Iglesia’s best work is ruled by suggestive images, rather than necessarily exacting compositions. He’s been more of a motion and momentum-defined filmmaker, which is why his most memorable images are a blur of action, simulating the turning of a pulp paperback’s page at lightning speed to get to the next trespass. That nimble delivery helps drill through the mountain of incident he and Guerricaechevarría have dreamt up; each episode contains something so profound and weird it alone could be the plot of a single movie. Fittingly, the writers have managed to create a number of different kinds of television show at once, from a “Twin Peaks”/“Andy Griffith Show”-derived study of a town in crisis, to a Shonda Rhymes-style political soap opera, and finally a fountain of supernatural goings-on as in monster-of-the-week offerings like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “The Venture Brothers.”
The creators are well aware that they’re dipping their quills in well-used ink and that knowing attitude becomes part of the fun of “30 Coins.” Take the character of Vergara. The idea of a priest-with-a-past is itself such a tremendous cliche that they go hog wild in the retreading. He’s not just a holy man who smokes cigarettes like Constantine, he’s also a former heavy weight boxer with a closet full of machine guns. The whole show is like that. It’s not just that there’s a religious conspiracy, it goes so deep it would upend the whole of the faith if it were unearthed. Lingering beneath the extramarital passions, misbehaving teens, corrupt cops and clergymen, the world might just be on the brink of destruction, but nothing’s inherently more important than anything else. It would be flippant in anyone else’s show to suddenly get dropped in Aleppo, Syria for an episode. Here it makes perfect sense.
I’ve heard complaints lobbed at the show that it isn’t as thoughtful as some of Guerricaechevarría and de la Iglesia’s previous work, and I have to disagree. “30 Coins” is predicated on a clever and cunning idea I wish was more frequently explored in more self-consciously cool “religious” art. This might constitute a minor spoiler, but it doesn’t concern any character in the show so much as it does the ideas underpinning the whole endeavor: the villains here are dark clerics trying to collect items possessed of the lingering power of the betrayal of god. In one scene it’s explained that they want to prove that Judas was part of the plan for Jesus to be crucified, making him just as integral a figure to the resurrection and thus the whole of the gospels as Jesus Christ himself. It’s explained in such a way to make it sound as though the whole idea of Evil in the world is something that is also then just as divine as an act of charity. In short: can anything be good without evil? It’s the kind of thing that preoccupies so much of the national discourse, albeit in bowdlerized and distractingly byzantine form. Do we need there to be horrifying things in the world to prove the true value and power of empathy and selflessness?
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