TV Review: ’30 Coins’ 1×7, “The Glass Box”

Joseph Braverman reviews the penultimate episode of season one of HBO's supernatural series, 30 Coins, "The Glass Box."
User Rating: 8

It’s not an exaggeration to say that things are heating up in the village of Pedraza. In fact, by the penultimate episode’s end, the entire community faces a widespread fire outbreak. No matter that it’s daytime, outdoors, and with plenty of ways to exit the city, Angelo’s (Cosimo Fusco) visit results in an invisible barrier preventing anyone from leaving the town until evil has its fill. The strongest episode since the pilot — even if still too predictable for its own good — “The Glass Box” barrels towards a finale that, fingers crossed, promises to mark a momentous battle between good and evil. I can assure you, the audience isn’t bothered that the locals of Pedraza are collateral damage in this holy war.

Like all openers this season, this one starts with morbid curiosity.  The townsfolk flock to the latest funeral, this time in honor of dear young Roque (Antonio Velázquez), killed in last week’s restaurant massacre. One guest whose absence surprises is Elena (Megan Montaner), who is fixing for a late arrival to enter the city unnoticed. Before the community has time to pay proper respect, the state agents assigned to investigate the town press Sergeant Lagunas (Pepón Nieto) to exhume Elena’s ex-husband’s body. Criminologists Salcedo and Miralles (Nuria González and Greta Fernández) are confident that each recent death’s autopsies will establish a link between the victims and explain the nature behind the uptick in numbers. Lagunas is uncooperative, which only adds to his complicity. He eventually admits to investigators that he would be viewed as a lunatic unfit for civic duty if he gave a truthful statement.

Angelo, however, has no time to waste on petty mortal squabbles. He’s got a trap to set, and it involves bringing all the players together so the final Judas coin can fall into the hands of Satan’s hidden sect within the Vatican. The show has yet to give a thorough explanation about what happens when all the rings come together, but I suppose that’s what finales are for! Either way, it’s to be avoided at all costs if Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández), Elena, and Mayor Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) have their say.

Speaking of the handsome mayor, he’s incapacitated for much of the episode after falling victim to Munchausen by proxy. Angelo, grooming Merche (Macarena Gómez) to be a loyal soldier in the coming battle, gives her a cutout picture depicting Biblical imagery. She’s tasked to place the photo in Paco’s jacket’s breast pocket, causing instant fever and body aches upon the wearer. Although Angelo soothes her fears that the photo is only a good luck charm, both of the pair know it’s anything but, and Merche is more than happy to delude herself that she’s doing it for her husband’s best interests.

In the last recap, I spoke about how difficult it is to not feel a modicum of empathy for Merche. Watching her lose the hard-fought life she’s built to extramarital longing does validate her jealous rage. Her flip to the dark side could have been avoided, but once she makes that transition, it’s a road the audience no longer feels comfortable talking with her. By the end of “The Glass Box,” Merche is just as demonic as those she’s newly aligned with. She’d rather have Paco die if it means Elena won’t have him. The two finally face-off, with Merche beating the ring-bearer to the edge of death until Paco intervenes. No matter, Merche manages to retrieve the Judas coin from Elena during their scuffle. She dashes to her master with obsequious purpose, delivering Angelo the keys to armageddon.

Angelo has the local crone witch — who resurrected and possessed Elena’s late husband — dump maggots and soil into the sewer grates scattered across town to prepare for the final trial. By night, mist pours from out of the ground and spreads throughout the town, blinding the locals and preventing vehicles from easy navigation. Angelo gathers the scared villagers inside the church to congregate, leaving them to burn as he throws a cigarette into a pile of straw on his way out. The townsfolk successfully break down the church doors and escape, realizing this new priest is far worse than Vergara ever was. Good, they should feel regret over their atrocious mistreatment of him.

So just where has our favorite weapon-wielding priest gone? His detour in Syria ends after his vehicle is overturned on its way to the execution site. As I said last time, this excursion in Syria was just a way to keep Vergara off the grid so Angelo could have time to fortify Pedraza to prepare for the true priest’s return. By far, it’s the worst B-plot of the series, a speed bump in an otherwise well-paved narrative.

Vergara finally arrives back, seeing the wall of fog that will allow him inside but no one else to leave once crossed. The townsfolk press up against the invisible forcefield like a horde of ravenous zombies blocked from feeding. No matter how much they try, they’ve dug their own grave and are now forced to wait for the burial. Though not totally united, it feels good to have Elena, Paco, and Vergara back in the same area that originated this nightmare. Hope is never lost, only postponed until next week’s high-stakes season finale!

30 Coins is currently streaming on HBO Max

Written by
Joseph Braverman is a 31-year-old film school alum from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. He considers himself one of the biggest Star Wars fans in the galaxy, living by a golden rule that there is no such thing as a “bad” Star Wars movie. Joseph lives in Los Angeles, CA, and enmeshes himself in all things entertainment, though he’ll occasionally take a break from screen consumption to hike in Malibu or embark on new foodie explorations. Vehemently opposed to genre bias, he feels strongly that any good film is worthy of Oscar consideration. Joseph is also a proud member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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