In an hour filled with fetishized female bodies, Sonya (Diane Kruger) and Marco (Demián Bichir) may have caught their killer. Is this the end of the road for the Bridge Butcher?
Let’s bitch it out…If you read any of the early reviews of The Bridge, the showrunners make it very clear that the murderer would be captured before the end of the first season. I’m not sure if that means that we have caught the serial killer right now, though. While there is a certain amount of evidence suggesting that Jack Childress (Chris Browning) is the Bridge Butcher, I’m willing to bet that he’s actually not.
Childress’ shoot-out and arrest are definitely a notch up in terms of action from the considerably more low-key outing last week. I don’t think that the show necessarily needs an action set-piece each week, but the shoot-out did help to balance out some of the quieter moments and lent them a certain amount of gravity and context. Take Sonya getting shot, for example: we knew she wouldn’t die, but watching her stare at the bruise from the bullet in the mirror is pretty haunting. These quiet moments resonate because of the action, not in spite of it. On one hand there will always be tension to be wrought from border relations, but on the other, at its core The Bridge remains a cop show, which means there will always be a need for crime and violence.
‘Destino’ is filled with more than violence, though. It is filled with bodies: fetishized ones, female ones. This is the first episode of the series that really strikes a visual tone and that just so happens to be in the form of an obsession with women’s bodies and sex.
Sonya’s final scene has all of the hallmarks of soft-core pornography. Picture it: late at night, as steam rising from the shower, a woman – clad scantily in a towel – stares at her exposed upper chest in the mirror before reaching up to mock-strangle herself. Without context this could be an auto-erotic asphyxiation porno. On its own it carries a great deal of power. As one of five such scenes, it’s part of a thematic motif embedded in ‘Destino.’
Take Marco’s wife, Alma (Catalina Sandino Moreno). She kicks her husband to the curb for the umpteenth time and impulsively meets her work colleague, Kenneth (Eric Lange) in a seedy motel for sex. They cautiously side-step discussion of her divorce from her philandering husband and in the reflection of the TV, they initiate intercourse. During the course of their tumbling embrace, her upper body becomes lost under the bulk of the man pressing down on her, leaving her little more than legs and buttocks capturing on a dead screen.
The final three scenes mirror Alma’s, as well as each other. In the opening scene, Charlotte’s (Annabeth Gish) stooge, Ray (Brian Van Holt) meets with Graciela (Alma Martinez). He wants to run guns through the tunnel she controls. She agrees, on the condition that he perform oral sex on her. (Side Note: I won’t lie, this was an unexpected moment!) Half of the fun is watching Ray struggle with the decision as Graciela calmly uses her sexuality to take control of the situation. In another moment of fetishization, the cunnilingus is visually represented by Graciela’s calves and wedge shoes emerging from the rear window of the SUV.
Later Charlotte appears by the pool at her estate where Ray is swimming. Her appearance is announced by a slow pan to reveal similar wedge shoes to Graciela’s, as well as her long, shapely legs. Until the camera cuts to Ray’s perspective, Charlotte is literally nothing more than a pair of legs and a voice, a presence completely disembodied from the waist up. We’ve long known that Charlotte is embodied by her sexuality (she’s clearly seen as a gold-digger by the other society women because she used to be a Tampa hostess who married riche). What we’ve seen since her husband has died is that Charlotte is also defined by her weakness: she doesn’t know how to deal with the illegal tunnel that she has inherited, so she uses her sex to bring in a man she believes she can “trust” to help her.
This idea returns later in the episode when Charlotte and Ray have sex atop her desk. Once again we see Charlotte from Ray’s perspective: the high angle is a position of privilege of her as she’s nearly bucked off the edge by the sex. It’s significant that Charlotte is meekly trying to confirm that she can trust him during sex (of course we already know that she can’t). Since Charlotte wields sex, she believes that this is a moment that Ray will be both honest and affectionate with her. Although her reclined sex position is the same as Graciela’s, it’s much easier to associate Charlotte with Alma, another woman who equates sex with taking control. As the camera tracks back out of the study, we see Ray naked and thrusting while Charlotte looks like little more than the trophy wife she has tried to put behind her.
Let’s return now to Sonya and her (potential) act of self-harm. It’s significant that out of all five examples, Sonya is the only one who is fetishized alone. Rather than seeking comfort or control in her sexuality, clutching her own throat is Sonya’s attempt to “feel” death after her symbolic murder at the hands of Childress. Her brush with death at the trailer park has prompted her to enact her sister’s final moments. In this way Sonya’s scene is an entirely different affair. Unlike the others, this scene is not actually about sex or power – it’s a moment of emotional maturity as Sonya processes her sister’s death after going through a similar near-death experience. The fact that she controls her scene – she is the one looking in the mirror, she is not framed subjectively by it – is the telling difference.
While narratively ‘Destino’ is significant for potentially catching the killer, for me the exploration of the theme of female sexuality and fetishization is the far more interesting and worthy take-away.
- Linder (Thomas M. Wright) randomly turns up in Juarez without any kind of explanation. Although I’m happy to see him again, this reeks of poor plotting – how did he get away and where has he been?
- Good to see Hank (Ted Levine) and Tim (Johnny Dowers) get in on the action during the hunt for Childress. Also, from now on let’s all call trailers “tuna cans”
- Daniel (Matthew Lillard) spends his few scenes going through withdrawal (and frankly looking terrible for it). Things aren’t looking good for the reporter: by the end of the episode he’s collapsed and seizing. Surely he won’t die, right?
- Finally, RIP Deputy Stokes (Larry Clarke). The day you finally get your braces off, you take a bullet to the back of the head. Grotty and sad
- Ray (to Graciela): “Digging the whole Eryka Badu thing you got going on”
- Sonya (when Hank asks where Marco is): “He went home to argue with his wife”
- Tim (referring to Childress): “That dude is going to plead insane and spend the rest of his life jacking off and knitting socks”
Your turn: Do you think Childress is the killer? Did you notice the fetishization of women? Were you shocked by Stokes’ death? Is Daniel going to survive? And what’s the deal with Kenneth – he’s super creepy, right? Hit the comments with your thoughts
The Bridge airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on FX