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BECOMING HBIC (SEPTEMBER 2013)


When we first met Charlotte Millwright (Annabeth Gish), we probably all made certain judgments about her. That she had a much older husband (Robert R. Shafer) suggested that she was a trophy wife who had married for his money. That she was trying to clear a path through a crime scene (for his ambulance, in which he was dying) suggested that said money had made her feel entitled to take liberties regular people can't. And when her husband told her, on his death bed, that he didn't love her and wanted a divorce, we might have been astounded that she wasn't even good at the one thing -- serving him -- that had put her in her comfortable, privileged position. Charlotte sucked.

Since then, Charlotte has experienced a number of setbacks. Her husband died. She learned that he'd been involved in human trafficking via a tunnel that runs from a hatch under their stable to Juarez, and that the cartel expected her to carry on in his stead. After calling in Ray (Brian Van Holt), an old "friend" and former fellow con artist from her trashy Florida past, and picking back up with him "romantically" so that he'd help her out in her current criminal enterprise, she found out that he'd also decided to involve another of their former cohorts, Tampa Tim (Don Swayze). Unbeknownst to her, Tampa Tim is a CI for the ATF, and when he supplied guns to Ray, which Ray then sold to Graciela (Alma Martinez) not knowing they all contained transmitters, of course Graciela was guaranteed to find them and seek redress from Charlotte. Last week's episode found Graciela appearing in Charlotte's stable with a henchman, threatening both Charlotte's life and that of Cesar (Alejandro Patino), Charlotte's most trusted employee. But though it seemed like things were probably heading in a torture-y direction, hostilities wrapped up quickly, as Charlotte ran Graciela through with a pitchfork. And just as quickly, Charlotte won me over.

It feels like proof of a serious deficit of character on my part to say that, in a scripted show, the character I'll like most is almost always the most ruthless, but it's so true that I can't stop saying it. And though most of the most hardcore shit on The Bridge is being perpetrated by Eric Lange's Kenneth Hastings/David Tate, even he doesn't meet my strict criterion. He's inventive, true. And from what we've seen so far, nothing has taken him off his path of vengeance or seems likely to do so. But his motivation for all of it shows his ultimate weakness: sentiment. He's devised this whole baroque plan to avenge the deaths of his wife and (especially) son. He cares about shit! What a baby!

This new turn to Charlotte's character, though, proves how different she is from him. That she brought Ray in from Florida proves both her basic pragmatism. That he came, and that he then developed his own tunnel sideline without her knowledge, would suggest that he's as pragmatic as she is, except that when the shit goes down and, in the latest episode, they have to confront Tampa Tim about the transmitters and try to find out which law-enforcement agency he's working for, Ray will only go so far as to threaten him with a gun. He never has any intention of actually shooting good old TT, though; the three of them have all been friends since high school! But Charlotte don't give a fuuuuuuuuuck. When TT accidentally spills that he's working for the ATF and that nothing he's been doing seems to be a very high priority for the agency, she determines in a moment that TT won't be missed, takes the gun out of Ray's hand, and, without any hesitation, shoots him in the chest. She's not a great shot -- it takes a few bullets to take him down for good -- but I bet she'll get better.

The arc of the season seems to be trending toward Hastings/Tate getting taken out in (or maybe before) the finale, but given the story stubs that could turn into ongoing arcs -- the rest of the cartel that hasn't been killed by Charlotte or Linder (Thomas M. Wright); the unsolved murders of the girls and women of Juarez; whatever's going on at that weird Christian ranch -- it seems like Charlotte's tunnel could be central to the action. And with Graciela's death, there's a vacuum of power that a tough-ass bitch of a boss could awesomely fill. Seize that power, Charlotte. Stomp over Ray in your pointy, pointy heels and get it.
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