TV Review: 30 Coins 1×8, “The Sacrifice”

Joseph Braverman reviews the season one finale of 30 Coins, "The Sacrifice," which is, unfortunately, a disappointment.
User Rating: 5

30 Coins ends its chaotic first season by sputtering to a dissatisfying climax. Sometimes thunderous showdowns are just that: all boom and no pow. Now that all the rings have been collected, Satan’s Vatican sect — known as Cainetes — will gather at Pedraza to watch its leader’s ascendance to higher demonic supremacy. The ritual involves the possessed townsfolk watching in tranquil astonishment, blind to their bewitchment, all fools except Merche (Macarena Gómez). The tenacious mayor’s wife carves out her own agency, aligning herself with one of the white-suited Cainetes acolyte’s by episode’s end. Likely the main villain in a possible second season, Merche fully embraces her diabolical side now that her husband Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) has no plans to abandon his newfound relationship with Elena (Megan Montaner).

Speaking of our favorite Casanova mayor, Paco is hit over the head with lovesick idiocy. Even though he adores Elena, part of him feels weirdly indebted to Merche, believing some humanity still remains inside her. How in the world are you going to trust this woman when she stole the last coin — completing the grand unification of evil — and physically assaulted your destined lover within an inch of her life? Desperate times call for desperate measures, but they don’t call for stupid decisions that threaten to undo all prior acts of heroism.

Paco, Elena, and Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández) now find themselves trapped inside Pedraza, courtesy of Angel’s (Cosimo Fusco) barrier spell. The finale begins with the trio narrowly avoiding the imposter priest in the creepy mist engulfing the town. The last chapter then jumps ahead a couple of weeks to coincide with Cardinal Santoro’s arrival (Manolo Solo) and his cult brigade. Our Scooby Gang is barely hanging on, with no allies — except for Merche posing as one, handing out the occasional food bone — and resources to rebuild them to fighting strength. The final battle looms ahead, and Elena and Paco are nowhere near prepared for it.

Fortunately, Vergara knows how to commune with deus ex machina. He prepares his own counter ritual ahead of time, involving a small blood sacrifice and a pretty dove ready to take flight. The winged creature may not look threatening as it surveys the town below, but it’s about to wreck some carnage like Khaleesi’s dragons from Game of Thrones. Thanks to its distraction, Vergara can quickly dispose of Santoro before his transformation into a deity is complete. During the tussle, Vergara’s old seminary schoolmate falls over Merche’s hotel balcony and plummets to his death, causing a mad scramble for the coins that fall off his ceremonial garb.

In the meantime, Elena finds herself indisposed after she and Paco run into Merche in the tunnels beneath the town square. Elena knows if she doesn’t act fast, the mini Judas is going to strike without warning. What Elena doesn’t anticipate is being stabbed in the neck with a magical pin that knocks her into permanent sleep unless removed. The villainess escapes with little effort, as Paco lacks the gall to prevent his wife from causing further damage.

Thankfully, Paco comes to his senses when the old crone from previous episodes enters the scene to observe Elena’s comatose state. She taunts Paco to tears, and it isn’t until he realizes that she’s no mere elderly mortal that he takes action. The two end up sparring to the death, causing the witch to reveal her true form underneath a spiked-tentacle monster and devout servant of Hell. Once the beast is defeated, the mystical border dissolves, and everyone can exit the city unobstructed.

Good riddance to Pedraza — I hope the villagers abandon the town they endured so much trauma from and never return. The show could use a setting change, as Pedraza has run its course as a crisis sector. It’s time to spread out and take flight to other parts of the Spanish countryside or even set the second season closer to Vatican City, if not within its walls. One upside to the finale is that the writers finally figured out that Santoro is not a compelling villain, his lust for power identical to other occult practitioners throughout fiction. Santoro had no distinct persona to call his own, and the season rightfully concludes with the more interesting villains in Angel and Merche barely surviving to wreak havoc another day.

One season finale sin that can’t be forgiven: Elena being sidelined from the action. After building up her return in the penultimate episode, it’s an insult to her character growth to bench her when she’s reached the height of her headstrong tenacity. I’m also not comfortable with the deadly love triangle the show has established between Elena, Paco, and Merche — it reeks of the sexist “male dependency” trope, not to mention pits women against each other unnecessarily. Until next season…if indeed the nightmare is greenlit to continue.

All of Season One of 30 Coins is now available to stream on HBO Max

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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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