Just when we thought we knew where things were going, Matador throws us a curveball — or whatever soccer-oriented metaphor would be equivalent.
Matador’s writers know exactly what they’re doing; or better said, that they know exactly where they are taking the spectator at a given moment. They have shown a masterful grasp of suspense and intrigue, withholding key information while giving us just enough to stay narratively afloat.
Now, just when the season’s arc was becoming somewhat predictable and formulaic, leading us ever so slowly down the rabbit hole and into Galán’s shadowy world of international conspiracies, they’ve shifted the drama into high gear and brought about about a whole new set of concerns, some intriguing backstory and a couple of new characters to boot. Who would have guessed that we’re hitting the mid-point of the season’s dramatic arc?
If there were a slogan for this episode and its renewed narrative strategy, it would be Tony Bravo’s not so subtle insistence on taking “a more direct approach”. In the last episode we caught a glimpse of a softer Tony, who was deeply affected by the rival soccer player he saw casually murdered like a racehorse with a broken leg. Now, after Galán’s henchman murders a nervous young man who Tony was sent to visit only moments earlier, our hero is visibly shaken and things start unfolding at a brisk pace.
In fact, kudos to actor Gabriel Luna, who shows a faint glimmer of true feeling when he confronts his CIA point men (or women…), exclaiming “People are dying!” before storming out of the neon-lit, multiscreen CIA branch office. Even if it’s just a handful of lines, it’s enough to know that Luna has more potential than the furrowed-brow he has been passing off as emotion, or the ingratiating smiles he has been selling us as charisma. Sometimes it takes a while for actors to fall into roles — especially if they’re not helped along by a director — so let’s hope that Luna will begin to fully shine as the season progresses.
Matador’s visual language has also seemingly stepped up its game. While the music continues to tastelessly shake and cajole us into feeling exactly what the producers intend for us to feel, the cinematography in “Misanthropology” shows a great deal of maturity — creating evocative low-light atmospheres with silhouettes, shimmering bokes and bright, diffuse light filtering in elegantly through curtains. The on-the-nose close ups and rack focuses are as clunky as ever, forever guiding our gaze and leaving little margin for subtlety or ambiguity; but, it’s reassuring to see that Matador is looking like a much more serious show than it originally let on.
The addition of Christopher Cousins as the CIA-supervisor and Annie Mason’s whipped lover adds another worthy actor to Matador’s roster while thickening the plot with a vague backstory about withheld information and murdered “assets” that will undoubtedly set the stage for Bravo finding himself in a tight spot before too long. Meantime, the visually pleasing, but hopelessly stiff professional-wrestler-turned-actress Eve Torres does her job as investigative reporter Reyna Flores, adding yet another fascinating snag in the plot that we couldn’t have seen coming.
Now, Galán is on the trail of the CIA just as Annie Mason and co discover his secret intentions. Now the hunter will also be the hunted, and we’ll surely be on the edge of our seats until it’s clear who’s the prey.