Review: “The Bridge” on FX

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A car is seen driving along a bridge. Suddenly, the street lights go dark and surrounding security cameras malfunction. The car stops as the driver drags something out onto the road before driving off. The lights turn back on and you realize that bridge is on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Security officers soon discover that directly on the U.S.-Mexico border lies a dead female corpse.

That’s how “The Bridge”, the new cable drama imported from the Danish/Swedish original of the same name, begins. It premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

Police from both sides of the border investigate the scene. Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”) plays Sonya North, a by-the-book, straight-laced detective from El Paso, Texas, who pairs up with the more casual detective from Juarez, Mexico, Marco Ruiz, played by Demian Bichir.

More crimes related to that case then escalate throughout in both countries, but the tone of “The Bridge” never turns too dark or morbid. In fact, the show sometimes goes on an offbeat path, which is a welcome positive to offset the increasingly lurid crimes. For example, to reflect the rampant corruption of Mexican authority, Ruiz must go to his police captain’s residence — a luxurious mansion where he holds parties and keeps panthers in cages — to ask permission to investigate the current case at the bridge. In another scene, when Ruiz arrives at El Paso police station to work with North, he is initially hesitant to sit down at her desk, volunteering that it’s due to his recent vasectomy.

Even the casting director seems to give a wink to audiences of recent cable fare. Bichir’s first season on “Weeds,” where he played a drug kingpin/corrupt mayor, involved a subplot where there existed a secret tunnel from U.S. to Mexico allowing “business” to be conducted — a subplot that also exists on “The Bridge.” It involves a recently-widowed woman (Annabeth Gish) who becomes the owner of her deceased husband’s ranch and finds a border tunnel. Ted Levine plays the police captain at the El Paso office who’s in charge of his best but socially-awkward detective in Sonya North — the captain’s role very familiar to Levine, who was featured on the popular long-running USA comedy “Monk.”

For most of the pilot episode, the pace seems to unfortunately plod along. By the latter third of the premiere through to its third episode, though, as eerie events keep occurring, “The Bridge” peps up a bit. Kruger’s character (who suffers from Aspergers) acts humorously direct and forward in several social situations, and Bichir’s character isn’t exactly the doting husband and father as we first believe him to be.

At the hands of the show’s serial killer, the clash of two cultures is forced upon all involved and, thus, has the makings for a compelling evolution for “The Bridge.” As episodes following the premiere suggest, that evolution may be a slow build, but still worth sampling.

Grade: B