'White Lines' sees Álex Pina in his element, a high-stakes thriller, but will it see Money Heist's success?

'White Lines' sees Álex Pina in his element, a high-stakes thriller, but will it see Money Heist's success?
Marta Milans and Danny Mays (Netflix)

Spanish television producer, writer, series creator, and director Álex Pina has managed to dazzle the world with his globally-acclaimed series ‘La Casa de Papel’, also known as ‘Money Heist’. Listed as one of the ‘Top International Showrunners of 2019’ in The Hollywood Reporter, Pina has now become a household name when it comes to high-octane action and nerve-wracking thrillers.

So, there’s a lot to expect from the new Netflix series, ‘White Lines’. Created, again, by Pina, The series follows Zoe Walker (Laura Haddock ), who plans to investigate what happened to her brother Axel (Tom Rhys Harries), a legendary Manchester DJ who mysteriously disappeared in Ibiza, Spain, 20 years before the events of the show. It’s triggered by the discovery of his corpse.

Zoe then heads off to Ibiza to figure out what happened. And the more she looks, the deeper the mystery goes. It’s a world of parties, drugs, and dangerous men, and by the account of one of Axel’s friends in the trailer, everyone hated him, and almost everyone had a reason to kill him -- “It’s like a game of Cluedo.” These are the questions that the show teases: Who killed Axel, and why?

The show’s two trailers are indicative of many things, outside of the show’s plot. One, it’s definitely an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Two, it’s more dangerous than entering a dragon’s lair. Three, the stakes are pretty high on all counts.

And if ‘Money Heist’ is any indication, Pina shines in all three departments. But there’s also an X-factor that we have seen in Pina’s work, that seems to be applicable to ‘White Lines’: The subject matter may be gritty and dark, but boy, does he make it look good. ‘Money Heist’ is not minimal and understated like the more notable crime dramas of our era, like ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Ozark’. It’s glamorous. It is, to quote Álvaro Morte, the role of Professor, on the heist show, “Pure rock and roll”.

This is Pina’s wildcard. While there is no history of a weak plot and bad writing, the thing that has made the Spanish-language show one of the most popular things in the world is how it captivates audiences, not just through the story, but also through visuals. ‘White Lines’ in that regard promises gratuitous sex, ample debauchery on sun-soaked beaches and late-night drug-fuelled parties, high-stakes chases and action sequences. 

But hedonism is not the only thing that Pina sells. He sells characters we get invested in. Like the Professor, or Berlin, or Tokyo. All these characters are flawed people -- dangerous people. But the way they’re written, the way it’s executed, they become ineffably attractive to us.

Speaking about the latest season of the ultra-popular Spanish Netflix crime series, Pina told The Guardian that it had the power to “infuse some oxygen into this disturbing climate … it is a brutal journey to the limit, like a ride on a vertiginous rollercoaster. I can promise the audience will not think of Covid-19 while watching it.” One can only assume that this promise extends to ‘White Lines’.

'White Lines' will be released on Netflix on May 15. 

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