FEATURING: Eduard Fernández, Megan Montaner, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, , Pepón Nieto, Manolo Solo
PLOT: In a small Spanish town, strange supernatural take place involving the town’s new priest, Father Vergara, previously an exorcist and currently an ex-convict. Vergara has in his possession a coin: one of the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas for betraying Jesus. He gets swept up in the increasingly strange events along with the town mayor, Paco and the town veterinarian, Elena. Amidst the deaths and strange creatures that appear, the three discover a conspiracy within the Church which involves gathering together all thirty coins.
COMMENTS: Getting A-level cinema talent to bring their A-game to the smaller screen can pay off; see with “Poker Face” and “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.” In most cases, that talent creates the concept and is involved in some way—directing a few episodes, writing/producing—but then the majority of production gets farmed out to others. It’s a rarity to have said talent directly involved in a the entire run of full-season of television (where a season is eight to ten episodes, in a world where “miniseries” appears to be a dirty word). Notable exceptions are ‘s “Twin Peaks: the Return” and Mike Flanagan’s Netflix shows (“The Haunting of…,” “Midnight Mass,” “The Midnight Club”).
Add “30 Coins” to that list. Spain’s Álex de la Iglesia, together with co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría, combines elements of trashy telenovelas with a supernatural conspiracy involving the Vatican over eight episodes. Fans of de la Iglesia’s Day of the Beast will find this familiar ground. Beast is comparable to early ; “30 Coins” is like later Raimi, but with a bit more edge. The telenovela aspect involves the star-crossed romance of childhood sweethearts Elena (Megan Montaner) and Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) who has an ambitious and jealous wife, Merche (Macarena Gómez). This triangle weaves in and out amongst the Lovecraftian events (several of the creatures who appear are explicitly named in that mythos).
The main title, one of the most vivid and memorable created for a television show, establishes the tone. It evokes the already over-the-top Biblical epics of the 1950s, with the Crucifixion shown in lurid detail, Judas getting paid off, and Jesus and his betrayer sharing a look that can be described as psychotic triumph. Judas’ suicide and the scattering of the coins end the sequence, setting up the show’s backstory.
The eight-episode series was created for HBO Europe, and proved to be successful enough on HBO Max that it was renewed for a second season, scheduled to premiere October 2023. Advance word on the second season suggests it focuses on the people of Pedraza, who have lost their minds and are confined to a psychiatric hospital. Elena lies in a Madrid hospital bed in a coma; Paco, shattered by remorse, tries to take care of her. Paul Giamatti will join the cast as Christian Barbrow, an American tech and business billionaire, science guru, writer of sci-fi novels, and head of a mysterious brotherhood of global elites. As horror grows around the cast, they must face a new enemy.
The first season can be streamed on HBO Max (or whatever they’re called today). Those thirsting for a home video release are out of luck, as there is no domestic release of the show as of this writing. There is, however, a Spanish Blu-ray release that has an English dub soundtrack as well as Spanish/English subtitles and a Spanish soundtrack—and is region free (although the format is incompatible with Playstation 3 and maybe some other units). Contact your favored importers.
Season One trailer:
Season 2 teaser:
Season 2 trailer:
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…this season remains bogged down in dull relationship drama and a confusing, mutating conspiracy, with only occasional flashes of the weird horror that the concept and the first episode’s opening scenes promise.”–Josh Bell, CBR (contemporaneous)