with more than a suggestion of shame and sleaze. On the El Paso side, by comparison, antiseptic light characterizes almost every scene. Marco Ruiz, of course, is dark and whiskered. Sonya Cross is blond and fair, almost alabaster in looks and demeanor. Dark slippery streets are common in crime dramas, of course, but in this drama they are all in Mexico. On the other hand, all the really warm, caring and interesting people seem to live on the south side of the bridge. The uglier and more exploitative people are on our side.

What makes “The Bridge” fascinating is not only its many fascinating characters, but what is going on behind them. Juarez has hundreds of unsolved murders of young women. Poverty is forcing Mexicans northward, and some of the worst people on Earth are finding ways to feed on them.

Apparently, “The Bridge” is adapted from a successful crime program in Denmark and Sweden, but the built-in emotions already surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border add a lot of gravitas to this effort. People are already worried about the border. Immigration reform is the top emotional issue of the day. The Latino vote — the “sleeping giant” — is going to transform U.S. politics. What a time for a crime drama about a bridge!

“The Bridge”

Wednesdays on FX

Updated 7/31/13 to include author revision.

Photo: Detectives Sonya Cross and Marco Ruiz in “The Bridge” (via fx)