“Wish You Were Here” races through the setup of both an environmental conspiracy and a descent into folklore.
This recap of Invisible City season 1, episode 1, “Wish You Were Here”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
Invisible City episode 1 wastes no time in laying out its stall. A quick opening depicting hunters in a woodland being chased and killed by a hooting native with a head of trailing fire cuts away to reveal itself as a folkloric story being told to an inquisitive young girl, warning — or, perhaps, reassuring — her that those who attempt to destroy the forest and harm its animals will be dealt with accordingly by Curupira (remember that name — it’ll keep coming up.) Nothing about this is subtle, but this doesn’t really seem like a show that prides itself on subtlety.
See also the episode’s title, “Wish You Were Here”. That’s literally what Gabriela, an anthropologist and conservationist, says to her husband, Eric, in a video message she sends him lamenting his absence from a party that is quickly ruined when a raging fire starts in the woods. By the time Eric arrives, Gabi is dead, her eyes white, and their daughter, Luna, is traumatized.
A grieving, obsessive protagonist is nothing new. When we catch up with Eric a month later as he’s finally returning to work at the Environmental Police, it’s unsurprising to see him raging that his boss, Ivo, has closed the investigation into Gabi’s death, ruling it an accident. Eric’s not having that, obviously, but it’s surprising how far he’s willing to go — and how quickly! — to keep the matter relevant. In a small scene between Eric and Luna, as they comb through a box of old belongings, including photographs and newspaper clippings which reveal Gabi’s profession and desire to turn the forest into a reserve, it’s obvious that finding out what happened to his wife is more than a whodunit for Eric. Standard flashbacks and visions, including one in which Eric imagines Gabi running alongside the beach with him, prove that he’s far from over her death, and far from stable enough to be conducting an investigation into it.
But the discovery of a river dolphin washed up on the beach means Eric has no choice but to do so, especially since the people milling around the discovery, including a woman whose name we later learn is Camila, disappear as soon as he arrives. Camila quickly reports to Inês, her superior of some kind, that she was unable to return the dolphin’s body back to the water. In response to the disruption, a young homeless man named Isac is tasked by another of their conspirators, a hulk by the name of Tutu, to recover the dolphin’s corpse.
The trouble for Isac is that Eric has the critter on ice in the back of his truck since he insisted on going to Tore Village with his partner, Marcia, since that’s where Gabi died and the latest news that all the fish there are dead implies a larger conspiracy that might well relate to her death. When they get there, the news that a construction company is trying to buy up all the land implies that both the fire and the fish might have been deliberate acts of sabotage to displace the locals. Ciço, an older traditionalist, certainly seems to think so, and considers the fish a particularly worrying omen, and his opinion seems to be the consensus. The only real voice of dissent comes from João, who obviously stands to personally benefit from the construction and thinks all the talk of folklore is a bit ridiculous.
By the time Eric gets the dolphin to the veterinary forensics lab, the expert isn’t there, forcing him to drive home with the thing still in the back of the truck. While he’s inside, Isac breaks into his home and distracts Luna with some sleight-of-hand magic. On his way out, he accidentally leaves his prosthetic leg behind, but Eric doesn’t notice since Luna wants him to read to her from a book of Brazilian folklore, particularly about Saci, a one-legged trickster with a red bandanna. Sound familiar?
Isac, out of options, sets off Eric’s truck alarm, but when he responds to the disturbance he discovers that his truck now contains the corpse of not a dolphin but a human being, one with the same stark white eyes as Gabi. Thinking back to the video message she sent him from Tore Village right before the fire, in which she was bumped by a man in a hat, he identifies the body as the same dude. But he doesn’t know anything about him, and the only way to learn is if the investigation persists. Thus, he dumps the body in Cedar Forest and calls it in anonymously — quite a line to cross so early, and a teasing cliffhanger for Invisible City season 1, episode 1 to end on.