For once Netflix releases a telenovela you can conceivably binge in your lifetime, and this one boasts all the standard hallmarks of the genre.
This review of Dark Desire (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
The most striking thing about Dark Desire, Netflix’s new Mexican telenovela, is not its saucy content, obligatory melodrama, and fusion of romance with a twisty-turner thriller plot – it’s the length. At a mere 18 episodes, Dark Desire is the most realistically binge-able telenovela in the streaming giant’s increasingly vast library. For context, the latest of these things, All For Love, ran for a conservative 69 episodes.
This works to the show’s advantage since it still contains all the tropes and soapy flourishes you’d expect, but it won’t scare people away with a ludicrous episode order. Created by Leticia López Margalli and directed by Pedro P. Ybarra and Kenya Márquez, the Spanish-language thriller will get its hooks in early, and many will likely be compelled to stick around for perhaps the first time. It’s the best of both worlds – the accessibility of the direct-to-binge distribution model with all the hallmarks of the genre.
Plot-wise, there’s nothing new in Dark Desire. Alma Solares (Maite Perroni), a law professor, becomes convinced that her husband is cheating on her, so while out comforting her best friend over her recent divorce, she hooks up with 23-year-old Darío (Alejandro Speitzer). There’s much more to learn about this enigmatic youngster, and burgeoning character subplots elsewhere involving Alma’s investigator brother-in-law and daughter Zoe (Regina Pavón) help to round out an exaggerated story full of sex, lies, danger, and exaggerated melodrama.
Fans will have a good time here. It’s just sexy enough without being creepy and twisty enough without feeling too ridiculous, although the suspension of disbelief is basically mandatory when it comes to telenovelas anyway. The characters are obviously archetypes and their behavior is always exaggerated a little beyond what a reasonable reaction would be, but that’s par for the course. Even within the standards the show sets for itself, Dark Desire is far from anything new. But thanks to a realistic number of 30-40-minute episodes, it might very well be new to many of Netflix’s international viewership who finally have the time to see what all the guilty-pleasure fuss is about. More power to those people.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.