In a society empty of justice, police Captain Mario Conde and Co. bring a little order to Havana of the 1990’s, but this is no indication of order in leading character Conde’s own life. As the protagonist, detective Mario Conde, portrayed by Jorge Perugorria, always enters the scene with a strange mix of melancholic realism (or resentment), unpredictable boyish delight, passion, and experienced intellect.
The “Cuban noir” show is based off the four crime novels written by Leonardo Padura, all published between 1991 and 1998. A Netflix original series, Lucia Lopez Coll is the writer and Felix Viscarret, the director. The settings are reminiscent of a long-past prosperity with homes, bars, and cars that all bring back a vision of the age of Havana’s prosperity before Castro and the revolution. Everything has a bit of grime or rubble, each street some smoky haze, and all characters a bit of weariness, yet there is brightness and sensuality.
The show follows Conde as he swivels between writing and police work, taking on a little romance on the side. Conde encounters murder in the underground homosexual scene, art theft and business, high-up corruption, and the secret lives of schoolteachers and drug lords. Much of the atmosphere of the show is dictated by Conde’s particular perspective; the audience’s view is directed by Conde’s constant introspection.
Of this series, the music is a huge standout feature, with a mellow, jazzy solo trumpet and smooth piano, a little sax, a little guitar, but always mellow and flavored with a taste of loneliness. The show creators do not shy away from showing Cuba’s reality, and the music highlights a sort of solitude the characters feel in that reality.
People and money are stretched, reality is harsh, and they deal with it. We see many an aerial montage of dilapidated buildings, steam in back alleyways, shanty-homes, and rougher characters. Not people who look a Hollywood-glossy kind of badass, but people who all carry a legitimate weight on their shoulders. In fact, scenes of Conde and his close buddies make regular appearances where they discuss how propaganda and communist regimes have ruined more than they created, and have greatly altered their lives. They have multiple conversations after hours, always with a stiff drink, about being accused of ideological divergence at school, and what adhering to the rules brought them, a theme threaded throughout the 4 episodes.
This is definitely not a family binge, as it does include a number of sex scenes and language, but the show is definitely worth a watch for murder mystery lovers, or someone who likes a good and slightly darker drama series. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a thriller, but it does have a good bit of edge. All four episodes of the first season are available streaming on Netflix.
Time Commitment: 1 Season (4 episodes)
Why its worth the binge:
Rambunctious, earthy, and unique in the genre of noir-drama, with three-dimensional characters and a gritty edge, Four Seasons in Havana leaves you wanting more with the culmination of each episode.
– Kelly Gatewood
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