30 Coins, the intense new HBO Europe horror series from Spain, which premiered in the US on HBO yesterday, features elements from the supernatural and mystery genres, too.
HBO launched 30 Coins (30 Monedas) with back-to-back airings of the first two episodes last night. Horror isn’t usually my thing (although I do make exceptions), but I find stories involving good and evil, the Church, and everyday folk involved in supernatural happenings compelling, so I tuned in — and spent roughly two-and-a-half hours engrossed in the show. Now I can’t wait for the next episode.
The eight-episode series opens with the feature-length episode “Cobwebs” (“Telarañas“), which starts off with a bang. Literally. An older man in Geneva, Switzerland, walks into a bank and goes on a shooting spree as he makes his way to the vault where the safe deposit boxes are kept. Shot after shot fired at him pierces his body but does nothing to stop him. He has come here for one thing, a coin, and leaves with it, then dies as soon as the priest who is waiting for him is in possession of the coin.
In Segovia, Spain, in the town of Pedraza, Elena (Megan Montaner, Velvet Colección, The Embassy), the local veterinarian, is helping a cow through a difficult delivery. But what gets birthed isn’t a calf but what looks to be a human baby. Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Velvet, Sense8), the town’s mayor, heads to the farm to prevent the locals from posting anything about the birth to social media so as to save Pedraza from getting bad press. To some folks, the birth is “witchcraft, satanism or something,” whereas the farmer’s wife sees it as a miracle and a blessing from God. The farmer isn’t so sure.
Father Manuel Vergara (Eduard Fernández, Criminal: Spain, The Zone), the new priest in Pedraza, has an altogether different perspective, telling Elena and Paco that someone switched the baby for the calf and fooled everyone. Paco’s shrewish wife, Merche (Macarena Gómez, Shrew’s Nest), doesn’t want her husband getting involved in the local dramas and doesn’t trust Vergara. As we learn later, Vergara was essentially exiled by the Church to Pedraza after he spent time in prison for an exorcism that ended in the death of a young man.
Not only does Paco stay involved in the curious incident of the baby born from a cow, he is viciously attacked and nearly dies because of it. Elena and Vergara, too. But just because they survived doesn’t mean they are out of danger: One of them is still in holding on to a coveted coin.
And the evil force that wanted the coin in the first episode still wants it in the second, “Ouija.” Only here it uses teens playing with a Ouija board to wreak death, destruction, and disappearances on residents of and life in Pedraza in its quest to possess it.
Anyone who is familiar with the story in the Gospel of Matthew about Judas receiving 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus will likely and correctly guess that the titular coins are those coins. But the depiction in the opening credits doesn’t show the guilt-ridden Judas returning the coins; rather, he drops the pouch as he runs toward the field where he hangs himself and the coins spill out, picked up by the hands of faceless men.
Which leads to the central mystery of 30 Coins: What is the connection between the coins, certain priests of the Catholic Church, and the evil force, which can inhabit people’s bodies and animate inanimate objects to do its bidding? Is the force doing the priests’ bidding? Assuming the answer is yes, it isn’t a stretch, then, to presume that the point of possessing the coins has to do with power and Satan. How it all plays out is what I want to know.
In the first two episodes, the most terrifying bits are the ones centered on the people possessed by the evil spirit; these scenes are proper scary. The most intriguing parts are the supernatural mysteries: How was the baby born from the cow? How did the girl vanish into thin air? How did the other girl know the man was going to die?
As for the characters, the strongest of the three main ones is Elena, a headstrong, fierce and near-fearless woman with cajones, whose tunnel vision can make her reckless when she sets out to get to the bottom of something. Opposite her is Paco, a henpecked husband who, while more reasonable than Elena, is basically a wuss. Vergera is still hard to pin down. He’s got his prison tats and boxing skills, and while he might look like a hardened criminal on the surface, he comes across more as a battle-weary man in priest’s clothing. But what has he been fighting against — aside from evil, that is?
Directed by horror auteur Álex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast, The Last Circus), and written by Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría (The Oxford Murders), the series features Pepón Nieto (I Know Who You Are), Manolo Solo (The Plague), Cosimo Fusco (1993), Manuel Tallafe (Drug Squad: Costa del Sol), and Antonio Velázquez (Cable Girls).
30 Coins continues in the US next Monday, January 11, at 9 PM ET/PT, on HBO and its digital channels, including HBO on Amazon, as well as on HBO Max, with “The Mirror” (“El Espejo“), in which a haunted mirror reflects more back to a person than their image.
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