It’s been a couple of years since Argentine audiences were first plunged into the depths of the violent, chaotic, unpredictable world of San Onofre, the fictional prison that serves as the setting for gripping drama El Marginal. And whether you are one of the people who first experienced the show as it aired on TV Pública all the way back in 2016 or part of the larger fan base that caught up to it when it made its way to Netflix last year, one thing is for certain: you’ve been waiting for more. You’ve been clamoring for more. You’ve been itching and jonesing and begging for more.
Fear not, weary souls: you’re getting more. That’s right: El Marginal has smashed violently back into our lives with eight new episodes, and holy shit are we ever ready for it.
If you’re not on board with the show yet, go check out our review of season one. If that gets you hyped, you’ve got the entire season available on Netflix for your enjoyment. Don’t blame us when you’re down the rabbit hole of having watched six episodes in as many hours, have become completely numb to horrifying acts of brutal violence, and prison slang has casually worked its way into your daily lexicon. Consider this a warning.
Without entering *spoiler alert* territory, we can say that the first season of El Marginal wrapped up several of its storylines in a satisfying and dramatic way while leaving a few others open for continuation. Typically, a second season would resume these dangling threads to expand the story into new and, perhaps, more ambitious directions. However, El Marginal 2 goes a different route, stepping away from the events of season one to tell what is, essentially, an origin story.
That’s right: season two El Marginal is a prequel, going back in time to lead us to how things got to be the way they were at the onset, and (crucially) how the various factions that make up San Onofre reached their respective positions of power.
While the thought of a prequel is often enough to elicit groans from the most hardened television audiences, in this case it provides the creators with the liberty to explore some of the most compelling elements of the show’s first season from a different angle. This means that we get to witness the unpredictable, mercurial, eminently watchable Diosito (brilliantly portrayed by Nicolás Furtado) and Mario Borges (Claudio Rissi) as they take on new bad guy on the block El Sapo, rise through the ranks, and assume their respective stations.
The inner workings of San Onofre’s complicated social hierarchy were always the most fascinating aspect of season one, and having them expanded upon in new and interesting ways promises to be a literal blast. Among the returning characters from season one are Morcilla (Carlos Portaluppi), Emma (Martina Gusmán), Pedro (Brian Buley), César (Abel Ayala), and many others whom we get to see in earlier stages of their character development.
It’s important to note that even a widely acclaimed show like El Marginal, which has been largely received with glowing reviews and prestigious awards, has its fair share of detractors. Some of them have called the show to task for its glorification of violence and misrepresentation of the lives of prisoners, painting their inner lives and struggles as those of circus freaks and hyper-violent lunatics. There is some merit to that argument, and it’s something that the show could handle better.
However, it seems clear from the very first episode that – even while maintaining an overall grounded tone and aesthetic that feels real within the show’s diegesis – this is a work of heightened, dramatized fiction, with some truly over-the-top elements and plot twists. The power of art to play with archetypes, create fictional worlds out of real-life settings, and take dramatic licenses to explore themes and tell stories has been an important part of serialized fiction since the dawn of folklore.
As the old adage goes: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
A new episode of El Marginal 2 airs every Tuesday at 10 PM on TV Pública, and can later be streamed on Cont.ar. The first episode aired last week and was a critical, audience, and ratings hit.