The show in Spanish, created by a prolific Chilean writer Jose Ignacio Valenzuela, is a passable revenge thriller with just enough to set it apart from the rest. The premise of the show is simple: Alex Guzman (the quiet, furious Manolo Cardona) was released from prison after being unlawfully imprisoned for 18 years after falling because of the suspicious death of his sister Sarah. Now he’s crazy to uncover the real killer and give them a healthy dose of justice, no matter the cost.
Yes, it is not a very original premise. And the show doesn’t do much with it either. However, Netflix knows that there is nothing more fascinating than murder, especially when you throw an extravagantly rich and powerful family. This is the Lazcano family of crimes, led by César Lazcano (appropriately threatening Ginés García Millán). At the time of her death, Sarah went out with Rodolfo Lascano and the two, along with her brother Alex and other members of the Lascano family, were partying on a boat. As Alex immerses himself in their darker secrets, the show continues to point fingers at one suspect after another, serving enough red herring for a feast.
To be honest, there’s enough drama and intrigue to make you watch if that sounds like your type of thing. But compared to other, more recent works that work in similar territory of murky, powerful families and cover up murders, such as Inheritance or Knives outside,, falls painfully a bit off the mark. While these other works can usually draw something deeper than their stories, Who killed Sarah? feels like cobblestones along with many, semi-charming tropes that do little more than serve intrigue on the surface.
A case must be made of the value of a murder mystery inflated with melodrama that combines the attributes of a telenovela with a modern, beautiful Netflix series. Still, other shows that play with this idea reveal the flaws in this one – if they weren’t obvious otherwise. I may not be a big fan of the popular uber The robbery of money (awkwardly titled Robbery of money in English), but what I still find remarkable about the show is its deft balance of fast-paced plots, well-channeled melodrama, and distinctive characters. Unfortunately, Who killed Sarah? there are none of these qualities.
At least once it starts, it keeps pace, which helps to get through most of it. But the length of the show is not the real problem. These are the characters. As with the performances, the huge investment of time we invest in them makes us care a little about the characters. However, just a little effort to make sure there is a real reason or emotion forcing us to care would go far. For some reason, this continues the trend of Netflix showing that it’s getting harder to write interesting, charismatic people. Alex is a boring, generically vindictive, white dude. It should be clear that this is not the fault of the actor who plays him, and that does not mean that you can not write great revenge stories for white people. There is just so little sense of who he is, and even worse, we have little idea of the impact of the years he has wrongfully spent in prison.
This leads to another problem. When The robbery of money requires some cessation of mistrust, never intrusive. On Who killed Sarah?, one must actively oppose thinking about the mechanics of the show. I find the “holes” a very reducing way of watching a movie or TV, but when we have so little sense of the character’s past, his weaknesses and suffering (which seems especially important for the premise of a show), then it’s not just about boring character, but just for a poorly written story.