HBO // 2009 // 670 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // August 20th, 2011
El final ahora tiene dos caras.
The original Epitafios was the first HBO Latino show filmed in Latin America. It was violent and bloody, and viewers sucked it up like frozen daiquiris at a beach party. So, logically, they waited four years to make a sequel. Two years even further on, the sequel is now available as a DVD set.
The first season of Epitafios told the story of a serial killer with a vendetta against former cop turned taxi driver Renzo Márquez. In season two, Renzo is back on the force, partnered with Russian roulette junkie Marina Segal. Their newest case is to investigate a brutal murder, which leads to a serial killer who is making exact duplicates of murders from two decades ago. Fortunately, you don't need to see the first season to understand the second; both of them have self-contained storylines.
Here are the episodes, none of which are named. Note that the discs were mislabeled; disc one said it only had the first two episodes and disc three said it had four episodes. In truth, the first three have three episodes each, and disc four has four episodes. As of this writing, Amazon has suspended selling the show while they fix something; I'm guessing it is this.
* Episode 1 -- Renzo and Mariano investigate a gruesome murder. A mute, nearly dead man is found stumbling around on the outskirts of town.
* Episode 2 -- The mute man appears to be able to predict who the killer's next victim will be, so the killer tries to silence him.
* Episode 3 -- Renzo and Marina investigate several murders at the hospital at which the now disappeared mute man had been recovering.
* Episode 4 -- The mute man escapes from the killer and goes to the police.
* Episode 5 -- The killer strikes again, while the police find a previous victim.
* Episode 6 -- Renzo and Marina do some triangulating and think they have found the killer.
* Episode 7 -- The suspect flees and disappears. The police find very little in the way of evidence at the house.
* Episode 8 -- The house of their suspect turns out to be a house of horrors.
* Episode 9 -- The killer kills someone who has discovered his identity.
* Episode 10 -- The mute man agrees to hypnosis and provides the address of the real killer.
* Episode 11 -- Ranzo goes after the killer, but doesn't have a warrant.
* Episode 12 -- Mariana finds the killer but fails to stop him.
* Episode 13 -- Renzo finally catches the killer.
Mysteries are puzzles. To solve one completely, one needs to establish all the "W's" you learned in grade school: who, what, where, when, why? Also "how," but that one is usually a given. Epitafios: Season 2 bucks the trend; the very first episode reveals the answers to all of these, either in full or in part, leaving the rest of the story just a matter of how Renzo and Marina are going to find and stop the perpetrator. Instead of trying to figure out what's going on, the show's energy comes from watching the killer trying to stay ahead of the police.
The "who" doesn't get a name until late in the series, and his "why" is because he views murder as art and is re-creating, with meticulous care, a selection of killings from twenty years previous. His victims are all people who were somehow involved with the previous murders; his first victim, for instance, was the coroner for one of the old cases. The "where" is an unnamed city, but since it's filmed in Buenos Ares, there's no reason to believe it's somewhere else. At first the show gives a half-hearted effort to hide the fact that the killer has split personalities, but it isn't long before he is having long discourses with himself. Leonardo Sbaraglia (Diary of a Nymphomaniac) does a great job with both pieces. He's angry and chagrined, charming and bumbling, almost at the same time. He makes great use of his fluid features; at times he really looks like a different person.
Renzo comes across as a mix of Inspector Lewis and Tony Soprano, and Argentinean legend Julio Chávez (The Other) is quite on par with Kevin Whately and James Gandolfini. His range is impressive; he rolls between angry, gregarious, depressed, confused, and about every other emotion you can think of with no apparent effort. Alejandro Awada is also good as psychic mental patient Alfonso Velázquez. Marina is grim and focused and little else, so Cecilia Roth (All About My Mother) doesn't have much to do, but she makes the most of her scenes, while Mariano Lagos (Juan Minujín, Lamb of God) shows almost no emotion as he sleepwalks through the show.
I like the idea of a police procedural following a single case through several episodes. It fixes the flaw that afflicts many of today's cop shows; they don't need to rush things at the end, nor rely on coincidence or an expository confession to wrap things up. Unfortunately, Epitafios: Season 2 doesn't use this strength to its fullest advantage. Several clues are overlooked or ignored. For instance, when the mute psychic (which is a cheat itself; the show would have been more involving without the supernatural angle) finally gets his voice, he gives them a name: Cain. It turns out this wasn't the killer's name, but no one thinks to follow up by, say, looking up known criminals with that name or alias. Then they triangulate the spot they think the killer is hiding, and focus on a house that is just outside the result's circle. Once they discover it's not the house they're looking for, they don't go back and try to find the right one.
A lot of time is spent on a separate plotline involving Marina and the brother she never knew she had as they get too deeply involved in a Russian roulette ring. Other than how it affects Marina's behavior on the case, it has nothing to do with anything else. Same with Marina's girlfriend; they connect early on, but the relationship is barely mentioned the rest of the show, which robs their final meeting of the emotion it's supposed to have.
One final problem with the show is the use of the law. Maybe Argentinean police procedure differs greatly from ours, but the premise of the last third of the show relies on a legal catch-22: they know who the killer is, but they can't search his house for proof without a warrant, and they can't get a warrant without proof. Apparently the term "probable cause" doesn't have an Argentinean equivalent.
The problem areas are easy enough to ignore. In fact, the last one adds a lot of drama; the killer walks around right in front of them, and they can't do a damn thing about it. It's a discomfiting feeling. Epitafios: Season 2 is violent, but not as gratuitous as some would have you believe. The murders are based on the most interesting the killer could find, so they're quite graphic, but the camera doesn't linger for most of it; generally we see the beginnings of the murder, and then the final result. Only the most squeamish need worry.
The shots of Argentina are lovely and the detail and camerawork are excellent. The lighting does a good job of setting up the action. Sadly, 2.35:1 picture is highly pixilated, which subverts much of the lovingly laid composition. The 5.1 surround does a pretty good job; the subwoofer is used to good effect and there is nice balance between the voices and the background. The surround speakers carry unobtrusive music, and nothing more. There are no extras.
Epitafios: Season 2 gives an interesting twist to the police procedural. It's not perfect by any means, but it is well written and has some really good acting to keep you engaged throughout.
Not Guilty. Caso sea desestimado.
Review content copyright © 2011 Josh Rode; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Portuguese)
Running Time: 670 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated