YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Under the Bridge

True DetectiveI really wasn’t in the mood for another crime drama about cops investigating a young girl’s death. But then, just like the most recent season of , the casting really intrigued me. When I saw that Hulu’s new show, Under the Bridge, starred Lily Gladstone and Riley Keough, I had to give it a chance. Gladstone was the best thing in Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon (and came thisclose to winning the Oscar for Best Actress) and Keough, with her starring role in the recent hit show Daisy Jones & The Six, is finally being known for something other than being Elvis’s granddaughter. I like both actresses a great deal, so I was curious to see them together.

Under the Bridge is based on two things: the real-life murder of a teenage girl in Victoria Island, Canada, in 1997, and the subsequent book by the same name, written by Rebecca Godfrey. Keough plays a fictionalized version of Godfrey, returning to her hometown ten years later in order to write about the murder. There’s a hint of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in this tale, as Godfrey chooses to focus her lens almost as much on the murderers as she does the victim, but that’s just one of the ways in which Under the Bridge really feels different from every other crime drama.

What drew me in about this show is that it’s not just one thing. It is a police investigation of a killing, but it’s also a story about a woman battling her own demons. It’s also is about family dynamics, cultural differences, teenage girls, bullying, friendship and grief. Creator Quinn Shepherd crafts a tale that intertwines so many different stories and perspectives, and it mostly works.

The main story revolves around the brutal murder of teenager Reena Virk, played by Vritika Gupta. All signs lead to her having been savagely beaten by a group of teenage girls, which reveals a dark truth: teenage girls can be monsters. This tale is the ultimate Mean Girls story, a terrifying reminder of the potential horrors high school years can bring. And this was even before social media!

The real case that this show is based on turned into a national story in Canada when it happened, and focused the world’s attention on the horrors of bullying, something society still struggles with today. It’s hard to watch, but we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to one of the most shameful parts of humanity and society.

What makes Under the Bridge tolerable, however, is that while there is a big focus on the bullying element and the events that led to Reena’s murder, Shepherd and her team of writers attempt to tell a whole human story, both of Reena (that she was no saint) and of her killers (that they maybe weren’t pure evil). But, mostly, what gives Under the Bridge its core of humanity is in the story and relationship between Godfrey, who’s writing about the murder, and Cam, the cop in charge of the investigation, played by Gladstone. Godfrey and Cam have a history, and the exploration of their relationship, however brief, gives the audience an emotional center to sit in that is much needed.

Keough and Gladstone have a chemistry that is palpable, and Keough is the best I’ve ever seen her here, as she navigates all the regret, longing and shame that consumes Godfrey, who is seeking some sort of solace and salvation by writing this book. Both she and Cam have their demons, but it is in the moments they have together where Under the Bridge truly sets itself apart.

There admittedly isn’t enough of Keough and Gladstone in the series, and Gladstone is not given much opportunity to show any range, but the excellent ensemble cast of teen actors is more than capable of carrying the story, especially Gupta and Chloe Guidry, who plays the alpha mean girl with delicious abandon. Archie Panjabi, who you may remember (I certainly do) from The Good Wife also delivers a powerful performance as Reena’s mother.

Under the Bridge certainly isn’t the best crime drama I’ve ever watched—its eight episodes could easily have been six–but I loved how many perspectives it gives, how it’s as much a commentary on society as it is a police procedural, and features tremendous performances all around. And here’s hoping somebody notices the chemistry Keough and Gladstone share, so we can see them in something else together, and soon.

Under the Bridge premiered on Hulu on April 17 and new episodes drop every Wednesday through May 29.