Someone Has to Die Review: Engaging investments, middling returns
Although every conflict gets resolved, the convenience of the resolutions and the makers' decision to do away with the slow-burn narrative and adopt a rushed approach does pull the series back
Every country has a chapter in its history it wishes to forget. Among such pages in Spain is one of the Franco regime, notorious for its violence and assassinations of political dissenters, atheists, homosexuals, and other minorities. This regime also, interestingly, is known for reviving the Spanish economy. Netflix's latest Spanish series, Someone Has to Die, looks to speak about both sides of the Franco dictatorship.
Cast: Carmen Maura, Cecilia Suarez, Ernesto Alterio, Alejandro Speitzer
Director: Manolo Caro
Streaming on: Netflix
Revolving around the Falcons family, Someone has to Die is about the return of Gabino (Alejandro Speitzer), the youngest member of the family who has spent ten years in Mexico. Gabino returns with a young dancer friend Lazaro (Isaac Hernández), and this results in hushed whispers about the Falcon scion's sexuality. What complicates matters is that Gabino's dad Gregorio Falcon (Ernesto Alterio) is part of the government, and is in fact, in charge of incarcerating and inflicting torture on homosexuals in his district. While Gregorio and his mother, Amparo Falcon (Carmen Maura), want Gabino to get married to Cayetana (Ester Expósito), the daughter of an influential businessman, Gabino's mom Mina (Cecilia Suarez) simply wants her son to be happy. Also, Amparo has a dark secret. So does Alonso Aldama (Carlos Cuevas), Santos' son. And Mina gets into a scandalous affair too.
Over three episodes, Someone Has to Die ticks all the boxes of a typical Spanish telenovela. There is betrayal, intrigue, exposition, and as always, a number of characters flitting in and out of the screen. And despite such cliches of the genre, the series makes for an absorbingly disturbing watch, largely because of its unflinching depiction of the torture and witch-hunting of the LGBTQ+ community. It also shows how violence against political prisoners becomes acceptable in a self-proclaimed civilised society. Themes of repressed sexuality, the ill-effects of patriarchy, and how love trumps all is well-explored in this Manolo Caro directorial.
The three-episode series, written by Caro, Fernando Pérez, and Monika Revilla, takes its time to set up its finale. Over the first two episodes, we are introduced to all the players, their hidden agendas, their helplessness, and their unabashed disregard for others. This allows us to feel invested in several lives. We want to see if a father will finally come to terms with his son's sexuality. We want to see if a mother's belief that a crime is forgiven if done for the greater good of the family, is validated. We want to see if a gay person finally finds it in himself to come out in a society that vilifies people like him.
Although every conflict gets resolved, the convenience of the resolutions and the makers' decision to do away with the slow-burn narrative and adopt a rushed approach does pull the series back. And it has the effect of the finale not being as effective as it should. And despite this fairly rushed end, this series makes for an engaging story of a family that seemingly had everything but loses everything. With authoritarianism rising across the world, the timing of its release is not bad at all.