TV Review: Los Espookys season 2 ★★★★

Los Espookys returns to HBO and HBO Max with another six sublime episodes this Friday September 16th, expanding upon and enriching the divinely kooky world established in 2019’s first season at every turn. Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega, who co-created the series with Fred Armisen, co-write each episode of this second season, with Fabrega taking on directing duties for episodes five and six, while Nasty Baby filmmaker Sebastián Silva directs the rest of the season.

Fred Armisen, Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, Bernardo Velasco, and Cassandra Ciangherotti in Los Espookys. Courtesy of HBO.

Once again the action unfolds in an unnamed fictional Latin American country (which both adds to the mystery, and helps to explain the range of accents), where a group of horror-loving friends, Los Espookys, continue to sell their services creating the illusion of scary or supernatural events. If there isn’t something strange in your neighbourhood—but you’d like there to be—call Los Espookys. Helping to glue the misfit gang together is dependable and lovable goth Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco), joined by his self-absorbed, disinherited heir-to-a-choclate-empire best friend Andrés (Torres), the ever-practical Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti)—who ensures they’re actually paid for their work in cash, rather than restaurant coupons—and her out-there sister Tati (Fabrega). They’re also joined this season by a tentative fifth member, Renaldo’s kindly uncle Tico (Armisen), whose parking valet dreams have been shattered by the arrival of self-parking cars. Leaving LA, Tico moves in with his nephew, bringing his highly confrontational adult daughter Sonia (River L. Ramirez) along with him.

Ana Fabrega in Los Espookys. Photograph by Pablo Arellano Spataro/HBO.

When it comes to every character, whether supporting or lead, Fabrega and Torres don’t just show us more of the same, but deftly develop each them, while the fully committed cast brings rich character work to these delicious comic creations. As the season opens, we find Tati determined to adjust to married life with her new husband, Andrés gay ex-fiancé Juan Carlos (José Pablo Minor), serving up unappetizing bowls of “gazpacho”, which is really just ketchup. Having diligently tried her hand at a vast range of improbable jobs as she searches for her place in the world, Tico inspires her to write. But Tati’s idea of writing a novel is transcribing audio books of classics, resulting in severely abridged editions that include her as the protagonist. Somehow they prove to be a hit, leaving Tati to navigate success away from her friends.

Julio Torres in Los Espookys. Photograph by Pablo Arellano Spataro/HBO.

Meanwhile Andrés’s self-centeredness is taken the to the extreme as he outstays his welcome at Renaldo and Úrsula’s apartments, and finds that the living arrangements with his new boyfriends come with their own issues; one has roommates, and worse still, the other has young children. Adorable yet misguided, every relationship in Andrés’ life is self-serving including his friendship with the besequined moon (a wonderful Yalitza Aparicio, who was Oscar-nominated for her performance in Roma). Needing to support his fashion habit, and unqualified for anything else, he’s forced to take on a second job as a glamorous staircase model. Wanting to do something meaningful with her time, and appalled by the sexist imagery appearing around the city, Úrsula decides to devote her time to getting Teresa Lobos elected. In a narrative strand that runs throughout the season, Renaldo is haunted by visions of Karina (Martine Gutierrez), the recently deceased Miss Nuestra Belleza Latina beauty pageant queen, who was brutally skewered by an anchor, and he continues to try to discover his own sexuality by searching for various genres of adult entertainment online.

Bernardo Velasco in Los Espookys. Photograph by Pablo Arellano Spataro/HBO.

Many of Los Espookys’ clients from the first season are back too, including ambitious seaside town mayor Teresa Lobos (Carmen Gloria Bresky) who has decided to run for the nation’s presidency, without a clue or a campaign strategy, and air-headed US Ambassador Melanie Gibbons (Greta Titelman). Gibbons is still trying to shake off the shadow (a doppelgänger) that followed her back through the cursed mirror she was trapped in last season and has her sights set on becoming US Ambassador to…Miami. Meanwhile Andrés’ inner demon, Sombra Del Agua (Spike Einbinder), having finally got to see The King’s Speech, has left her host and materialized in the real world, landing a job in Gibbons’ office where she’s striving to improve her own communication skills. Making her captivating acting debut, singer-songwriter Kim Petras as the visiting US Secretary of State is the perfect foil for Gibbons—and even more clueless—with both women more committed to their social media feeds than international diplomacy. There’s also a fabulous and fun cameo from screen legend Isabella Rossellini playing a disgruntled version of herself.

Cassandra Ciangherotti in Los Espookys. Photograph by Pablo Arellano Spataro/HBO.

What makes Los Espookys such a delight is its creation of a world that feels so grounded despite its frequent flights into magic realism. It has the boldness of Monty Python, where nothing is off the cards. Unfailingly imaginative and always unpredictable, it’s frequently hilarious without the comedy feeling forced and enchantingly quirky without ever being smug. Torres and Fabrega have established a distinctive tone of everyday melodrama that’s undercut with a dryness that’s never arch, while delivering a perfect blend of warm, benevolent characters alongside those who behave pretty abhorrently. With its duo of queer writers, queer characters Andrés and Úrsula at its centre in addition to multiple queer supporting characters, the show’s queerness feels woven into the fabric of the series with vibrant, beautifully detailed costumes by Muriel Parra and production design by Jorge Zambrano, an Almodóvar-tinted colour palette that pops, and frequent camp flourishes like the beauty pageant storyline and the moon’s disco-infused realm. While Emilio Acevedo, Gus Reyes, and Andrés Sánchez’s moody electropop score enhances the show’s effortless sense of cool.

Fred Armisen in Los Espookys. Photograph by Pablo Arellano Spataro/HBO.

Although it’s hardly underground, with an acclaimed first season that’s 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Los Espookys is that rare brand of comedy that makes you feel like you’ve discovered something and that you’re part of a special, in-the-know club just by watching it. Bingeing this new season was like being reacquainted with an old best friend; the kind of friendship where there’s a mutual acceptance and celebration of ones peculiarities and foibles.

By James Kleinmann

Season 2 of Los Espookys debuts on HBO on Friday, September 16th at 11pm ET/PT and will be available to stream on HBO Max. Season 1 is streaming on HBO Max now.

Los Espookys Season 2 | Official Trailer | HBO
Los Espookys Season 2 | Official Artwork | HBO

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