“Red Leatherette Sofa” wastes no time in establishing the stakes and setting the scene.
This recap of Sky Rojo season 1, episode 1, “Red Leatherette Sofa”, contains spoilers.
Narration is a played-out device, granted, but it’s like anything else — it depends on what’s being said, and who’s saying it. When the voice doing the scene-setting for a new series is a prostitute forced into servitude under a brutal pimp in a fancy Tenerife brothel, you take notice. When the three main characters, Coral (who’s doing the voiceover), Gina, and Wendy, all spend their nights on that titular red leatherette sofa, you begin to get a sense of what their lives are like as property of Romeo and his madame, Charlotte, the only woman in the entire establishment who doesn’t get paid to have sex with men. When Sky Rojo episode 1 opens it’s with the brothel closed due to bereavement, giving the girls their first day off in 15 months. It’d be a day to remember for them at the best of times, even if it didn’t end with them having killed two people.
Romeo, thus far, seems like a cartoon villain. He’s such an aggressive creep that it seems ridiculous he’d be surprised when none of the villagers attend the funeral of his wife, Clarita. He has loyal goons in the form of brothers Moises and Christian, but little respect — he rules with fear, and with harsh punishments, as we see when Gina presents him with a roll of cash that she has saved up to clear her debts. Of course, he just makes up many more expenses so she has another bill to cover. He finds her crying and begging for time off amusing. There’s no wonder, really, that she hits him.
That action by Gina turns out to be the catalyst for the entire season. Romeo retaliates by stabbing her repeatedly with a pen, but when Wendy and Coral intervene, he can’t fight them all off. Coral clouts him over the head with a big ornament, presumably killing him. Just like that, they’re free. But are they really?
Sky Rojo season 1, episode 1 indulges in frequent flashbacks to Romeo’s nutcase initiation procedures, and glimpses of life for the girls in the brothel. It’s an explicit frankness that the show seems to revel in, but for good reason. By the time the girls had fatally knocked down Charlotte and fled, I was right there with them, totally on their side.
This isn’t entirely dissimilar from Pina’s previous work on something like White Lines. But the climax of “Red Leatherette Sofa” highlights a sense of humour that show didn’t have. With Gina bleeding out and in need of medical attention, Coral, who turns out to be addicted to pills, takes her to a friend who might be able to help them — one of her clients, Alfredo, a vet whose fondness for certain sexual acts is grounds enough to blackmail him into offering his services. He’s able to patch up Gina, who we learn is pregnant, but this is just the start. Where are the girls going to go next? And what are they going to do?