“Judas betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver… 2000 years later, one of these pieces appears in a remote town in Spain, unleashing a series of supernatural forces that threaten to uncover Vatican secrets and annihilate the human race”. With an intro like this, who else could be behind it but Álex de la Iglesia in his latest Spanish series which HBO premiered on November 29.
With a cast full of big names capable of traversing the entire acting spectrum with just one terrifying look. With a soundtrack that’ll have you on your toes during the most thrilling scenes, the magic of fantasy, and even flashes of Hitchcock, paired with an almost pictorial direction that yields shots worthy of a place hanging in the Prado Museum.
With all this, the series manages to trap and cast you out in the same episode because its successes are many, but they are almost proportional to the amount of nonsense.
The best of ‘30 Coins’
Without a doubt, the casting is one of this title’s strengths. Not only because names like Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Carmen Machi, Eduard Fernández and Megan Montaner will have audiences flocking in in droves, but also because the characters seem to have been written, bespoke for them to showcase.
Rarely have we seen Silvestre in the role of a conservative, insecure, opportunist and somewhat jerk politician. And he totally nails it. It’s never easy for us to hate Machi either, but we knew that when she put her mind to it, she’d pull it off. And in this production, we hate her. The physique with which Fernández surprises us is proportional to his creation of a bizarre priest that hides much more than an enviable torso. But the one we truly discovered in the horror genre is Megan, whom we met in “The Secret of Puente Viejo”. Role by role, she has convinced us that she’s one of the best actresses of her generation. Capable of everything. Even being the Ellen Ripley of Pedraza.
As was to be anticipated, Álex’s direction is the other fundamental and awe-inspiring pillar supporting the work. And I say “the work” because the shots are almost pictorial elements that remind us of Renaissance paintings. There are sequences in the town (that town which becomes another character in itself) that we could freezeframe and hang on the walls of one of the many Vatican museums. And religion is a constant throughout the series. And just As the Alien that whispers in your ear, Catholicism is just as suffocating throughout the production.
Meanwhile, the Roque Baños soundtrack will guarantee that you’ll be glued to the screen, unable to blink throughout the start of the series as he somehow manages to sustain a permanent air of suspense, coupled with the deranged tale that begins to unfold from the very start…
The worst of ’30 Coins’
Unfortunately, the very same tale that’ll have you hooked at first is the same one that loses air and drops down a couple of gears in just one episode. Something that De la Iglesia is widely criticized for is how he delivers such spectacular openings, the pace and style of which are difficult to sustain through to the final credits. As such, the series doesn’t deliver as promised, and we know that this is one of the worst things that can happen to us.
Although the story is based on such a fascinating premise, the narrative quickly begins to slip and slide, ends up spinning out of control and crashing into a tree. The problem is it skips from suspense to fantastic fiery terror so quickly that the plot crashes and burns in a few minutes, leaving very little left to the imagination for the remaining episodes.
And therein lies another of the major blunders to be avoided when making a series (and in life); blazing away too early on and spending your last bullet before the end of the shootout.