FX's border drama The Bridge has undergone a reboot of sorts in its second season.
While the show's first season followed Detectives Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) and Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) as they hunted for a serial killer in Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, Season 2 casts a much wider thematic net. Now left completely to its own devices rather than following the Scandinavian show on which it was based, The Bridge has shifted its focus to examine how political and corporate corruption on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border permeates issues like the drug trade, immigration and human trafficking. But make no mistake — it's actually more twisted (and bloody) than ever.
"It is a radically different show, and I mean that in the best sense of the word," creator Elwood Reid tells TVGuide.com. "It's trying to tell a bigger story, but the way we're trying to tell a bigger story is not to shovel a bunch of facts at you. We're telling it through characters, through things that affect people's lives."
Adds Reid: "[Police procedurals] can be empty calories. I'm going to set the table, I'm going to serve you some appetizers, and then I'm going to serve you a real rich four-course meal of weirdness, and let's see how that goes, instead of just that constant sugar rush of hunting the serial killer every week."
And boy, is there a lot of weirdness.
When we left off, serial killer David Tate (Eric Lange) was arrested, but not before he murdered Marco's son Gus. Marco turned to drug cartel leader Fausto Galvan (Ramon Franco) for help in enacting revenge on Tate. Galvan was looking to team up with wealthy widow Charlotte (Annabeth Gish), who inherited a trafficking tunnel on her property from her dead husband. And Sonya, who suffers from Asperger's, was still grappling with the murder of her sister years prior.
When Season 2 kicks off (Wednesday, 10/9c, FX), Sonya and Marco are reunited to investigate the murder of a cartel member whose body is found in El Paso. Their investigation leads them to a killer church lady— more on her later — who's one of the scariest villains on the small screen at the moment. And journalists Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios) are doing a little detective work of their own. Also, one of Marco's own men on the police force attempts (unsuccessfully) to shoot him during a raid, leaving him to wonder who on his team has been compromised, since everyone was wearing gas masks at the time. And Sonya learns that her sister's murderer, Jim Dobbs, is on the verge of death in a prison hospital.
The threads of all these (and other) various plotlines don't start to weave together until the fourth or fifth episode, but at least by the midway point of Season 2, this is less frustrating than it was in the first season. Though The Bridge is often overshadowed by FX's flashier shows like American Horror Story and The Americans, it's clear that the series is vying for a spot among television's elite dramas. And it might just get there.
Here are six things to watch for in The Bridge Season 2:
1. A new villain: Cartel leader Fausto Galvan is the main antagonist of Season 2, but it's his right-hand woman Eleanor Nacht (Franka Potente) who is the more frightening, and perhaps bigger, threat. A shunned Mennonite who commits violence with a chilling sense of calm that borders on piousness, Eleanor acts as Fausto's accountant, and to say she has a quick temper is an understatement. By the end of Wednesday's premiere, an unfortunate lackey has lost his ear after spilling tea on her, and another victim's bloody corpse is left to spin around in circles in a car. And those are just her human victims. "She has a very self-confident way of going about things," Potentesays. "Because she's not scared to die and she doesn't give a shit about money ... that makes her pretty dangerous."
2. Mad Marco: Following the murder of his son Gus last season, and the dissolution of his marriage, the season premiere finds Marco at rock bottom. But in the midst of his grief, he's still hell-bent on revenge — a "loaded gun," in the words of Bichir. "When your son dies, everything changes forever. You go into a really, really dark place. It's hell," Bichir says. "That's where Marco is when Season 2 begins. From that point on, we will see what happens when you don't have anything else to lose. That is exactly Marco's position right now. And that makes him extremely dangerous for the bad guys."
3. A "romance" for Sonya: After Sonya meets Jack Dobbs (Nathan Phillips), the brother of her sister's murderer, at the hospital, the two begin an unlikely (and very kinky!) relationship. "It's FX's version of a romance, if that tells you anything," Reid says. "It doesn't go in the ABC version of a romance, put it that way." It also doesn't sit well with Sonya's father figure and professional superior, Hank (Ted Levine). Kruger says she was thrilled to get to explore more of Sonya's personal life this season. "When something like this happens to you and to your family, it's very difficult for someone on the outside to understand the impact or how you feel about this major thing in your life. That connection is something that I think they both share and, in a weird way, is really attractive to them," she says. "They share this really deep history together in a really strange way. And I think obviously that's not a very healthy way of going into a relationship. But Sonya has very different reasonings and very different ideas of what it is that she needs as a woman. I feel like it's kind of a beautiful relationship and at the same time, a really wrong relationship."
4. Tension between Marco and Sonya: Hank isn't the only person Sonya clashes with on the job this season. As she and Marco delve deeper into their investigation of corruption within the police force, Sonya begins to wonder if she can actually trust her partner. "There are lots of things that are happening that make her doubt his integrity and feel like he might be compromised," Kruger says. "That's another very hard blow for Sonya throughout the season, coming to terms with that." Bichir is cagey about his character's intentions. "[Marco] is still this stand-up man, this different type of cop who believes that he can represent the difference in a corrupt system," Bichir says. "He's always trying to do the right thing, but he's ready to do the wrong thing if it's necessary."
5. Sibling rivalry: Bichir's real-life brother Bruno Bichir joins the cast this season as Sebastian Cerisola, a wealthy Mexican businessman who has murky ties to both the police force and the drug cartel. "They're just totally different characters and acting styles," Reid says of the siblings. "But when [Marco and Sebastian] meet in The Bridge, it's really electric. We've loaded in what Sebastian represents to Fausto and to Marco and the system, and so when they meet it's really fantastic."
6. Power struggles: With government and business interests on both sides of the border "chipping away at his authority," Fausto finds himself in a desperate struggle to try to hold onto his empire, Reid says, and Marco finds himself caught in the middle. "He and Marco have this very curious, odd relationship that we kind of play with through the season," Reid says. "Fausto, when he realizes he's under attack or in danger, who does he turn to for help? That's going to be sort of the turning point of the whole season this year. How do you put a bad guy like Fausto away, and does it really change anything in Mexico, is really the question we're asking."
The Bridge returns for Season 2 on Wednesday at 10/9c on FX. Check out a trailer below. Will you watch?
Additional reporting by Kate Stanhope