Feria: The Darkest Light Series Review: Intriguing, arresting supernatural show
Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, the more you delve into Feria’s story, the more you want to know about its characters’ ties to the strange cult
The inaugural season of this Spanish show ticks all the right boxes as far as mystery, intrigue and the supernatural go. As far as length is concerned, its narrative (with eight episodes of 45-60 minutes) is more suited to a miniseries. Set in the small town of Feria, the story revolves around an old mine that was closed in the 70s, with a group of strange cultists harnessing the power of another world from within its bowels. In 1995, two decades after its closure, teenage sisters, Sofia (Carla Campra) and Eva (Ana Tomeno), live a seemingly carefree life, until the night of their parents’ unexpected disappearance. The Civil Guard is called to investigate the mysterious deaths of twenty-three people outside the mine; CCTV cameras show them asphyxiating as they make their way out to the nearby reservoir. The only leads the officers have are Elena (Marta Nieto) and Pablo (Ernest Villegas) – the girls’ parents. Head investigator Guillén (Isak Férriz) believes that the husband and wife are responsible for the murders, as they are principal members of the cult. Pablo is seen on the CCTV footage bidding goodbye to his wife, but he never enters the tunnel himself. Elena and one other woman are missing from that night; twenty-five people entered the toxic environment but only twenty-three bodies have been recovered. Overnight, the whole town’s spotlight falls on Sofia and Eva, turning their world upside down. Were their parents really important members of a cult? Are they still alive? Could they have been responsible for the deaths of so many? The questions are endless, with the answers remaining as elusive as ever.
Feria taps into many themes, the foremost of which, is the complex bond between siblings. Eva attempts to protect her younger sister by holding her hand through her grief. Despite all her efforts, Sofia cannot come to terms with the fact that her parents could actually be guilty or dead, or both. It is this vulnerability and denial that leads her to look for answers beyond the physical world. Ranging from the mysterious Cult of Light and its multiple local guardians to the purported otherworld where no pain or sorrow exist, much is packed into each episode. The show scores full marks with its inexplicable strangeness. The intrigue looms, because even when we’re at the halfway stage, what that other world signifies is kept in the shadows, so to speak. The claim that it is a kinder, more just world, in stark contrast to this one, isn’t quite believed. For a person to make the journey from this realm to the next, a perfect one is needed (and this role can only be fulfilled by a woman); vessels are required to fulfil other obligations. So, what role do mere members play? All of it is shrouded in mystery, and that is what gives the show a certain arresting quality. It may end up packing too much at times, but it doesn’t succeed in losing your attention.
Creators - Carlos Montero, Agustín Martínez
Directors – Jorge Dorado, Carles Torrens
Cast – Carla Campra, Ana Tomeno, Isak Férriz, Marta Nieto, Ernest Villegas, Ángela Cremonte, Jorge Motos, Sauce Ena, Salva Reina, Carmen Navas
Streaming On – Netflix
Both sides (the believers and non-believers) are given a fair portrayal, making it rather hard for the viewer to decide. Eva and Guillén have similar perspectives on the supernatural. They view the cult’s tall claims as some mumbo jumbo to scare people off. Their logical minds cannot comprehend an alternate reality with otherworldly creatures and the like. Whereas, in spite of her initial reluctance, Sofia begins to come on board with the idea that her mother is still alive and that she is a perfect one capable of passing the five veils to open the doors to the next world (and thereby reunite with her missing mother). And then there’s Estrella (Sauce Ena), a therapist housing the girls in her facility, who also happens to assist Guillén on the case. At first, she is sceptical, but as the weird goings-on don’t cease, she consults multiple occult books to piece together a plausible theory.
A sign that appears in key places (on the bodies of those involved, in church), a priest murdered without motive, and a section of townsfolk tight-lipped about their association with the Cult of Light from years ago, Feria takes you deep into the smalltown unknown. The unlocking of one door leads to the opening of several others. Though it drags a bit here and there (with the extended supernatural and fantasy scenes) it holds your attention from start to finish. The human condition (loss, sibling rivalry, love and friendship) is captured so very well by Carla Campra, Ana Tomeno & Co. It isn’t a show that’s meant to scare the living daylights out of you, but it sure does unsettle from time to time. It ought to have worked well as a miniseries, but since it isn’t, let’s see where Season 2 takes us, if there is one, for starters.