‘Someone Has to Die’ lulls you into false sense of security with visuals before reminding you of dictatorship
As the show veers more towards being a barometer for the Franco regime's horridness, we are quickly jolted back to a reality that doesn’t quite feel real anymore
Spoilers for ‘Alguien tiene que morir’ or ‘Someone Has to Die’
‘Alguien tiene que morir’ or ‘Someone Has to Die’, Netflix’s three-part Spanish limited series, aside from being a tragedy through and through, presents a thorough understanding of what it means to be under a totalitarian rule. Set in the 1950s, at the height of Francisco Franco’s authoritarian rule in Spain, the story follows an upper-class regime family, more particularly, the family’s scion.
Gabino (Alejandro Speitzer) is a gay man in a famously anti-gay nation. But what is worse is that his father Gregorio (Ernesto Alterio) is a tool in the regime’s treatment of what it considered deviants -- gay man, lesbian women, and transgender folk. Gregorio, in fact, runs what was called “galerías de invertidos” or “galleries of deviants”, where gay, lesbian, and trans folk were subjected to inhumane conditions.
Gabino goes from being his father’s visitor at one of these facilities to becoming an inmate there -- even if temporarily. And in both those occasions, he sees what his father is truly capable of. The cruelties. The indignities.
In more ways than one, through Gabino’s father, and through other members of the same ruling class, the show calls to attention how conservative authoritarianism functions. Not just in being agents of fear, but in being the harbingers of intolerance, apathy, and abject cruelty. The way creator Manolo Caro journeys us into this world is fantastic, because his writing and execution of the show make it feel all too real.
At the same time, it is only made potent by our own existence in societies that are being submerged under a wave of right-wing regressiveness – from Donald Trump to Jair Bolsonaro to Vladamir Putin.
But what then is special about ‘Alguien tiene que morir’ or ‘Someone Has to Die’? The miniseries lulls us into a false sense of security with its hunting matches, old sartorial fashion, looks, and the general atmosphere, leaving viewers expecting a perfectly splendid period piece. But as the show veers more towards being a barometer for the Franco regime's horridness, we are quickly jolted back to a reality that doesn’t quite feel real anymore.
It’s also worth noting that of the myriad tragedies that take place on the show, the cold cruelty of his father seems to hurt most. Imagine how much of a despicable person one has to be to throw his own son to the metaphorical dogs. Yes, he tries on occasion to make sure his punishment is less severe, but it is also often out of wanting this embarrassment to end rather than to help Gabino.
Even after the end of Franco’s rule, Spanish civil society was not as welcoming of the supposed deviants he and his men had wronged. And perhaps that is also at the heart of the show which shows how even well-meaning (and oft ignorant) good people were also bad under the Franco regime. And in that way, ‘Alguien tiene que morir’ or ‘Someone Has to Die’ becomes a scathing critique of not just these regimes but also the people who overtly or covertly become tacit in its terribleness.
‘Alguien tiene que morir’ or ‘Someone Has to Die’ is available for viewing on Netflix.