Accustomed as we are to block premieres where platforms launch entire seasons intended for audiences to binge upon as quickly as they are subsequently cast from our memories, or to have to give certain series the benefit of the doubt, because, apparently, if you haven’t seen half a dozen episodes, then you haven’t given the show time to develop its storyline and characters, it’s truly gratifying to come across ‘Paraíso’: a production capable of building a universe of its own, narrating an original story and where the fate of our protagonists has us worried, leaving us breathless, all this in a single episode that draws us in, ensnares us in the episodes to follow.
So, just to establish the setting, the action in this first fantasy series from Movistar+ takes place on the Eastern coast of Spain in 1992. As the summer slowly comes to an end, three 15-year-old girls, Sandra, Eva and Malena, disappear without a trace while on a night out in a disco on the coast. Just like what happened with another group of girls years earlier. The police see no connection between the cases and appear to be looking in the wrong direction, so Javi, Sandra’s younger brother, begins to investigate along with Quino and Álvaro, his best friends, and Zeta, the class bully, with the help of his friends Olivia and Bea. But they’ll soon discover that those responsible are not of this world.
Accordingly, one of the darkest episodes in Spain’s criminal history, the disappearance of girls from Alcásser, serves as the starting point for Paraíso’, which, instead of emulating the case, uses it as an alibi to take audiences along on a journey into a terrifying and unknown limbo inhabited by beings that move in utter darkness. So without spoilers, the first episode ends with a plot twist that’ll flip any expectations we might have had on their heads, introducing an endless series of enigmas to be resolved, capsule by capsule, in the following episodes.
Action, adventure, sci-fi and nostalgia coexist in this ‘Paraíso’ whose most obvious reference, but not the only one, is to ‘Stranger Things’ and by the same token this youth series shares with its Netflix counterpart the core group of misfit kids, the movies of Steven Spielberg and John Hughes, strange evil beings and even radio ham equipment, adding to this our beloved ‘Verano Azul’, that disco, and that summer fair, our own particular relationship with death and the undertaker, and the music of Chimo Bayo, OBK and Mecano. Not surprisingly, the main theme of Lucas Vidal’s haunting soundtrack, a mix of eighties-inspired electronic music and orchestral epic, is performed by none other than Ana Torroja.
The multiple references from our youth, far from bogging the narrative down, adds layers of reading to the series, allowing audiences of all ages to enjoy this mystery. Correspondingly, the young protagonists discuss the clues that a fantasy icon like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ can offer them, which their parents probably read, and who get all nostalgic at the sight of the Game Boy the older kids played with in front of the TV. But it will be the adolescents of the house who share the emotions of Pau Gimeno, Cristian López, Leon Martínez, Héctor Gozalbo, María Romanillos and Patricia Iserte with their search for answers, the first kiss or the value of friendship.
Macarena García, Iñaki Ardanaz and Gorka Otxoa complete the adult cast that, in the background but in a vital way, contributes to story development. Speaking of suspense and supernatural beings, the most difficult thing is to immerse the viewer in this universe and make their heart skip a beat at the appearance of evil on the scene. Certainly, ‘Paraíso’ and its spectacular special effects, hand-in-hand with the skilled cinematography and excellent soundtrack, manage to create that oppressive atmosphere, passing the exam with flying colors.
But, if we have to find fault somewhere in ‘Paraíso’ it’s perhaps the excessive reenactment of the most sentimental moments in an effort to get us to connect with the characters, taking its time before getting to the fantasy stuff. The consequence, of course, is that once we’ve become hooked, we’ll be glued to the screen in anguish and hungry to find out more.
Created by Fernando González Molina together with Ruth García and David Oliva, ‘Paraíso’ is an original Movistar + series produced in association with The Mediapro Studio. The show premieres the first three episodes today, June 4 on Movistar +, after which they’ll be airing a new episode on demand every Friday.