‘Under the Bridge’ Already Has Me Hooked

a woman with a bus in the background
‘Under the Bridge’ Already Has Me HookedHulu

This story contains spoilers for Under the Bridge episode 1.

When it comes to Hollywoodizations of true crime stories, you never know what you’re going to get nowadays. Meaning: There's a fine line between the long-forgotten Joe vs. Carole and the stellar Unbelievable. Now, following the success of The Dropout, Hulu is reentering the ring with Under the Bridge. The miniseries is based on the true story of Reena Virk—a fourteen-year-old girl who went missing after meeting up with friends at a party. Thankfully, this one is pretty damn good.

Under the Bridge premiered its first two episodes on April 17. It features Lily Gladstone in her first major role since her Oscar-nominated performance in Killers of the Flower Moon. She’s joined by Riley Keough, who is having moment herself right now, between Daisy Jones and the Six and the upcoming Sasquatch Sunset. Together, they play a cop and writer, respectively, who team up to uncover what happened to Reena. In the show, Keough’s character, Rebecca Godfrey, is working on an upcoming novel about the children of Victoria Falls. In real life, that book is called Under the Bridge, which inspired the show.

The Hulu adaptation is set in 1997, following the days leading up to Reena’s disappearance—along with the grueling investigation that followed. Each episode depicts Reena’s friendships with the people involved, specifically her dynamic with Josephine Bell, the queen bee whom she fears and admires.

Still with me? Good. In the premiere, we’re introduced to Reena (Vritika Gupta). She’s sweet, awkward, and desperate to fit in with her friends, who—unlike Reena’s family of Jehovah’s Witnesses—live a "normal" life. In other words, they listen to rap music, wear makeup, smoke cigarettes, and go to parties. Except! They started a pseudo-gang inspired by the mafia, calling themselves the CMC (Crip Mafia Cartel). It’s all a desperate ploy to feel tough—two of the girls were abandoned by their families and live in a foster home called Seven Oaks—but to Reena, their brash behavior is a stamp of freedom.

One day, she visits Seven Oaks to show off her new Biggie Smalls CD. Did we mention this show takes place in the '90s? If the baggy clothes and thin eyebrows don’t tip you off, a bunch of 14-year-olds rapping “Kick in the Door” certainly will. One moment, Reena and her friends are dancing around. And the next? Reena is jumps on the bed and promptly receives an ear-full. Big mistake. Josephine (Chloe Guidry) announces that she and the rest of the girls are attending a party that night—and Reena isn’t invited. To retaliate, Reena steals Josephine’s phonebook. Then, she spends the evening spreading rumors to anyone who will listen to her.

a woman looking at the camera
Meet Under the BridgeHulu

Later on, Josephine learns that Reena said that she has AIDS, among other lies. Naturally, Josephine is upset by the rumors—but instead of diffusing the gossip, she devises a plan for revenge. She reinvites Reena to the party and immediately confronts her. “I know you took my shit,” Josephine says. “Street rules, right?” Reena aks, hoping Josephine took the move as a power play—and will let her join the CMC. Instead, another group of kids arrives and, per Josephine’s instructions, threaten to attack Reena. She manages to run to a payphone and call home—but seconds later, she’s dragged out of the phone booth and under the bridge. (Hence, you know, the title of this show.)

Later on, Reena’s uncle, Raj (Anoop Desai), visits the police station with her father, Manjit (Ezra Faroque Khan), to report her disappearance. “We’ve been calling for days and nobody’s getting back to us,” Raj says. “My niece, Reena, called us from the bus stop by Shoreline and said she was coming home on Friday—and then nothing.” They go back and forth, though it’s clear the cops aren’t taking the report seriously. Raj says that Reena was at Seven Oaks earlier that day. He even presents Josephine’s phonebook as evidence. “It belongs to one of those girls.” In a last-ditch effort, Rajj appeals to Cam Bentland (Gladstone), the chief’s adopted daughter, who works on the force, too. “I get it from him, but I wouldn’t expect it from you,” he says, referring to the white officers' dismissal of their concerns.

On their way out, Cam’s brother, another officer, calls Reena a “Bic girl.” Meaning: children the police deem disposable. Cam, now determined to help, runs after Reena’s family (finally!) and asks for more information. Raj names Connor Fields as one of the last people Reena spoke to before she vanished.

a person standing in a doorway
Reena calls home. Hulu

Elsewhere in town, Rebecca visits Seven Oaks and asks to speak to the residents for an upcoming essay. Josephine overhears and interjects with news about Reena. “She’s missing,” Josephine says. “We haven’t seen her since that party on Friday.” Afterward, Josephine introduces herself, and Rebecca explains why she’s actually there. “I’m writing a book about the misunderstood girls of Victoria.” Rebecca doesn’t realize it quite yet, but she’s just met the most misunderstood girl in town.

Before leaving, she hands Josephine her card, which includes her New York address. Josephine lights up like a Christmas tree. She has no family in Victoria. Her mom ran off with her abusive boyfriend, leaving Josephine to raise herself, and her biggest dream is moving to the city. One day, she hopes to work for the mob boss John Gotti—who, of course, has no idea she exists. To her, it will provide a sense of security. “They love women in the mob because they never go to prison,” Josephine says. After admitting her mob mentality, she reveals her favorite party venue—Connor Field’s house.

a group of people standing in a dark area
Reena is dragged away by her friends, Josephine and Dusty.Hulu

Meanwhile, Cam’s catching on to Connor’s involvement, too. That night, she heads to his house with some questions about Reena. “I think she just called me as like a dare or something,” he says. When Cam probes for more information, Connor unravels. “Why do you gotta be asking me about this? Everybody else saw it.” Then he reveals there was a fight. “I thought they were just making shit up, but this chick, Josephine, called me, and she said, ‘CMC is going to make sure that I don’t hear from Reena again.’ People are saying Reena might be floating around somewhere.’”

The next morning, Cam sends a dive team to search for Reena’s remains. They find her jeans and underwear, but not her body, and bring Reena’s peers—Josephine, Kelly, Dusty, and Warren—to the station for questioning. Josephine’s mother won’t come, so she calls Rebecca instead. “Can you keep a secret?” she asks.

The episode ends with Cam and the police staff reviewing security footage from that night. To everyone’s surprise, Reena emerges from beneath the bridge and stumbles off, battered but alive. So begins the mystery—nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted, people. In episode 2, we’ll learn more about what happened to Reena and why she never made it home.

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