Under the Bridge’s Premiere Lays Out A Gripping, Haunting True Story

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 17, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
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Under the Bridge Episodes 1 & 2 Recap
Jo and Becca in Under the Bridge
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Summary

The two-part premiere of Under the Bridge is a harrowing ordeal given the story’s basis in fact. This is an obviously important series about moral and societal failings.

Under the Bridge doesn’t have the “horror” genre label attached to it, but midway through Episode 1, it’s already terrifying. By the end Episode 2, it has confirmed your worst suspicions.

Hulu’s latest limited series has been marketed on the strength of its true story underpinnings. It concerns the disappearance and murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk in Saanich, British Columbia, Canada. But it isn’t a mystery. We know what happened to Reena from the beginning. We know who did it, and why.

This is why Under the Bridge is horrifying. It doesn’t play by the rules of a whodunit, or pretend to be an examination of why seven teenage girls and a sole boy would carry out the murder of a classmate. It’s examining the fact that there was no reason at all beyond garden-variety racism, peer pressure, and institutional indifference.

Reena Virk’s Murder Had No Motive

Reena Virk was murdered just because.

This is obvious from Episode 1 of Under the Bridge, which introduces Reena as a victim. She’s belittled by her classmates. She’s misunderstood at home. She’s trapped between multiple different worlds; familial, religious, social. She’s an outsider.

The premiere also introduces the killers. Josephine “Jo” Bell is the ringleader, but most are as bad as each other. They’re all from broken families and live in a group home, but there’s no real effort to blame their circumstances for their actions. Jo is obsessed with John Gotti, and the girl gang is nicknamed the Crip Mafia Cartel, styled after a big city mob. There’s little to rationalize here.

From A Certain Point of View

Under the Bridge Episodes 1 & 2 Recap

Cam is one of the few who takes Reena’s disappearance seriously

The audience POV characters are adults, though. One of them is Riley Keough’s Becca Godfrey, a writer who is working on a book about the island of Victoria’s misunderstood female youth, particularly those, like Jo, from the Seven Oaks group home. Under the Bridge is based on the real-life Godfrey’s book of the same name – she was an executive producer on the show until her death from lung cancer in 2022.

Becca strikes up a cautious relationship with Jo, who in an effort to impress her confesses what she did to Reena as early as Episode 2. She’s proud of it. And she’s too naïve to realize that Becca, who is already nursing significant trauma connected to Victoria and the loss of her brother, is appalled by her.

The other protagonist is Cam Bentland, a police officer – also a lifelong local – played by Lily Gladstone. Cam represents a thoroughly indifferent police force who can’t be bothered to investigate the disappearance of any young girl, let alone an Indian one.

Reena Was An Outsider Among Outsiders

Under the Bridge Episodes 1 & 2 Recap

Reena was an outsider among outsiders

And that’s the other thing. Reena is Indian, but more to the point from a family who had converted from Hinduism to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her conservative family think her attempts to fit in – shaving her legs, for example, or trying to celebrate her birthday – are paganism. Reena starts to rebel because she wants to fit in socially, but her ethnicity means she’d never be able to anyway. She’s the outsider within outsiders.

Reena sneaks out to Seven Oaks in Episode 1 to celebrate her birthday, but Jo and her cronies target and belittle her. In response, Reena steals Jo’s “little black book” and calls everyone in it, spreading outlandish rumours about Jo. So, in response, Jo lures Reena to the Craigflower Bridge, puts out lit cigarettes on her, beats her half to death, and sets her hair on fire.

Under the Bridge Episode 2 Ends With Reena’s Body Being Discovered

Under the Bridge Episodes 1 & 2 Recap

Jo confesses to Becca in Under the Bridge Episode 2

All of the girls are complicit in this. But in Episode 2 Jo’s own confession to Becca reveals that she later followed Reena, beat her more, and pushed her into the water.

The two-part premiere of Under the Bridge ends with Reena’s body being discovered, confirming her fate for her family and the police force who refused to take her initial disappearance secretly. Becca knows what happened, but her longstanding relationship with Cam and the town itself put her in a confusing position, and it’s obvious that many more characters have secrets that will be unravelled in subsequent episodes.

But this isn’t light-hearted viewing, clearly. It’s a brutal and sickening example of moral decay, hard to reconcile as entertainment. But people will watch it, for sure. And it’s important that they do.


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