'The Bridge' and the Importance of the U.S./Mexico Border

Unlike pretty much every noteworthy adaptation of a Scandinavian film, book or TV show from the last few years, The Bridge is eschewing the gloomy, snowy and excessively rainy locales of its predecessors to focus on America's more compelling neighborly relationship to the south.

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America will once again try its hand at pulling off the brooding, gritty brand of crime drama manufactured by Scandinavian countries when FX's The Bridge premieres this Wednesday. Based on the Swedish/Danish thriller Bron, the show follows the case of a body discovered in the middle of a bridge connecting the two countries. Unlike Bron and other Scandinavian mystery thrillers (and of course that dreary, Seattle-set adaptation we all used to love to hate, but now kinda like), The Bridge is eschewing the gloomy, snowy and excessively rainy locales of its predecessors to focus on America's more compelling neighbor relationship to the south. Not that Canada didn't come up. In an interview with Hitflix, Bridge writer and executive producer Meredith Stiehm said that she, along with the show's production company Shine America, were leaning towards using a northern city as the American setting before changing directions:

I was thinking Niagara Falls, that's where the body could be, like in the water or something. And [executive producer Elwood Reid] liked that but then he asked, "That's a season or two but season 3, where's the conflict?" Basically there's not a lot of cultural or political conflict going on between Canada and U.S.

Meanwhile, immigration, the drug trade and human trafficking are natural conflicts between the U.S. and Mexico. The body discovered on the show actually consists of two bodies, the top half of a Texan judge with anti-immigration leanings and the bottom half of a missing girl of Juárez, a victim in the city's ongoing violence against women. The show won't dive too deeply into the issues, but it benefits from having that context.

FX is hoping that setting The Bridge on the southern border will pan out financially for them as they try to tap into the Latino advertising market. The network has doubled down on drawing in Latino viewers by hosting bilingual press conferences, planning re-runs of the show on Spanish language channel MundoFox, and hosting mural contests held in Latino communities across the United States. "When we watched this show, we saw the potential to do outreach with a Hispanic audience," Sally Daws, FX's marketing senior vice president, told The Hollywood Reporter. "We know that the Hispanic audience isn't a monolithic block, but we can't subtarget every single piece of that audience. We're trying to reach out to them in a way that resonates."

Will the scenery change, or the mad dash to reel in advertising bucks, work? It's hard to say, but early reviews for the show have been mixed. Brian Lowry at Variety said that, though the setting evoked "memories of No Country for Old Men and Touch of Evil — the tone comes much closer to The Killing, and stumbles badly in its mismatched detectives." (Demián Bichir is the fun, likable one and Diane Kruger is his prickly and socially inept, but brilliant, American counterpart.) Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter finds fault in the show's handling of Kruger's character, but thought the show did something remarkable by taking a serial killer and "bury[ing] his heinous crimes beneath a more compelling angle: the tensions on the U.S.-Mexico border." But whether that will pan out to ratings, advertisers or even a second season is anyone's guess until the numbers come out.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.