Episode 1: “The Pilot”
A woman’s body is found on the line between El Paso, Tx and Juarez, Mexico. Det. Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) of Chihuahua State Police is first to arrive on the scene. Shortly thereafter, El Paso Homicide Det. Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) joins him.
Sonya’s demeanor is stiff as she calls dibs on the body, which she claims came from El Paso. Det. Ruiz shrugs, not too disappointed to hand the case over. The crime scene has shut down the border and a women riding with an ambulance, requests to speak to Sonya. Her husband is having a heart attack and Sonya refuses to let her through.
Sonya is so unmoved by the women’s pleas that it’s unsettling. The woman ends up going to Det. Ruiz, who lets through the blockade. When the El Paso medical examiner attempts to remove the body, it’s revealed that the victim is cut in two.
On a dark alley in Juarez, a visibly upset young woman stumbles by. A man appears, calling out to her. She asks if he is the one. He is, and promptly escorts her into the trunk of his car. The woman, named Eva, is frightened and uncertain that this is the right move as he closes her in.
At the hospital, the woman from earlier is revealed to be Charlotte Millright (Annabeth Gish) and her husband is about to undergo emergency surgery on his heart. He reveals to her that he doesn’t love her and wants a divorce. Total dick move! She is devastated by this news naturally, and even more so when he doesn’t make it through surgery.
The dead body is that of Judge Lorraine Gates, and Sonya goes to her home to inform her husband of her murder. It becomes fairly clear during their exchange that Sonya is not the best person to handle these sorts of delicate matters. Her lack of empathy (which she acknowledges and apologies for to the husband) is not intentional, but rather a characteristic of her Aspergers. Later in the autopsy room, the body turns out to be halves of two different women; one Caucasian and one Hispanic. Sonya calls Marco, waking him to give him the news and request files on women’s bodies found in Juarez to attempt and find a match. Marco goes to visit a man he calls “El Capitan” to get permission to investigate the case. One gets the feeling that this El Capitan is not affiliated with the police force. At the El Paso station, Sonya fills her superior Lieutenant Wade (Ted Levine) in on the case, while casually stripping down to her sports bra. He gently reminds her to use the ladies room next time. Lt. Wade has a soft spot for Sonya, and is used to her idiosyncrasies.
Steven Linder (Thomas Wright), the man with the girl in his trunk, drives his car over the border and through the hills to a desolate area equipped with just a trailer. She attempts to run off, but doesn’t get very far before giving up. In spite of his “it puts the lotion in the basket” voice, Steven wants to help the girl, not harm her.
Marco shows up at the El Paso Police Dept and tells Sonya that 250 girls go missing each year in Juarez, and not all are investigated. He suspects the other half of the body belongs to Christina Fuentes, one of the Dead Girls of Juarez. She informs Lt. Wade that she has filed a report against Det. Ruiz for allowing the ambulance to go through the crime scene. The fact that Det. Cross is so by the book and procedural might make her an excellent detective, but it also makes her a challenge to partner with.
Back at the Millright ranch, Charlotte finds a secret cell phone and key in her husband’s personal effects. A woman calls and hangs up when Charlotte answers. She confronts the foreman Cesar about the key, and he takes her to a secret locked door at the far end of the ranch.
Surveillance video catches the plate number of the murder suspect’s car, and it’s traced to Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard), a local reporter who is busy drinking his career down the toilet. In the newsroom, we meet Frye and his fellow reporter Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios). Adriana is plucky and ambitious, and covers the border beat. Frye gives her some grief, but she doesn’t take any of it, going right back at him.
Frye leaves the office and gets into his car, which unbeknownst to him at first, is loaded with an explosive device. The car locks and traps him inside with nineteen minutes on the clock. The bomb squad arrives, and Sonya takes the opportunity to question Frye on the phone about the case. He naturally panics but reveals he’s covered Judge Gates before.
As the time clicks down, and the bomb squad bails, Sonya talks him through his imminent death. Time runs out, but instead of an explosion, the doors unlock and Frye escapes unharmed. The “bomb” contained a cell phone with a chilling message for the detectives.
“There are five murders a year in El Paso. In Juarez, thousands. Why? Why is one dead white woman more important that so many more just across the bridge? How long can El Paso look away? We’ve got some interesting times ahead. This is only the beginning.”