Sometimes, I swear, it’s like the creators of these limited-run series are paid per minute of screen time that they convince the streamer to give them to tell their story.
A woman learns that her beloved brother — missing for over 20 years — was murdered. She flies to Spain to see the body, and to the isla of sin, Ibiza, the last place anybody saw the handsome young DJ alive.
If feature filmmakers could get to the solution in 100 minutes, what’s the extra incentive for the creator of “Money Heist,” Alex Pina, to spread it over 500?
Yes, another rant about filler, teasing and wasting screen time to get to a story that would be more compelling if told in a much more brisk pace.
But call “White Lines” a guilty pleasure, a decadent dip into Ibiza affluence, drugs, night club/casino turf wars undertaken by rival families, reopening old family wounds, and run-ins with the law. Because every single episode has one or two big grabber moments, even if they’re surrounded by lapses in logic, soap operatic excesses and twists designed to do nothing more than, say it with me, “Drag this out.”
Here’s the first grabber, 40ish Manchester librarian Zoe (Laura Haddock of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise) turns away from the Spanish police inspector who has just told her that they don’t investigate suspicious deaths more than 20 years old, and runs to weep over the mummified corpse of her missing brother.
Axel was supposedly in India, his friends said. But here he is, buried in Almeria, not that far from Ibiza, where he’d become a star DJ. How he died will become clear soon enough. Who did it, or who knows who did it in the focus of “White Lines.”
Zoe was shattered by her older brother’s abandonment. She sends her husband by to Manchester alone, blows off the protests of her retired cop dad (Francis McGee) and starts tracking down those still on the island of Ibiza (filmed on Mallorca) who knew Axel.
Flashbacks to “Manchester, 1996” relate the life and sister Axel (Tom Rhys Harries, last seen in “The Gentlemen”) left behind, and pick up his early days, making his mark and meeting friends and lovers in in Ibiza.
A running gag — everybody and I mean EVERYbody, from monied power brokers to old mates to the families that struggle for real-estate (and nightclub) dominance on the island asks “Do YOU know who killed Axel?” to pretty much everybody else.
Zoe isn’t even there, and unless all these people are lying, they’re wondering the same thing she is. Her showing up just amps up pressure of the uncomfortable questions.
A second repeated gimmick — Zoe Facetimes with the shrink (Maggie O’Neill) she saw for years after Axel disappeared. She’s not just talking about recurring issues. She uses her chats with Yoana to bring us up to date on all emotional barriers she’s breaking through, laws she’s breaking and the “white lines” she’s straying from in her new “be brave” ethos. Kind of a cheat way to “bring the viewer up to date,” but there you are.
She wonders what aging fellow DJ Marcus (veteran character player Daniel Mays, the LAST guy you’d think of as a club DJ, but convincing) knows, what the club-connected/family “enforcer” Boxer (Portuguese actor Nuno Lopes, all silky menace and sexy machismo) might be able to tell her, and what Kiki Calafat, of the rich club-owner Calafat clan (Boxer’s employer) might have to say.
Marta Milans of “Money Heist” makes Kiki a sexy “wild child” pushing 40, remembering her “first love,” Axel. A hole in her story? Axel seduced her away from another young Ibiza prince of two turntables and a microphone. “First love? Umkay, SECOND love!”
There are other characters, further intrigues. And every episode’s “Well, not seen THAT before” moment adds to the collection of grabbers.
Intimations of incest, a murder with a claw anchor, dogs stoned on cocaine that a dealer has spilled on the lawn, a “white line” he hides by putting a child’s soccer goal on it, an insane car chase (on an ISLAND) hurling cocaine out of an ’80s VW Golf convertible, a torture session or three, a drug trip in a sweat lodge filled with hallucinogen-laced frogs, a harpooning to end a torture session — I mean, you can’t say this doesn’t have a lot of fun or jolting moments.
“Yes. To be honest, it’s my first orgy.”
And as dull as the endless trips BACK to the club, to the office ABOVE the club, to beaches, the ancient lookout tower/fortress, to marinas and mansions, can be, as banal as much of the dialogue is, there are pearls that pop out of the filler.
“If you live like a god when you’re 20,” aging DJ Marcus sighs, “how can you be happy after that? Good times are always behind you.”
I appreciate the scattering of laughs, the novel, over-the-top dips into violence (Romanian drug dealers are the scariest) and the sheer loopiness of certain decisions, actions and leaps of illogic. And Haddock conveys a nice sense of pluck, damage and recklessness as Zoe.
I can’t say I think “White Lines” (in English, and Spanish with English subtitles) is “Golden Age of Streaming TV” material. But I can say it kept me around.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence, drug abuse, sex, nudity
Cast: Laura Haddock, Nuno Lopes, Marta Milans, Daniel Mays, Belén López Angela Griffin, Francis McGee and Tom Rhys Harries.
Credits: Created by Alex Pina. A Netflix release.
Running time: 10 episodes @ 50 minutes each