Los Espookys, HBO’s newest comedy, is in its third episode. In “El Monstruo Marino” (The Sea Monster), after the Espookys find themselves at Pepito’s house, Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) decides that it’s time for the group to take their gigs into their own hands. To do this, they must track down a mayor of a town in need of tourism after the local attraction loses its draw. Offering up a sea monster attraction, the group reaches into some Lovecraftian monster goodness.
In “El Monstruo Marino,” Los Espookys finally gives the audience more of a focus on the monster creation instead of tío Tico (Fred Armisen), which I mentioned in my last review. But this episode not only gives us some great monster moments, but it also provides some much-needed character development for the cast.
Last episode, the crew completed a job where they scared a group of people staying in a house in order to win an inheritance. But to do so, the Chocolate Prince, Andrés (Julio Torres) had to choose between scaring people or his familial obligations of attending a ribbon cutting ceremony with his boyfriend Juan Carlos (José Pablo Minor). Of course, he chose scares, and in “El Monstruo Marino” we see him deal with some of the repercussions of that choice. Which may or may not result in a marriage?
While Andrés deals with an angry boyfriend and disappointed parents, we learn more about each of the other Espookys. Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), is coming into her own, pushing against her boss and ensuring that the group gets paid with real money when the timid Renaldo is more than willing to just accept some food vouchers. Úrsula comes out of her shell and finds more purpose outside dealing with her sexist boss in the dentist office. We even get to see more about her sister, Tati (Ana Fabrega), and the cartoon prince that has won Tati’s part. And we even see her get a new job that may just put them in the poor house.
But these three aren’t the only characters getting more depth, so is Renaldo. While the delivery of his love of horror is funny – his forgetful mother forgot to write the “y” in “Reynaldo” leading kids to make fun of him – it is also something that many horror fans, of Latinx backgrounds or not, can identify with.
Renaldo’s love of horror came when kids made him feel like a monster and he felt that he was missing a part of himself – more specifically, the “y” from his name. When he was feeling alone and monstrous, he watched “The Woman Without an Eye,” a horror film about a woman without, you guessed it, an eye, and he suddenly realized that “missing apart of [himself] made [him] unique.” While the premise, a single letter in his name, is small, his experience is big and one that I felt coming into a number of my fandoms.
When I found the X-Men, I was the only brown kid in school, I felt alone and like I would never be normal. Then I watched the 90s television show and I felt like I belonged. As I got older, the same thing happened with horror. I could see myself in revenge stories, in final girls, and when I found Guillermo del Torro in my young adulthood, in monsters, mutants, science fiction, and fantasy. I felt less alone and I found a strength in them. While I’m not missing a “y” from my name, the choice to use this innocuous spelling as a way to deliver a reason many turn to horror was brilliant. Specifically, it points to why I have come to love the show as a whole and why horror and monsters resonate with so many.
While we’re on Los Espookys showcasing some very real experiences, we have to talk about how Renaldo’s sister puts a spotlight on Hierbalite, a parody name for the “Multi-level Marketing company” or simply, the pyramid scheme that is Herbalife. If you’re not sure what this brand is, it’s a scam that requires its “salespeople” to buy copious amounts of product in the hope of reselling it to friends, family, and strangers. The show nails this parody on the head, with the leader having a cult of personality presence, and ultimately spelling out the way he’s about to rip off the people in the room.
If you’re still not sure where this fits into the primarily Spanish-Language show, Herbalife disproportionately targets and exploits the Latinx population in the United States and Latin Americans. When they mentioned it last episode, I thought it was just an Easter egg, but instead, it looks like it will be a subplot worth following and I’m excited to see where it goes.
In addition to getting into some real-world feelings, “El Monstruo Marino” also leans Los Espookys even further into some supernatural territory. Andés is manifesting some unique traits and Gregoria Santos, the host of the Premier Impacto parody, Mira Estos, is clearly not okay. This episode begins to blend the world of fake scares and real happenings in a great way that keeps this series on the strange side.
While I am in love with this show, there is one oversight that I have to mention now that Los Espookys has had some time to get its footing. While I have fallen for every member of the cast and their characters, there is a clear absence of Afro-Latinx in the show. This even more prominent when you realize that the majority of the actors are white-passing. In a show that means so much to me, it would be nice to see more diversity, especially since Spanish-language programming by and large only features white-passing actors.
Overall though, “El Monstruo Marino” is a near perfect episode of Los Espookys that uses Armisen’s tío Tico to highlight the main story instead of giving his own. It adds more depth to the characters and ultimately reflects a world bigger than the scares but nonetheless moved by it. If you still haven’t watched Los Espookys, you need to. If you’re a fan of the strange, of horror, or electronic music, make sure that you tune in.
Los Espookys airs every Friday at 8pm PT/11pm ET on HBO.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.