Spanish miniseries Killing the Father is a fascinating character study of a man whose good intentions toward his family are handled poorly and received without welcome.
Jacobo Vidal (Gonzalo de Castro, Under Suspicion), the main character in Killing the Father (Matar al padre), is a hard man to like or to feel sympathy for. Yet he is strangely engaging. To wit: I didn’t pack it in and move on to another show after seeing him in action, but rather continued watching.
The man is a tyrant — an obsessive, oppressive, authoritarian control freak who can (and usually does) suck the life out of every person in a room when he opens his mouth. Because what comes out of it is usually a barrage of disparaging, demeaning, soul-crushing comments directed at his son Tomás (Marcel Borràs, I Know Who You Are) and to a lesser degree his daughter Valeria (Greta Fernández, 30 Coins) and wife Isabel (Paulina García, Narcos) — all from his context of being loving and helpful and keeping them on the track to success. (I know, I know, if this is what love is, then…)
This “prophet of doom” named Jacobo is also prone to having nightmares and visions of tragedies. His expectations of disaster and fear of death, not just of his own demise but those of his family members too, drive his insistence that they pay attention and plot every move they make through life, no matter how small, as life can end at any moment. So when his advice isn’t taken and things get to be too much for him, Jacobo becomes unhinged. This applies to friends as well as family. And in some cases, it isn’t his caring about the other person but rather his time that has him become unglued, as he can be quite persnickety about it. (His seemingly long list of neuroses would probably make him a great case study for a psych class.)
Anyhoo, we follow Jacobo, Tomás, Isabel, and Valeria over the span of sixteen years, starting in 1996, soon after the Olympics in Barcelona, where the series is set; then in 2004, after José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero became Prime Minister of Spain; in 2008, when the economies of Spain and countries the world over plummeted due to stock market collapses and housing bubble bursts; and in 2012, when Spain experienced its second recession in three years.
It is against these backdrops that we witness the disintegration of Jacobo’s relationships and his decline into failure — precisely the outcome he has worked so obsessively and tirelessly over the decades to avoid. But despite the strained relationships with his wife and children, despite his other failures, Jacobo remains steadfastly Jacobo. And Jacobo is not a one-note guy. There is more to him than belittling lectures and dispiriting advice. Expressions of kindness, compassion, and generosity — call it his humanity — can and do bubble up, if only for a nanosecond. And when we are shown evidence that all of his bluster really and truly is steeped in his love for his family, especially his children, and not out of a need to be right or to dominate, it is humbling.
Ultimately, what Jacobo believed he’d been doing all these years, he actually does — demonstrating it in a way that no one would have imagined.
The four-part limited series features Pol López (Night and Day), César Tormo (Félix), and Nuria González (30 Coins).
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