It's easy to see the Netflix thumbnail for White Lines and mistake it for Too Hot To Handle. And that's a shame. Because one is a Netflix series full of awful, half-naked, ridiculously good-looking people who listen to awful music and dance and probably do too many drugs. And the other is White Lines.
Actually, that's not fair. White Lines is a love story. It's a love story for one's brother. It's a love story for Spain. (Izbiza, to be precise.) It's a love story for having a good time. And it's a love story for loss.
And that it's not higher in the Netflix Top 10 in the United States is downright criminal. OK, maybe not as criminal as the characters — it is, in any number of ways, as is the Corleone family was rooted in the Jersey Shore — but it's definitely a shame. Because Netflix has one hell of a whodunit on its hands here, from a master of suspense.
Another winner of a series for Alex Pina and Netflix
- The scenery
- The beautiful people
- The mystery and suspense
What's not so great
- If you abhor subtitles
- If you just can't stand nudity and sex
- Or drug use, violence, or foul language
The creator of Money Heist brings a more accessible hit to Netflix U.S. with fewer subtitles (there's plenty of dialog in English), a great story, and a brilliant mystery.
Who killed Axel Collins? And, for that matter, who the hell is Axel Collins? At the beginning of White Lines he's just a body that was uncovered in the badlands of Almeria, in southeast Spain. The sand mummified him over two decades; he was identified from the "Kika" tattoo on his chest.
The problem is, Axel was found on land belonging to Andreu Calafat. And Andreu — who owns clubs (and all the headaches that go with them) in Izbiza — is doing his damndest to get a casino built. And a body is causing problems (and question) that he doesn't need right now.
But back to that initial question: Who killed Axel? (Played in his older form by Tom Rhys Harries.) Nobody seems to know. Not Andreu Calafat. (Pedro Casablanc.) Not Andreu's son, Oriol. (Juan Diego Botto.) Not Axel's sister, Zoe (Laura Haddock, whom you might recognize as Quill's mother in Guardians of the Galaxy), who was over the moon for her brother when he left home when she was just 15. (It left her so distraught she had somewhat of a mental breakdown, apparently.)
Boxer (Nuno Lopes) doesn't know, either, which is a problem because his boss, Andreu, has tasked him with finding out. Neither does Axel's pal, Marcus (Daniel Mays), who came to Izbiza from Manchester, England, with a couple other mates when they were teens, looking to make their mark on the DJ scene. One more for that list is Kika (Marta Milans) herself — daughter to Andreu, and Axel's girlfriend until his death.
And that sets the stage for what turns out to be a pretty epic mystery. Zoe heads to Izbiza (if you didn't know, it's an island off the eastern coast of Spain, in the Mediterranean, famous for its clubs and dance scene) to find out what happened to her brother.
White Lines has everything you'd want in a modern Netflix original. And that starts with show creator Alex Pina, who also is the force behind La Casa de Papel (The Paper House) which finally made its way to Netflix U.S. under the name Money Heist. (And it's very much worth your time.) White Lines is a good bit more accessible, though. While much of it is still spoken in Spanish, the inclusion of a number of English characters makes it a good bit easier to absorb. (And we once again can thank the rest of the world for taking the time to learn our language.) Pina is what makes White Lines a love letter to Spain. It's the sort of backdrop that just wouldn't be the same if it were set in Hawaii or even Miami. (The only thing lacking here is the fact that it's not available in HDR, apparently.)
White Lines is as if the Corleone family was at the Jersey Shore, only sexier. And more funny.
It's got all the sex appeal — and, yes, the sex — that you'd want in a modern adult drama. It's a lot of pretty people in swimsuits and beachwear. (And a few who fall into the more "normal" category, too. We're everywhere.) It's the occasional thong alongside the more traditional bikinis and trunks, sure. But make no mistake — this is a show with a lot of pretty people. And also with a lot of excess. With the club scene comes the drugs. And with the drugs comes the sex. And, early on, a full-blow, planned-out orgy.
So maybe don't have the kids in the room for this one.
But none of that really takes away from the story. Is it maybe a little excessive? Sure. But that's Izbiza, boys and girls. White Lines stays pretty centered, though. It stays centered on family, and it stays centered not the mystery. And it does so using flashbacks to tell the story of how Axel left Zoe and their family and came to Izbiza. And how he met Kika — and her mother, Conchita (Belén López), who may be the one person who actually knows what happened. The flashbacks are nearly perfect, too. They're not overused, and they're not any sort of expositive crutch. They tell the story then, to help the story of now unfold.
And just like Izbiza itself, White Lines isn't all about the darkness. (And despite the name, it also isn't all about the drugs.) There are plenty of ridiculously funny moments, too. Marcus should be a sad lot, but he's not. Boxer should be the most awful kind of enforcer, but he's tender. Axel died what apparently was a pretty horrific death, but we're not left waiting with any sense of dread. It's just something that has (and is going to) happen. Zoe maybe is the most tragic of the characters — and maybe the most of a trope, with her finding herself once she's finally out from under the crush of her own father.
But the question still remains. Who killed Axel Collins? And why? And when the light finally shines on the truth and the music stops, will we like what we see?