It might not attract much attention, but 42 Days of Darkness delivers a dour mystery with solid characters and emotional depth.
This review of 42 Days of Darkness Season 1 is spoiler-free.
Crime dramas, even international ones, are ten-a-penny on Netflix, so much so that it’s always hard to make a case for the next one that crops up. I’ve covered so many at this point that I couldn’t possibly separate most of them in my memory; the one about the small town, the one about the missing person, the one about the serial killer, sooner or later you’re just describing the same thing. Sometimes there are woods, or underground bunkers, or supernatural suggestions. But it’s all a blur, ultimately.
If I can give 42 Days of Darkness one meaningful compliment, it’s that I think I’ll remember it for a while.
The irony is that it isn’t, on the surface, the most memorable show. It isn’t replete with gonzo twists and turns. Its plot isn’t especially unique. Its setting is deliberately dour and characterless. But it’s in this complete lack of romanticism that 42 Days of Darkness finds a compelling truth, for once a drama that seems to be about real people with believable arcs, relationships, and traumas. Gaspar Antillo and Claudia Huaiquimilla, who direct, have created a kind of anti-binge watch, the kind of TV you sit through in one sitting not because you’re dying to know what happens next, but because you’re so subsumed by it then you can’t see a way out.
The plot is kick-started by the sudden, unexplained disappearance of Veronica Montes, wife of Mario Medina, sister of Cecelia, and mother of Kari and Emi. By all accounts, Veronica enjoyed a relatively normal life and an ordinary if passionless marriage. But her apparent kidnapping from the upper-class locale of Altos Del Lago makes the news, startles the local police chief, Toledo, who isn’t exactly used to major crimes in the area, and strikes struggling attorney Victor Pizarro as a good opportunity to restore his career. Thus, he and his associates Nora and Braulio begin to dig into the matter, while the police and Cecelia do the same, though it quickly and predictably becomes clear that all is not quite what it seems.
As I said – not exactly original stuff. But the strength of the characters really elevates 42 Days of Darkness, its grieving siblings, confused children, and driven careerists really feeling well-observed and emotionally contoured. The performances match that strong script. This is a show in which characters speak and think like real people, and the six episodes are more interested in exploring their reaction to developments than throwing in one phony cliff-hanger after another just to please those with the shortest attention spans. There isn’t a great deal of narrative complexity here, but there is emotional depth, and an understanding of trauma’s ripple effects can unsettle those they touch in often small and unexpected ways.
It probably won’t do big numbers, even among the usual crowd, since this is a show that lacks the attention-grabbing hook you really need to stand out in such an overcrowded genre. But those who do check it out will probably feel well-served by its patient, potent unfurling of uncomfortable truths and miserable turns, and they’ll be in good company.