Demian Bichir on The Bridge
  • FX
  • Demian Bichir on The Bridge

When a show comes back for a second season, sometimes it’s a triumphant return. Other times a sophomore outing is just plain sophomoric. Unfortunately, that’s the case for FX’s The Bridge. Coshowrunner Meredith Stiehm left to work on Homeland again, prompting former producing partner Elwood Reid to ditch the serial killer angle (which he deemed a “sugar rush”) and, in his words to, to “[try] to tell a bigger story.” And with that move to a wider shot, the show loses its focus.

A quick refresher: Season one saw our protagonists, detectives Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) and Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir) of El Paso and Chihuahua, respectively, setting aside jurisdictional differences to team up and solve the murder of a U.S. judge whose body was found on the Bridge of the Americas at the U.S.-Mexico border. They pursue and then capture FBI-agent-turned-serial-killer David Tate, who had been haunting the border and Marco’s life, seducing his wife and killing his son.

The secondary duos were made up of reporters Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios), who stumble upon something bigger while investigating the serial killings; and widow Charlotte Millwright (Annabeth Gish) and her lover, Ray (Brian Van Holt), who fall in with a Mexican drug cartel after discovering a tunnel under Charlotte’s house. There was also Sonya’s boss and mentor, Lieutenant Hank Wade (Ted Levine), and (unfortunately for nuance) a whole lot of corrupt Chihuahua cops.

The season two premiere, “Yankee,” has Sonya and Marco back at work on their sides of the border, ready to fend off new threats. Daniel and Adriana are still working on last season’s tip to “follow the money” and are investigating corruption at the immigration office. We don’t see Charlotte or Ray, but we do meet Eleanor Nacht (Franka Potente), a seemingly uptight bookkeeper for their partners in drug-running, as well as Eleanor’s not-long-for-this-world partner, Yovani.

Initially, the episode seems par for the course. The dichotomies established by the odd-couple pairings are still front and center: method versus madness (Sonya and Marco), excess versus restraint (Daniel and Adriana), and law versus disorder (Hank and those Chihuahua cops). This system of counterparts mirrored the producing team behind the scenes—Reid’s energetic but scattershot approach (seen in his Hawaii Five-0 remake) was centered by TV veteran Stiehm, who’s spent over 20 years as a writer-producer.

With Stiehm’s help, The Bridge won a Peabody Award last year for its unique portrayals of women on television. Left to his own devices, Reid has brought sex to the forefront: last season’s glimpse at Sonya’s sex life, which illustrated her simultaneous desire for and inability to connect with other people, is now sex in the living room; Adriana’s girlfriend, who was only hinted at before, gets hit on by Daniel over lunch; and by episode’s end the evil that lurked beneath Eleanor’s dowdy exterior and her heavily tattooed body are stripped bare at a truck stop.

I’m sure that having a 9 PM time slot on basic cable provided a great temptation to push the envelope, but with this premiere Reid seems to be throwing a tantrum like a teenager who’s glad that mom’s finally gone—now he can totally run the show the way that he wants. When the show lost Stiehm, it lost its counterpoint—its Sonya, Adriana, or Hank—and maybe its way.

The Bridge, FX, Wednesdays at 9 PM