July 10 (Bloomberg) -- “The Bridge,” a dark, politically-minded murder mystery from FX set on the U.S.-Mexico border, features an icy heroine with gorgeous hair, a near-zero personal life and a big dash of Asperger’s.
Top that, Claire Danes.
Against the backdrop of Juarez’s real-life “femicides,” “The Bridge” puts a grisly Southwestern spin on AMC’s Seattle-based “The Killing.”
Similar in mood and rhythm, if not climate, both shows were adapted from Danish series and feature mismatched investigators tasked with finding a serial killer.
“The Bridge” unspools on a broader canvas, though, both geographically and metaphorically: The central mystery involves a corpse (two halves, actually, but never mind) dumped at the midpoint of a bridge connecting Texas and Mexico.
El Paso police detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger, “Inglourious Basterds”) is American, cerebral and, thanks in part to her Aspergers, obsessively by-the-book.
To solve the crime, Cross is paired with Juarez detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), who’s as intuitive and savvy as Cross is brainy and socially inept. “Do you wanna have sex with me?” is Cross’s idea of flirting.
Kruger’s Cross is all jitters and darting eyes, compelling but distancing. Bichir’s Marco is the more intriguing character, an honest man squeezing whatever justice he can from a corrupt system.
In addition to the detectives, the first episode introduces a sketchy drifter (Thomas M. Wright) who might be the killer; a wealthy Texas widow (Annabeth Gish) whose horse-breeding husband had a secret or two locked away in a creepy cellar; and a boozy muckraking reporter (Matthew Lillard) who starts receiving ominous messages.
“Why is one dead white woman more important than so many dead just across the bridge?,” his tormentor asks. “The Bridge” asks the same, and does it well enough to keep us waiting for an answer.
“The Bridge” airs Wednesday, July 10, on FX at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2
“This isn’t ’Oz,’” a kindly prison worker tells a frightened new arrival near the start of Netflix’s addictive caged-women dramedy “Orange is the New Black.”
The statement seems aimed at curious viewers as well. Abandon hope of cheap titillation, all ye who enter.
With the same mix of near-whimsy and tough-mindedness she brought to Showtime’s “Weeds,” creator Jenji Kohan has adapted Yuppie author Piper Kerman’s true-life account of her 15-month stint in a Connecticut prison.
Taylor Schilling plays author stand-in Piper Chapman, a fine-boned, blonde daughter of privilege arrested 10 years after an out-of-character walk on the wild side: During a post-collegiate lesbian fling, she transported a bag of drug money for her dope-trafficking girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon).
“Orange” begins as Piper says goodbye to her settled life in gentrified Manhattan with supportive (if dumbfounded) fiance Larry (Jason Biggs).
“I’m going to get, like, Jackie Warner ripped,” Piper says with bright-side bravado.
But if the “Orange” jail is no fat camp, neither is it the pit of violence and brutality Piper secretly fears. What she finds is a population rigidly divided and defined by race, age and sexuality, living (mostly) in wary peace.
In the six episodes available for review, the flashback-heavy “Orange” recounts not only Piper’s tale, but the gone-wrong lives of her cell-block cohorts.
The large cast is terrific, notably Prepon (with jet-black hair) and Natasha Lyonne as a wild-girl lesbian running from addiction and a disapproving mom.
Best of all though -- and reason enough to opt for a 13-episode binge -- is Kate Mulgrew as Red, an unforgiving Russian cook with purplish rooster hair and a strut to match.
“They’re so mean!” she wails, in a flashback about the unwelcoming housewives of her mobbed-up New York neighborhood.
She learns their lessons well.
“Orange is the New Black” (all 13 episodes) will be available Thursday, July 13, on Netflix. Rating: ****
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Ryan Sutton on restaurants and Katya Kazakina on hot art.
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