El Rey Network
Episodes Air Date: August 19th, 26th, September 2nd, 9th 2014
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Matador (Misanthropology, Mano A Mano, Everything Old Is New Again, The Anguish Of Rosarito)
Starring: Gabriel Luna, Nicky Whelan, Neil Hopkins, Alfred Molina, Tanc Sade, Yvette Monreal, Elizabeth Pena, Isabella Gomez, Eve Torres, Christina Ochoa, Christopher Cousins
If you don’t know by now, let me say that I prefer cable series to broadcast shows. No it’s not only because of the shortened seasons, and the fact that there are less ‘filler’ episodes – but rather because of the quick pace of the story, and the fact that a lot can change within a few episodes.
In the latest 4 episodes (excluding the one just aired this week), is there any new information we have learnt about Tony Bravo (Gabriel Luna), Andreas Galan (Alfred Molina), Tony’s handlers Annie (Nicky Whelan) and Noah (Neil Hopkins), as well as Tony’s family, that has me conclude that Matador is one of the most vibrant and ingenious TV series this year? Yep, there is plenty of new information. Put it this way, at the end of episode 9, someone dies, allegiances may be changed, and Tony’s love life may be more simplified. His success with the Riots also seems to be turning for the better as well. From episodes 6-9, so much has occurred in the episodes of Matador– and plenty to answer my unanswered questions from the end of episode 5. It’s definitely enough to fill an entire season worth of material!
While in the first few episodes, Tony’s bravery and at times recklessness has almost cost the results of many missions; in this lot of new episodes, we as viewers see Tony more focused yet also slightly more conflicted. We see his struggle with his work, as we see Tony being more dedicated to Galan, putting him a bit of a spot as he is forced to make a seemingly impossible decision at the end of episode 9 (more on that later). While in episodes 2-5 it looked as if there were multiple storylines that I assumed were unrelated (up until the last moments of episode 5), now these next four episodes flesh out more of the bigger picture and fitted some pieces of the puzzle together. There definitely is a bigger play at hand as the storylines progress, with parallel stories coming together to form a more complicated plot- with the Nicagragua plot (where a soccer match was played, and players of the opposing team were killed) being front and centre to the underlying season long arc.
We also meet the big bad of the season in episode 8 (did you really think that Galan was calling the shots the whole time?) who in my opinion is crazy – and that’s putting it mildly – and we also see more of Tony’s family life, which is always a good thing in my opinion. With such a large main and recurring cast, everyone has a chance to shine in the aforementioned 4 episodes- with cast chemistry shown and being very believable, and it is these 4 episodes that have me eager to watch the next episodes and enjoying every minute of the show! Spoilers are ahead, be warned!
“Misanthropology” carries on from the revelation heard at the end of episode 5- that Galan was searching for a virus in Nicaragua in his coke field, which was why he burned the field after he acquired it. Annie and Noah both race against time to discover a link between the auction (in episode 3) and the virus in Nicaragua (episode 5) – with the help of the CIA Deputy Director Llewyn Wayne Smith, played by Christopher Cousins. They eventually find a link between both, as an anthropology professor sheds some light on some disturbing new information, where at the end of the episode it is revealed that there is an airborne virus ready to launch and wipe out the world.
At the same time Annie and Tony are both dodging probing questions from the ever persistent no-nonsense reporter Reyna Flores (Eve Torres), who learns from her sources that Tony isn’t who he says he is; and Tony delivers a package from Galan to an unnamed person, who is spooked and jumps off a roof to his death. For me this episode alone seemed rather busy in terms of storyline, however the topic of the virus that Galan was looking for was revisted and expanded upon (which is a plus), and is also revisted in episode 8.
The next few episodes, starting with Tony’s sister’s quinceañera in “Mano A Mano”, show us more of the grey nature of some of the characters, and how good and bad people are not so clear cut when further examined. While Tony attends his sister’s party with his family, Galan and his daughter gate crash the party (giving him an alibi) while his right hand man Samuel interrogates Noah, after finding him snooping about the Adaptive Wellness Centre, a facility Galan was seen entering and exiting from.
Obviously offscreen Annie and Noah joined the dots, and figured out that the virus could be mass produced in a lab like the one Galan was visiting. However when Noah arrived at the location, he was drugged, and Samuel used truth serum on him- hence Annie arrives at Tony’s party, masquerading as his agent, and attempts to extract him out of that environment, and onto the trail of whoever kidnapped Noah.
While the B plot party was semi-uneventful, and was large unimportant in terms of the larger plot (except for the confirmation that Karen (Christina Ochoa) does indeed harbour feelings of love towards Tony, and a jealously for the perceived relationship of Tony with Annie); what it does do is humanise Galan and dehumanises Samuel a bit. It makes me wonder who was the power hungry person in the business relationship, especially since Samuel pulled a gun on Galan in episode 4, and wasn’t afraid to use it if the situation arose.
Noah is rescued, is in a coma, and spends episode 8 (“Everything Old Is New Again”) in hospital while the team try to find out how much Noah told Samuel. Meanwhile the big bad of the season- Lucien Sayer (James Callis), the head of the mysterious organisation that Galan is a part of, is introduced, and his sinister motives as well, which spill over into episode 9, shown in a plane crash and the unleashing of an experimental virus on those people. It seems that Sayer is obsessed with living forever, and in essence wants to rid the world (literally kill heaps of people) of the ‘useless’ people so that the rich, intelligent free thinkers, like himself, can live forever through a drug. The virus is for the mass annihilation of the world (think a much more larger scale of Malcolm Merlyn’s Season 1 plot in Arrow)- and it is during these two episodes that Galan has second thoughts about his involvement (as Sayer asks him for funding time and time again). Trying to humanise Galan and make him a better character in light of Sayer’s ruthlessness, arrogance and inconsiderate disdain for human life, is a clever ploy and tactic by the writers in my opinion, and given the predicament Tony and the CIA find themselves in at the end of “The Anguish Of Rosarito”, trusting in Galan to help them defeat Sayer, seems to be what the show is alluding to, and could culminate in an epic fight battle that has players from all sides coming together to fight a common foe.
As Tony’s family life and friends around him keep him grounded (Ricky provides comic relief, as he tries to score Tony an endorsement deal and a advertisement shoot), what makes this show unique to me is the B and C plots, and how all of the characters are utilised, even if they do not know Tony’s secret. Reminding me of Chuck with every episode, the family drama, and whether Tony will spill the beans, gives this show depth, and keeps me interested. There is also drama with his two handlers- in particular it seems Annie and Tony together is one of the options for an endgame romance (with Karen and Tony as the other option) while Tony evolving as a person also draws me into every episode.
Samuel also showed his true colours during this batch of episodes, and proved to be more of a villain than Galan. We all knew that someone would figure out who Tony was, as Reyna’s persistence shows me that Tony will have adversaries as well as supporters once his secret is publicised to the world, but now that SPOILER ALERT! Galan shoots Samuel dead in front of Tony; his life hangs in the balance after Galan forces Tony to tell him the entire truth otherwise he dies.
As far as acting is concerned, each actor continues to holds their own, and I will continue to praise Alfred Molina’s performance as Galan- the conflicted yet forward thinking businessman, who it turns out was just associated with the wrong people at the wrong time. It is not known whether Galan will side with Tony or not in the last 4 episodes; however I will definitely be watching the show because of Alfred’s superb acting skills! Nicky, Gabriel, Neil, and co. working well in harmony together on screen as usual- their chemistry that the actors have makes the show believable, as they are immersed thoroughly in their roles. Whether Christopher Cousins’ character turns out to be more sinister than first portrayed remains to be seen, but his addition only enhances this already near flawless spy comedy/drama! Well done to Robert Rodriguez for creating a fun and action packed show that we can all enjoy! The shooting locations of Tony’s apartment, Galan’s office, the CIA base, the team dressing room, Tony’s home, and the soccer field also doesn’t really change in these next four episodes, however where Sayer lives is explored, and I am very eager to see more.
With four more episodes to go, it’s full steam ahead as allegiances are shifted and resolutions are worked out before the finale- with Tony’s love life sure to make strides, as well as also the takedown of Sayer. I am not sure when season 2 will debut (I am guessing in June or July 2015), but I am already looking forward to what is in store for Tony Bravo, Annie, Noah, and the rest of the characters. Will another sport will be explored besides soccer? Let’s just also hope that everyone survives the season, and no one is killed off…
Did Matador leave a lasting impression on you in the past 4 episodes? Which themes spoke to you the most? What elements of the show did you enjoy- the soccer, the romance, the family drama, or the espionage parts? Do you buy Galan’s inner conflict or do you think it is a ploy to trap Tony? What do you think Sayer’s real endgame is? Do you think Tony and Annie will be together for real by the season’s end? Will you be tuning in the last few weeks before the finale? Let us know in the comments.
RIYL: Chuck, The Bridge, Gang Related, Covert Affairs, soccer games on FOX Sports or ESPN
Rating: 4/5 (based on 9 episodes)
Matador airs every Tuesday at 9/8c on El Rey Network.