Season Two of HBO’s Spanish-language supernatural comedy is more restrained, to its detriment
It’s hard not to root for a show like Los Espookys, which has a few strikes against it as it tries again to break through in its second season. The show is an HBO comedy that’s almost entirely in Spanish, with some English, and subtitles in both directions. It spotlights many weird non-sequitur jokes and has a magical realism bent that feels Latin American, though it’s not set in any particular country. And for its second season, it switched directors, losing the very talented filmmaker Fernando Frias.
That the show still has a passionate fanbase and stronger-than-you’d expect promotion from HBO is a credit to its creators, SNL writer Julio Torres and comic Ana Fabrega, who write every episode with absurdist wit and sly, fast-moving dialogue. Los Espookys returned in September after a three-year break and its short run of six episodes will conclude just shy of Halloween on October 21.
The show is about four friends who make a business out of creating custom special effects (mostly horror-themed such as exorcisms) for clients who need their help. Midway into the brief new season, Los Espookys can’t escape the sitcom sophomore slump. The show’s complex, ever-expanding mythology is starting to feel a little wobbly and self-indulgent. The gang of four main characters (plus producer Fred Armisen as the well-meaning uncle of one of them) seems less cohesive as a group than in the first season. And, perhaps due to budget constraints, Covid restraints and the loss of its visual-stylist first-season director, the first three episodes of Season Two proved less dynamic, with a lot fewer purely visual gags and set pieces, plus some amateurish camerawork and transitions.
Despite all that, Los Espookys shines on as a Friday-night must-watch on the strength of its bold stabs at reworking what a sitcom, even a queer sitcom, can be. Its two most interesting characters, played by Torres and Fabrera, respectively, are a spoiled chocolate empire heir, Andres, and a simpleton, Tati, with a long list of dumb odd jobs to her credit (PowerPoint slide clicker, town square clock hand mover, Fitbit walker). There’s several running plot threads that could pay off at the end of the season, such as a dead beauty pageant contestant haunting Renaldo and an incompetent mayor running for president. Of which country? Who’s to say?
Los Espookys continues to contain laughs and moments of sparkling wit including Andres as a stair model; everything that comes out of the character Sonia’s mouth, certainly enough to deserve a run of several more seasons. But one other strike against this underdog show is that HBO Max has been on an expense-slashing spree this year. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Los Espookys got the chop from its corporate owner, but that would be a tragedy, and not the kind lots of dry ice, blood capsules, and bodies spinning in the air could turn into something cool and espooky.