Plausibility is not a top concern for the team behind Matador. It’s just not one of those shows.
Case in point: when a shady looking Finn with a dubious accent enters a hotel room carrying a gas mask on a platter, we don’t stop to wonder what this potential assassin may have gained by hiding it under an embossed silver dome. Later, when he attempts to spray Tony Bravo with a deadly substance delivered through an awkward aerosol spray can, we don’t pause to contemplate why a CGI fly disintegrates before our eyes while Bravo—lacking both the gas mask and the platter—comes out entirely unharmed.
All of this simply looks cool.
Matador doesn’t pretend to sell us a treatise on cause and effect. It just wants to look badass with minimal effort, and it does a pretty good job in no small part thanks to its agile writing. The series’ first three episodes have delivered unending loop de loops of intrigue and plot twists, brief moments of suspense and a seemingly bottomless repertory of corny one-liners. And while I wish there was a little something more to it, who ever hopped on a ride at Universal Studios expecting a spiritual epiphany?
After all, this is El Rey Network: the cherished brainchild of the king of camp, the sultan of schlock, Robert Rodriguez. We’re reminded of that fact when the same Finn falls onto a dining cart, convulsing and spitting up an oddly colored mixture of blood and entrails. Seeing the opportunity to rid himself of this little inconvenience before his lover steps out of the shower, Bravo nonchalantly wheels the cart into the hallway and quips, “Compliments of the chef!” just in time to lay some charm on his half-nude girl-toy. This is grindhouse fare, folks. Shock and awe with a couple of yucks.
Technically, Matador stays true to its uninspired, functional style. High-key lighting, on-the-nose camera work and editing, pointless camera movements and a shamelessly manipulative score all conspire to get the point across without throwing much art into the mix.
Nevertheless, the show does have its virtues, and “Idol Worship” even throws a little philosophy 101 into the equation when Margot waxes poetic about how humanity has lost its sense of wonder. As food for thought it’s tasteful enough, but then the writers do a great disservice to their character—and their audience—when Bravo simply responds that he has “no idea” what she’s talking about.
Alfred Molina, who is no doubt working at about 40 percent capacity, continues to be the shining star of the cast, delivering his interpretation of the menacing business mogul, Andrés Galán, with convincing intensity. But “Idol Worship” proves that the cast may have more talent up its sleeve than it lets on. The nuanced, tastefully contained heartbreak transmitted by Julio Mechoso’s Javi when Tony rebuffs him as his professional agent is absolutely devastating, and we can only hope that he gets more opportunities like this as the season progresses.
Meantime, there’s a little green statue on the loose and we still have no idea why it matters. But for some reason, I want to find out. With the promise of more ominous sounding foreign names (Moktar Zola) on their way to spice up episode four, I for one will be right back in the La-Z-Boy (or computer chair, really), waiting for answers.