Murders, family secrets, a wedding and a voyage - Netflix’s latest Spanish period drama ‘High Seas’ (or Alta Mar) (both dubbed and subbed in English) packs in plenty to intrigue the audience. Set aboard a luxurious ship that sets sail from Spain to Brazil in the 1940s, the show features affluent sisters Eva and Carolina Villanueva (played by Ivana Baquero and Alejandra Onieva) grappling with the death of their father and preparing for Carolina’s onboard wedding ship to Fernando, the ship’s owner.
Things seem ordinary at first until people start turning up dead and the identities and loyalties of everyone around the girls begin to be questioned. The show features a dangerously good looking ensemble cast all with interconnected stories – Carolina and Eva’s governess, her daughter, the girls’ uncle, Fernando’s sister and brother in law are among many others onboard the ship, each with their own loyalties and troubles.
The show makes a repectable attempt to tell a compelling story but doesn’t pack in enough surprises to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The pacing of the story may be intentionally steady- the finest period TV shows of recent times ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘The Crown’ both grip their audiences as the story very slowly and carefully unravels.
This show doesn’t have as much depth to its characters but the multiple interesting story lines and the visually spectacular shots of the oceans and the ship’s interior make it an enjoyable watch nonetheless. The production design of the show by Carlos Bodelon is absolutely superb. The absolutely beautiful wardrobe of all the ladies by costume designer Helena Sanchis is another victory.
The show is about new beginnings as most of the passengers plan to start a new life in Brazil when they arrive. The class divide between the cabins and passengers, many of whom are maids and butlers to the first class passenegers are strikingly portrayed. In the event of any tragedy, blame always falls on those who can least defend themselves and it is their privileges that always go away first.
Although a period drama, the show does little to ground itself to the time period it depicts (although the costumes are realistic). The main surprise reveal of the show does align with historic events but it seems the event has been used solely because it was convenient as the show does not try to explore any themes related to it.
At times I really hoped the characters were a little less direct – accusing a shady person of doing horrible things alone and without having any proof isn’t the smartest thing to do but characters in this show keep behaving likewise and things somehow end up being okay for them.
‘High Seas’ is a fun relaxing watch with a tinge of mystery and is easy on the eyes. It won’t subsitute for a thriller but the show has more than enough charm to power a cross continental voyage.
Mrittika Anan Rahman is a daydreamer trying hard not to run into things while walking. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org