Under the Bridge

Under the Bridge
Under the Bridge
Genre: True Crime Drama
Service: Hulu
Series Year: 2024
Watch: Hulu

This is allegedly a true story. I only say allegedly because I’m confused why the author of the nonfiction book on which this series is based — also entitled Under the Bridge — made herself look like such an incredible asshole. Truly. Weirdly. Because the author of said book is also a central character in the series’ narrative. Like she involves herself with a bunch of teenagers in Canada as a whole grown-ass adult. And is not only a pretty terrible writer and reporter, but a clearly annoying and not great person. The thing is, from what I understand, this author/character, Rebecca Godfrey, is not a character in her own book the way she is in the series. And, by all accounts, is actually a decent reporter and writer. So why are we exposed to this manipulative, dead-pan jerkoff played pretty poorly by Riley Keough in the series? Would Godfrey have objected to this caricature had she not died of lung cancer before the series started production? Because she is played as a very unlikable and unprofessional human. And the series is, in turn, unlikable and unprofessional because of it. R. I. P.

Let’s get this out of the way: this was not a fun watch. I mean a true crime drama about the murder of a teenager shouldn’t be fun. Nor should it be pleasant. But it should be enjoyable in some way. Otherwise, why watch it? I suppose it could be interesting. Or fascinating. Or even engaging. This is none of that. But back to Godfrey. How in the world did her family let this happen? How did they let their dead daughter be portrayed as such a piece of shit on this TV show? I don’t know the woman, but I believe she deserved better. If I could look down on this production, and it was me, I would haunt the hell out of the writers, producers and all the staff at Hulu who decided that I needed to be so present in a story in which I was in no way present in my own book. Fuck you all straight to hell. Also, I might go over to Lisa Marie Presley in heaven and punch her in the head for birthing this actress who played me as such a lifeless dick. Hyperbole over (sort of).

Here’s the short synopsis. This Indian-Canadian girl named Reena Virk (Vritika Gupta) is murdered by some other teens in her small Canadian town. The small police force is struggling to figure out which of the teens actually took part in her murder, while Virk’s Jehovah’s Witness family also struggles to get answers. Godfrey, who is originally from this town, coincidently shows up to write her next book about troubled teens in this isolated community, but ends up focusing her investigation on the unfolding Virk murder investigation. Serendipity. Godfrey is always skulking around, manipulating some of the group home/homeless teens, the grieving family, her “special” friend on the police force and pretty much everyone else in town to get her story. I have trouble imagining this is how the real Godfrey actually got information. Show Godfrey is awful. Meanwhile, through the use of flashbacks, we learn about Reena’s strained relationship with her parents, her desire for belonging amongst a group of “troubled” girls who idolize The Notorious B.I.G. and who and why someone might want her dead. That’s basically it.

And here is where things kind of suck. Again, I didn’t read Godfrey’s book, but considering they admittedly fictionalized some characters for the series, I imagine the worst ones are the ones they made up. Including poor Lily Gladstone, who is severely underused and underserved as Godfrey’s friend / paramour / confidant police officer. It’s a shame. Even worse is Gladstone’s fictionalized character’s father, who also happens to be her boss. Matt Craven plays the police chief, and Gladstone’s adoptive father, and he is an absolutely horrible human being for absolutely no reason. He’s constantly belittling his daughter and being a shit about everything. It’s really confusing. What it amounts to is that the writers seemingly needed to fill out the cast with a bunch of made up characters and just plunked down a bunch of AI-generated knuckleheads and bastards. Literally every scene involving this sheriff is him yelling at his cop daughter or just pummeling her with mean sarcasm. It makes you wonder if it was just some clumsy attempt at a red herring. Because it definitely had me asking Ms. Hipster on more than one occasion, “What the hell is wrong with this dude?” Hmm, maybe so much that he would kill a teenager for no reason… Spoiler: he didn’t.

Also confusing — and also terribly annoying — are the teen girls. The ones who conspire to murder Reena. Or do they? Not that any of it is a spoiler per se, but suffice it to say that after a couple episodes you wouldn’t mind if they all went to prison forever. To be fair, I’ll blame the writing for their annoyingness. Because when you step back and really look at it, they’re actually decent young actresses. They’re just asked to do stupid shit. Of all the kids, though, the positive standout is Javon “Wanna” Walton, who is apparently a known commodity amongst the Gen Zs, but wasn’t on my radar. He has a lot of one-on-one scenes with Riley Keough, and his nuanced, sad performance actually exposes just how weak hers is. Here’s this 35-year-old woman acting against a 17-year-old kid and he’s blowing her off the screen. To add, her character is weirdly creepy with this teen boy. It’s cringey. Again, that’s the writing, not her. But it’s also her. Anyway, there is a lot of listening to Biggie and jumping around on beds and squealing and overly dramatic scenes of fake teen dialogue and just general stuff that sounds nothing like the way teens in a group home might talk about situations that involve murder. You have to see it to understand what I mean, but trust me.

I think the biggest issue is that the show’s creators don’t even realize that what they’re doing is problematic. I’m not certain they mean, for instance, to make the Rebecca Godfrey look like a sociopath. I think they think they’re making her look like a woman with trauma in her past who is just working through her investigation. But the combination of her dubious techniques, her completely inappropriate behavior with the high schoolers in town and her constant lying and manipulation, how would we see her any other way? And, yeah, maybe they knew they were speaking ill of the dead, but I don’t think they knew exactly how bad this character came across. We also were meant to feel for the murdered girl. She was not terribly sympathetic. Again, I blame this on the writers and creators of the show. Not that victims need be sympathetic for a story to be interesting, but why not — if you’re going to fictionalize the hell out things — make us understand this victim’s trauma? Why not lean into the bullying that she did actually suffer? There is literally none of this in the series. She is a Jehovah’s Witness Indian girl whose physical attributes were also a-typical in her Canadian town and were a large factor in her rebellion and eventual murder, and we don’t get a heavy dose of that? Why the hell not? So when she’s killed and we flash back to everything that led to it, we’re led to believe it’s because of something jerk-ish that she does to get herself a beating. And not a relentless cascade of nonsense and misfortune that would make us actually feel something. No, we’re mostly just shown the asshole-ish teen girl stuff she pulls, and then she’s dead. Again, I imagine the book actually cares. This series does not. Oh well, neither do I.