Review: “Who Killed Sara?” and the art of Netflixnovela

“Who Killed Sara?”, The popular Mexican mystery series returning for a second season Friday on Netflix, is much like an early 1970s Toyota Celica: an import offering an attractive package of sportiness and reliability. It overheats but continues to move. He and his fellow Netflix Spanish-speaking “Money Heist” and “Elite” can’t take control of the US market like Japanese cars once did, but cars have the advantage of not having subtitles.

“Who killed Sara?” is a puzzle, as the title suggests. Alex (Manolo Cardona), released from prison 18 years after being found responsible for the death of his sister, Sara (Ximena Lamadrid), in a suspicious parasailing accident, is obsessed with the evidence that she was murdered and the identification of the culprit. Having acquired an impressive mastery of surveillance technology, bomb-making and other dark arts in prison, he sets out to investigate and harass – both psychologically and physically – members of a wealthy family, the Lazcanos, who were his and Sarah’s. close friends.

At the start of Season 2 (three of its eight episodes were available for review), it seems to be further away from an answer than ever, a circumstance that sums up the show’s melodramatic method and indicates whether or not you might enjoy it. . After a first season spent giving everyone in sight plausible reasons for wanting to get rid of Sara, the second season doubles up, highlighting new suspects while pushing forward the idea that she could have caused her own death. .

The style is breathtaking telenovela, with the emotional temperature slightly reduced for an American audience in general. There is an overabundance of conspiracy, but in some ways “Who killed Sara?” hardly bother to tell a story or create characters. We rarely see how people get from point A to point B in a scene – they’re always at point B, with a bomb exploding or a gun being pointed or an anonymous correspondent sending cryptic clues.

The writers, led by series creator José Ignacio Valenzuela, built their puzzle box with enough ingenuity to explain the show’s Netflix Top-10 status during its first season. The mystery has just enough interest, and the bare minimum of plausibility, to warrant your attention. It’s the necessary binder, but your dedication or rejection of the show will be determined by how you respond to the soap opera blossoms: the pregnant surrogate mother masturbating while spying on her baby’s gay dad in the shower, by example, or the sociopath. master of the universe that permeates his own daughter-in-law. (Much of the appeal of this type of show is guessing with it, so pat yourself on the back if you predicted, many episodes to come, that the son had had a vasectomy.)

It may be that “Who killed Sara?” Also hits a chord with his portrayal of how the cynicism and corruption of an older generation of Mexico City’s elite – father and mother Lazcano, César (the excellent Ginés García Millán) and Mariana (Claudia Ramírez ), compete for the honors of evil parents. – annihilate the life of their softer and more enlightened offspring.

The show’s biggest continuing improbability is the romance between Alex and Elisa (Carolina Miranda), the daughter of the hated Lazcanos, who was a child when Sara passed away. (Whether that rules him out as a suspect remains to be seen.) It’s a humorless way of humanizing Alex, which is otherwise a bit of a drag. But whether the filmmakers intend it or not, the revolving and always-complicated nature of the story also helps soften it – since the series can’t, for the foreseeable future, come close to real answers, the arc. Alex’s drama has gone in part from resolute revenge to almost comedic frustration.

This need to stretch the story becomes even more evident in Season 2, as the scenes are replayed from different perspectives and in slightly different time frames for no reason other than to give us tiny increments of new information. Like many things about “Who Killed Sara?”, It can strain your patience while you wait to see if your own pet theory turns out to be correct. I advocate that no one killed Sara or Alex killed Sara, but all options remain open.

About Warren Dockery

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