We love mysteries. Love them; great pulpy mysteries like the ones Agatha Christie wrote. But we dont see those kind of mysteries on TV anymore, ones where the people and setting are glamorous, and things are violent but not dark. The Spanish miniseries,High Seas is that kind of mystery. Read on for more about this new Netflix series
Opening Shot: A ships captain writes in his log about the three murders that have already occurred in ten days on this damned ship.
The Gist:The Villenueva sisters Eva (Ivana Baquero) and Carolina (Alejandra Onieva) are on their way to a cruise ship to take a one-way journey from Spain to Brazil. Why one way? Carolina is getting married on board and setting up a new life in Rio, while Eva, an author, is meeting a publisher who is interested in her work. As they approach the port, their car accidentally hits a young woman named Luisa (Manuela Vells), who claims that theyre going to kill me if shes caught. Eva, whos trusting and empathetic almost to a fault, convinces Carolina to stow her in their steamer trunk and sneak her on board.
Eva is confident they can get Luisa on board because Carolina is marrying the ships owner, Fernando Fabregas (Eloy Azorin), so the trunk isnt in storage. When they finally are able to get Luisa out, she says shes running from her fiance, a powerful man who demands they get married. Carolina wants to tell Fernando, but Luisa begs her to wait until theyre at sea and she cant be taken off the ship. Eva convinces her not to tell Fernando when the two of them visit him at his office just as he gets a call to meet a mysterious person at midnight.
Everyones making a new start on this cruise: The sisters just lost their father, and their uncle Pedro (Jos Sacristn) has decided to sell the business they ran together when Carolina and Eva decided not to take over. The captain is leading his first cruise since his wife died, and he wants no part of superstition like an albatross hitting the bridge right before they set sail. His first officer, Nicolas Vazquez (Jon Kortajarena), used to be a petty thief until the captain took him under his wing.
Luisa, having been taken down to the third class quarters of the sisters nanny Francisca and her daughter Victoria, knocks Francisca out, steals her key to the sisters cabin, and starts ransacking it, looking for something. As Eva gets cozy with Nicolas on the deck around midnight, though, she hears a woman scream and sees her fall from the ship. As the crew searches for the woman, both Eva and Carolina think that the woman who went overboard was Luisa, and they finally tell Fernando. But did the woman fall from the deck or was she pushed?
Our Take: High Seas(original name:Alta mar) is created by Ramon Campos and Gema R. Neira (Cocaine Coast), and its an amazingly good-looking show. Its post-WWII setting can not only be seen in the costumes and props like cameras and luggage, but the sets depicting the lavish, art deco-style hallways, ballrooms and staterooms of the luxury cruise ship the characters are on are a sight to see. Also, the costuming gives us little clues about the characters: Eva the independent artist, for instance, wears pants, which was just starting to be a thing in the late 40s.
The story plays out like one of those potboiler mysteries that Agatha Christie might have written in that time period; lots of colorful characters, all with an agenda and a motive, populate the ship, and mysteries abound. Sometimes, we thought Campos and Neira were a bit too coy with some of the mysteries, as when the ships doctor has a cryptic conversation with Uncle Pedro about what they might be doing when they arrive in Rio. But, for the most part, the characters are well-drawn and the story is intriguing.
One of the other things we found fun aboutHigh Seas is that the tone of the show isnt dark, like some of the period mysteries weve seen of late have been. No, it takes an old-fashioned approach to the murder mystery, making the setting glamorous even the third-class deck looks like a fun party instead of something resembling steerage the characters witty and sophisticated, and the mystery the central part of the story, not blood and gore. Were looking forward to seeing how this plays out over the series eight episodes.
Parting Shot: On the deck where the woman was thrown overboard, Eva finds an engineers pin, the same one Carolina gave Fernando just before the ship set sail.
Sleeper Star:Kortajarena is intriguing as Nicolas. He has taken a liking to Eva, and their relationship on board will likely have a big influence on the mystery.
Most Pilot-y Line: Sebastian, after meeting Victoria: I hate it when she goes, but I love watching her leave. Funny line, of course, but also very cliche.
Our Call: STREAM IT.High Seas is a good-looking, light mystery with performances that signal that theyre not taking things all that seriously, which is a good thing for a show like this.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesnt kid himself: hes a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Companys Co.Create and elsewhere.
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