It feels like several lifetimes have passed since we last checked in with Renaldo and his band of Espookys — and in internet time, they have. Within the world of the show, it’s been about a month since the dramatic events of the season-one finale, when Andrés chose the horror life, Juan Carlos chose Tati and her galaxy brain, and Úrsula and Renaldo chose to follow their own paths rather than be absorbed into the industry machine. But within the simulation that we call “real life,” it’s been four long years and a global pandemic. And it feels good to report that Los Espookys hasn’t missed a beat.
The show’s twin penchants for water and for satirizing the melodramatic excesses of Mexican television are reestablished within the first 60 seconds of the season-two premiere, as the newly crowned Nuestra Belleza Latina, Karina Salgado, is mysteriously impaled at the moment of her coronation by a gigantic rusty anchor that appears out of nowhere. Last season, Andrés was haunted by an underwater spirit with a cryptic message. This season, the roles are reversed, as Renaldo begins having visions of the dearly departed Karina, dragging her anchor dela and pleading with her eyes for help.
It’s the spookiest thing Renaldo has been going on in his life right now, aside from maybe the terror of having Andrés sighing and rolling his eyes every time he’s forced to do something disgustingly ordinary. Like many rich kids, Andrés cannot do a single practical thing by himself, and he’s having trouble adjusting to a lifestyle where one has to cook the food before eating it, which requires remembering where the kitchen is. (What do they want from him? It’s only been a month!)
Although it’s similarly unique, Andrés’s perspective is more magical realist than the psychedelic infinity going on inside Tati’s brain. He’s on close personal terms with the moon — a fun disco-ball cameo for Pomegranate‘s Yalitza Aparicio — as well as Renaldo’s family dog, Frutsi. He might even think he is Frutsi, given his threat to “stay in the car, roll the windows up, overheat, and die” if he’s forced to go to the supermarket, where the common people are. He seems unhappy, but Andrés always seems unhappy. He’s probably happier than he was in his gilded cage with Juan Carlos, not least because he still has a servant (unpaid this time) named Renaldo to do everything for him.
Juan Carlos has also moved on and is now blissfully(?) wed to Tati, whose contentment with their arrangement is less questionable. She’s got a big beautiful kitchen to make “gazpacho” (gag) in, an important job where she only has to take a few thousand volts to the neck a day, and a reason to feel superior to her dela sister Úrsula. What else could she want? Any kind of a sex life, perhaps? It’ll be interesting to see how that friction (or the lack thereof) plays out over the season — Tati’s a weirdo, but she can and does advocate for herself when necessary. And I must admit I don’t really understand Juan Carlos’s motivations for taking on Tati as a beard at this point. His last fiancé was Andrés, so everyone already knows that he’s gay. Why slurp up chilled ketchup in the closet now?
Tico also seems more than a little lost. His vision of a self-parking car has come true sooner than he expected (shout out to the stunt driver who was presumably slouching in the driver’s seat, doing that perfect three-point turn with no sight lines at all), leaving him aimless, jobless, and spouseless, as his wife is too proud to remain married to a man “with no cars to park.” He still has his “abusive and dependent 32-year-old daughter,” which is … a blessing of sorts. If she and Andrés ever meet, their combined volatility could create a chain reaction that would end the world as we know it. And that could actually happen now that she and Tico have given up on LA and are heading back to their home country to start over.
The last major story line introduced in “The Spirits in the Cemetery” involves Úrsula, who managed to escape Mira Esto’s clutches and return to her old life with her typical deadpan understatement. The idea of a spooky queer woman as a clear-eyed, grounded, un-fuckwithable force — except for when she’s presented with a flyer for a “free radical queer vegan tarot book swap,” in which case her good judgment just evaporates — appeals to me, as I imagine it does most of the target audience for this show. Los Espookys was on the vanguard of the queer horror movement that’s been coalescing over the past few years, and its queer sensitivity is as essential to this show as its horror one. Who identifies more with the monster than LGBTQ+ people, after all?
Becoming the monster is a Los Espookys specialty. And while the gang’s work was secondary to their personal arcs in “The Spirits in the Cemetery,” their gig in the cemetery with Oliver Twix fit in seamlessly with the episode’s themes, threads, and setup. Aesthetically and in terms of entitlement, Oliver might as well be the fifth Espooky. And the long white hooded robes they wear to dangle from strings in the cemetery and assure the relatives of some misplaced corpses that everything is totally cool and they shouldn’t worry about it. Recall the sheet ghost that Pony sketches on a napkin to show Renaldo what a ghost should look like. That’s a telling example of the onion of jokes being unpeeled in “The Spirits in the Cemetery,” just layer after layer of absurdist visual and verbal gags (note the “Harvey Potter” display in the supermarket and the slideshow about different types of graphs) . In the interest of not just making this recap an IMBd “Quotes” page, I’m only going to quote a handful of lines from each episode here. But know that I’m writing down pages of them, chuckling to myself all the while.
• In the decades since scowling club kids dressed in all black first started haunting the edges of the post-punk scene, Mexico and its people have claimed goth for themselves. Mexico City is the dark-subculture capital of the world, and Mexicans are the most goth people alive (as they always have been, really). Sorry, I don’t make the rules!
• There was a bohemian thrift-store vibe to the sets and costumes this week that gave me a nostalgic ache. I don’t know about you all, but I definitely spent a good chunk of my youth hanging out in artists’ apartments decorated with graffiti and mannequin parts that were not too different from Oliver Twix’s graveyard shack. It makes me feel at home, you know?
• The customs were also delightfully eccentric, especially Pony’s baby-limb necklace and frilly clown outfit at his “Oops, no baby!” shower.
• Andrés’ bit about Renaldo buying underwear “where they sell the tomatoes” was what really got me hyped in the season-two trailer, and it made me crack up (again) here.
• “Are you the groundskeeper?” “At the.”
• “There better not be any Spanish there!!”
• “I’m a dairy-free Sagittarius.”
• Also, note that the night-digger was wearing a trucker hat referencing Rule 34, a fundamental law of the internet that proclaims, “If it exists, there is porn of it.” (NSFW warning on that link.)
• The Espookys’ “Shakira” statue gig remembered me of the great “Scary Lucy” saga of 2015–16, where a similarly terrifying sculpture of Lucille Ball was erected and subsequently taken down in Celeron, New York.
• And Tati’s marble makes me think she has pica, the bizarre eating disorder dramatized in Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s gorgeous 2019 movie Swallow. That movie posited pica as a subconscious act of rebellion on the part of an idle upper-class housewife, which is partially what’s going on here.
• Fun fact made a little more fun by the progression of pop culture since Los Espookys season one: Andrés’ friend, the Water Spirit, is played by Spike Einbinder, whose sister is Hannah Einbinder of hacks hunger.