Chromosome 21 Season 1 Review – a compelling Netflix drama challenging Down syndrome prejudice

By Lori Meek
Published: March 11, 2023
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The show approaches several sensitive subjects with a level of honesty and respect I’ve yet to see in contemporary media. 

We review the Netflix series Chromosome 21 Season 1, which does not contain spoilers.

Chromosome 21 (original title: Cromosoma 21) is a Netflix crime drama that aired in Chile in October of last year. Named after the extra gene package present in people with Down syndrome, the eight-episode series centers on a person with the condition accused of murder. 

Chromosome 21 Season 1 Review and Plot Summary

Chromosome 21 starts at a crime scene, where a middle-aged factory worker was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest. The only other person present is a young man with Down syndrome named Tomy (Sebastián Solorza)—all the physical evidence points to Tommy being the shooter. There’s blood on his clothes and gunpowder residue on his hands. 

The lead investigator, Mariana Enríquez (Valentina Muhr), and her partner, Bruno Durán (Mario Horton), are having trouble believing someone with Down syndrome was capable of such a brutal act of violence. Especially as everyone who knows the young man describes him as a kind and gentle soul. Tommy’s brother, Guillermo “Bekam” Ruiz (Gastón Salgado), has a criminal past and appears to be the most likely shooter. But why would he leave his beloved brother behind to take the fall? As Mariana continues her investigation, she finds herself involved in a web of lies and corruption much bigger than she could have imagined. 

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There’s a lot to love about Chromosome 21. The show approaches several sensitive subjects with a level of honesty and respect I’ve yet to see in contemporary media. Tomy’s Down syndrome is presented as just one aspect of his character. He’s also a loving brother, boyfriend, and friend. It’s impossible not to root for the young man stuck in a horrible situation through apparently no fault of his own. It also raises some important questions about how people with learning disabilities should be treated by society if and when they break the law. 

As the series progresses, we spend some time with Tomy’s girlfriend, Cristina (Pía Urrutia), a young lady who also has Down syndrome, but unlike Tommy, she’s from a wealthy family who are trying their best to keep the two apart. The contrast between how Tomy’s treated by law enforcement vs. how Cristina is infantilized by her mother was compelling. While the prosecutors working to convict Tomy are fighting to have him tried as an adult fully in control of his mental faculties and actions, Cristina’s mother (Claudia di Girólamo) makes every decision for her, even when it comes to aspects of her intimacy such as her contraception and sexual health. 

Valentina Muhr does a great job playing Mariana, and her starring performance carries the series. Mariana is so committed to her job that she made the mistake of taking her small daughter to work with her, which leads to her losing custody of her child. During the series, we watch her paying for that lapse in judgment while still working hard to get to the truth of what happened on the night of the murder, even when everyone around her is demanding she lets Tomy go to prison. 

Is Chromosome 21 Season 1 on Netflix good?

Overall, Chromosome 21 is a brilliant series. There’s an intriguing central mystery, compelling characters, and a satisfactory ending. A slow burner at times, it takes a few episodes before the real intrigue takes off. But the show’s worth watching for the pay-off at the end alone. 

What did you think of the Netflix series Chromosome 21 season 1? Comment below.

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