Lost in the Reel’s Video Review for “Under the Bridge”

True crime has become one of my favorite genres in Film and television, as of late.  As I get older, a fascination with the dark side of the human psyche has really begun to intrigue me.  And the empath side of me, always hurts for the victims and their loved ones while I appreciate getting to see their stories be honored.  Everyone loves a good whodunit, too, right?  With Hulu’s ambitious new 8-part limited series Under the Bridge, the mystery of whodunit is not the point, but it’s the delving into the stories and psyche of all involved, that it really cares about.  This will piss off viewers who watch true crime to merely sleuth and solve a murder, while it will surely satiate the hunger for fans of this genre who are fascinated with why these horrible acts happen in the first place.  


Under the Bridge is based on acclaimed author Rebecca Godfrey’s book about the 1997 true story of fourteen-year-old Reena Virk (Vritika Gupta) who went to join friends at a party and never returned home. Through the eyes of Godfrey (Riley Keough) and a local police officer (Lily Gladstone), the series takes us into the hidden world of the young girls accused of the murder — revealing startling truths about the unlikely killer.


Not to give too much away, but the identity of the murderer is revealed in episode 3… out of 8.  That means a lot of the air of mystery that many of these shows rely on, has completely dissipated, not even halfway through.  And I’m not going to lie, I was a little taken aback; wondering how the hell the showrunners were going to fill five more hours of runtime, when there’s not anything left to solve. 

Then episode four happened… which I think is one of the strongest of the series.  The show completely stops mid-storyline to share with us the history of Reena Virk (the victim’s), family lineage.  How her grandparents came to Canada from India, how lonely and discriminated they felt and how they found questionable solace in the Jehovah’s Witness faith.  It then follows her parents, as well, as they stray from their parents’ wishes to be together at all costs.  It juxtaposes this storyline, with a retelling of how Reena brings her delinquent friends to her parents’ house, to prove to them that they are not so bad, yet sadly they have ulterior motives.  I bring up this episode, because it’s when I realized that “Under the Bridge” had far more ambitious and important things on its mind, than just a simple adaptation of a horrible crime.  


This series covers many powerful and important topics such as peer pressure and bullying, miscarriages of justice, racial and socioeconomic prejudices, immigration, organized religion, familial cyclical trauma and many, many more.  It ends up trying to discuss and dissect so many topics that sometimes it feels like the writers are just scratching at the surface.  And that can be frustrating. 

It’s interesting to me that the showrunner here is Quinn Shepherd, who wrote and directed the Hulu Original film Not Okay.  That movie also had very dark subject matter and tried to tackle one too many divisive topics head on, making its messaging feel muddled.  One can only hope that Shepherd can hone in all of the important things she has to say, and say them more loudly and proudly, in her future projects.  But, also just as I felt with that film, I admire Under the Bridge for having the cajones in the first place, to even try and start a conversation about all of these topics.  


Just as I felt that the show was losing its steam and had nowhere to go, its final two episodes breathe new life into the proceedings.  This is when the court case is happening, and while I usually find this section of these shows to be the most tedious… here, I found it to be the most illuminating.  We finally get into the minds of all of these characters, seeing them for who they really are for the first time and why they did what they did.  The show then provides us insight into what the Virk family is dealing with … Tying to deal with grief in the best way that they can and how they are reacting to this onslaught of media scrutiny. 

We also finally begin to get to understand writer Rebecca Godfrey (the author of the book this series is based on and who Riley Keough plays). This is a woman who has been running from the past for so long and is finally being confronted with it.  She is writing this novel and struggling to find the humanity within it, knowing full well that a young girl lost her life, yet is somehow trying to protect one of the people involved. Its in these moments of character study, where Under the Bridge really shines.  


That also has to do with the fact that this cast is outstanding.  And of course, I’m talking about Riley Keough and Killers of the Flower Moon’s Lily Gladstone, but also all of the supporting players and every single one of the young actors, playing the accused and the victim.  While I loved Keough and Gladstone in this series and think they had fantastic chemistry together, I did find myself more drawn to the people who were actually involved with this murder, rather than the cop and the writer investigating it.  

With this subject matter, when all of the suspects are teenage kids, this could have gone really awry in the acting department.  But, I was really gobsmacked by how great these kids were, led by Vritika Gupta as Reena, Chloe Guidrey as Josephine Bell, Aiyana Goodfellow as Dusty Pace, and Ashtray himself from Euphoria, Javon Walton.  This young cast pulls off every difficult play that the showrunners throw at them and I Was truly impressed.  But, it was The Good Wife‘s Archie Panjabi as Reena’s mother Suman Virk, that was the MVP for me.  Playing a mother both horrified and disappointed by her daughter’s actions in life and then coming to terms with her death, and going through the process of trying to understand who she was to finally celebrate her… it is truly magnificent work and deserves an Emmy nomination.  


There is not much I have to say in terms of negatives here with Under the Bridge.  Yes, the messaging can feel muddled, as I said before.  And I do feel like 8-episodes might have been overkill for a story like this, especially when the mystery is revealed so early on.  I do think 6 episodes would have sufficed to tell this story in a more succinct way. 

But, I left this series feeling not only riveted and thrilled, but also truly moved… and you can’t say that about a lot of shows nowadays.  I also think the last two minutes of Under the Bridge contain one of the most searing, powerful and gut-wrenching scenes I’ve seen on TV in quite some time.  If you are okay that this show puts the mystery in the back seat, and has psychological drama and character work take the wheel… then I think you will absolutely be enthralled by Under the Bridge. Please keep watching because the first few episodes don’t even scratch the surface of what it has in store for you.

Under the Bridge is Streaming Now on Hulu.

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