A lot of things happened since I last blogged about El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time), Spain's new hit TV show:
- The second season concluded, with 13 stellar episodes
- A book was published, containing 3 additional episodes from the second season (because transmedia storytelling is a thing)
- The rights for the show have been bought/optioned by several other countries, including China, Portugal, and France
|They also broke out the wigs|
By the second season, the show has found its footing and its audience - not that the first one wasn't amazing, but this time, every single episode delivered quality TV that you rarely ever see, especially when it comes to historical topics. The show navigates between entertainment, historical authenticity, emotional impact (without crossing over to melodrama), and presents an admirable sobriety when it comes to facing Spain's own history with all its ups AND downs.
Here are some things that I absolutely loved this season (with minor spoilers):
1. THEY STILL HAVE CULTURE SHOCK.
26 episodes into a show, the main characters, who have been working for the Ministry and traveling in time for years, still have problems adjusting to the modern era, and their own sentiments and values still show at odd places. For example, Amelia, the team's history-savvy, early feminist leader fights for women's rights at every turn, BUT since she comes from the 19th century, sentences like "only women can be kleptomaniacs, it is in their nature" still fall out of her mouth occasionally. Alonso, our 16th century softie of a soldier, gets told halfway through Season 2 that maybe he should start bathing (even though he's just mastered the microwave). Pacino, the new guy on the team from the 1980s, is as amazed by modern technology as the medieval guy is (and the 19th century lady explains to him what a flash drive is). The show is FULL of small details like this, highlighting that these characters, time travelers as they may be, still have ingrained habits and values that can't just be flushed out from one day to the next.
|A 19th century lady, Diego Velazquez, and a 16th century soldier|
watch Terminator 2
|Evil Americans trying to buy the|
manuscript of Don Quixote
2. The Americans are evil - and have bad accents
Okay, so I don't think Americans are evil, but GOD IT IS REFRESHING to watch a show where a (badly done) American accent means that someone is an evil businessman who wants to make time travel into a source of wealth. The show takes several hilarious jabs at Americans and their knowledge of European history; and I am pretty sure that having a Spanish actors portray J. Edgar Hoover and Charlton Heston is one of these intentional jabs... Why hire a native speaker if one of our actors can do a passable accent, riiiiight?
3. The ministry works about as well as any ministry would
Disaster is usually only avoided because the people working there are bending the rules into pretzels - otherwise, the Ministry has some serious issues with its logistics. It is not perfectly equipped with high tech, or operating in complete secrecy. Things leak all the time, and they have to scramble to mitigate the situations; funding is cut all over the place, and they don't have enough agents to cover all their bases, which repeatedly leads to security breaches and administrative problems. The new boss they get knows nothing about history, but has 3 online degrees... All in all, they take at least as many jabs at their own administration as they do at the Americans.
They even get audited by the IRS. And spend an episode doing paperwork. (And still make it exciting)
|There are entirely too many guns in this "Ministry of Public Transport"|
4. They definitely had more budget this season
Still not as much as HBO, obviously, but they ventured into larger concepts, compared to Season 1. We saw larger sets, more costumes, more extras, war camps, castles, and even part of New York City in the 1920s...
5. They go into WHAT IF stories and alternate history
New this season, we actually see the modern world change a couple of times due to historical events being altered. Some of them are minor, while the season finale delivers a whole alternate world - excellently done and heartbreaking at the same time. I don't want to spoil it, but I'll tell you that it was an amazingly well done episode, and it put our GOOD protagonists through internal struggles between their own privilege and the suffering of others. If you do alternate history, this is how you do it.
+1. Hungary was briefly featured!
Okay, so only Hungarians are gonna get excited about this, but the characters briefly visited Hungary at the end of the 19th century - and, unlike the American characters, the actress speaking Hungarian in this episode had no accent at all. And was singing an actual Hungarian song. It was perfect.
All in all, Season 2 presents El Ministerio del Tiempo at the height of its potential. It is entertaining, educational, exciting, and LOVABLE. And it shows no sign of slowing down. I can't wait to see what they come up with for Season 3.
(They still owe me some Romans. Apart from the ones they locked into the bathroom during inspection, that is.)
Eat both your hearts out, Doctor.