(Warning: Trailer is NSFW for nudity and language.)
There's good timing, and there's GREAT timing. And Netflix's new series White Lines has the best timing ever. While we all sit inside wondering how we're going to spend the rest of our day, White Lines opens up its arms and coos, "Come here, my child." It's the perfect binge-watch to check 10 hours of entertainment off your week, provided you don't mind copious amounts of TV-MA content and storytelling that barely stays on the tracks.
Now let me make myself clear here. When I say perfect binge, I don't mean you're looking at the next Breaking Bad or The Sopranos. And truthfully, I have no idea how the show will be received by others or if they'll even like it -- even I'd score it around a 60 out of 100, but I couldn't stop watching. What I mean by perfect binge is that White Lines has that magic mix made for the bingeing era: It's absurd, it's addictive (it's called White Lines for chrissake), and it has unexpected moments that will lure you in deeper and deeper, and it knows this. I have more respect for TV producers who have a firm grasp of what their show is, even if they know it's bonkers or campy, than creators who trot out another "prestige drama" that just apes elements of other more successful shows, and the people behind White Lines know exactly what they're doing. Allow me to explain further why there's a good chance you'll go through this in one week, if not a few days. Ahem.
1. It's Set in Ibiza, Making It the Perfect Quarantine Vicarious Vacation
You're probably tearing your overgrown hair out as you slowly descend into madness from staring at the same four walls for the last few months. Since you can't get on a plane and head to the tropics, the next best thing is for TV to take you there. White Lines is mostly set on the hedonistic Spanish tropical island of Ibiza (or "Ee-bee-tha" if you're cool, "Ee-bee-fuh" if you're from Manchester), and full of beaches, luxury villas, crystal-clear pools, and posh nightclubs. While you're stuck on your couch in your pajamas for the 27th day in a row, people in White Lines ride scooters, drive in convertibles, and walk through quaint cobblestone streets, and though you haven't showered since Tuesday, the sunny views will make you want to slather on some sunblock.
2. Paradise Is Tainted By a Murder Whodunnit
The premise of White Lines is pretty simple: After her brother Axel Collins moved to Ibiza and went missing for 20 years, Zoe Walker (Laura Haddock) learns he was actually murdered decades ago and heads to Ibiza to investigate. Axel essentially ran away with some friends from home in pasty Manchester, England, to become a superstar DJ in sun-drenched Ibiza, where he befriended the son of the wealthy Spanish Calafat family and fed off them and their resources. White Lines makes everyone a suspect in Axel's murder; the friends who became jealous of his success, the Calafats who believed he was upending their family (and boinking their daughter), and the ex-girlfriends who he took a piece on the side on. And no one even knows who did it, because they partied too hard to remember! The truth is dispersed piecemeal, with revelation after revelation not just hitting the viewer hard, but also the people who thought they knew Axel the best. As Zoe inches closer to the truth, she doesn't like what she learns about her brother, his friends, the final days before his death, and *gasp* herself. Can you believe that a hard-partying, drug-snorting record slinger might be up to no good? Shocker!
3. It's Ridiculously and Beautifully Excessive, in the Best Way Possible (i.e. Dogs Do Cocaine)
Even after a small sample, you won't be able to accuse White Lines of holding back. In the first episode alone, someone gets shot with a harpoon, there's a high-class orgy, and dogs do cocaine. Yes, dogs do cocaine. That's when I knew I was in. When it comes to filling the screen with entertainment, White Lines doesn't know when to stop. Packed clubs with god-like DJs are loaded with pretty people. There's nudity. There's even more nudity. Thuggish Romanian drug dealers put on Laurel and Hardy type shows when trying to pick the right kind of torture for a guy who hasn't paid up. Drugs are everywhere: in bowls at parties, billowing out of cars in high speed chases, on flat-top hats worn by little people, in lysergic toads. There's murder, sex, and hints of incest. Did I mention dogs doing cocaine? (Don't worry, the dogs are fine. Mostly.) White Lines uses all this excess to inject dark comedy into its relentless pace and paint a picture of a subculture out of control.
4. Time Jumps Hit the Show's Main Theme of Reverence for the Old Days and Growing Up
White Lines is unabashedly silly, but there's a serious underpinning that gives it some unexpected grounding. While the current action is set in modern-day Ibiza, flashbacks take us back to 1996 Manchester and Ibiza, during the heyday of Europe's club scene, where Axel and his friends idiotically lived like gods with no fear of consequence, like many of us did when we were younger and stupider. God, those days -- well, the ones I can remember -- were great. Twenty years later, those times are fondly looked back on by Axel's friends, who are now in their 40s. But White Lines tears through the veneer to ask if things really were as good back then as we thought they were, and if those who have stayed in the club scene as adults have thrown their lives away or if those who moved on to build families sold out. It's a conversation anyone in their 40s has in their heads about a billion times a week, and visualized here in White Lines, it stings the soul.
5. The Soundtrack Rips
Set in the club scene, there are plenty of house tracks and thump-thump-thump-thumps that blare through the speakers, but White Lines mixes things up with a clear nod to one of the great music scenes ever: the mid-'90s "Madchester" nights and early mornings that filled warehouse parties in England. Tracks from The Happy Mondays, The Charlatans UK, and The Farm (and remixes of those choons) get solid background time both in the flashbacks and in the current timeline, and they're used to help sell the idea that some of these blokes are really stuck in the past (despite the fact that The Happy Mondays are timeless). Modern songs from artists like M83 also provide feelings over some surprisingly emotional moments, and even Mozart gets a nod in a critical scene.
6. It's From Two of Netflix's Most Successful Producers
The series is a co-production between England and Spain, with some TV heavy hitters from both countries providing major contributions. The entire series was written and directed by Spaniard Alex Pina, one of the great international showrunners and the creator of the gonzo Netflix hit Money Heist (La Casa de Papel). And, oddly enough, Andy Harries, a producer of the very tonally different The Crown, is a co-creator on England's side. They've plotted three seasons of the series if Netflix decides to give us more.
7. You Get to Meet Portuguese Actor Nuno Lopes (Probably) for the First Time
White Lines is packed with international stars that you've probably never seen before, but the one who will stand out the most is Portugal's Nuno Lopes, who plays Boxer, the head of security for the Calafat family who helps Zoe search for the truth about her brother's murder. You'll hate Boxer at first; he's brash, arrogant, and a greasy tough guy. But as the layers peel back, Lopes lets his charm seep out from behind his all-time-great beard for some of the season's most disarming moments. I went from wanting Boxer to die to wanting to give him a hug pretty fast; he's the Jamie Lannister of White Lines, and an equal of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's chiseled charisma.
8. It Is Almost Every TV Genre in One Show
There's almost too much going on in White Lines. On the surface, it's a murder mystery as Zoe follows clues and gets anecdotes about her brother's final days, and that's plenty to keep the show going. But the series' most meaningful part is the friendship between these characters who have been through so much throughout the decades, like a raving Big Chill or a boozy Million Little Pieces. It's also a sizzling family soap opera with the Calafats as the bickering mother and children look to expand their hotel empire while the patriarch's health fails, like Dynasty but with hundred-dollar bowls of gazpacho. During Zoe's investigation, she goes on a personal discovery of her true self, like Eat, Pray, Love but if Julia Roberts had sex using a chin-up bar in the backroom of a club. There's drug-dealing tension, rival families trading blows, nosey cops trying to find the truth, unnecessary romance between unexpected characters, and more. Yet somehow, all that crowding has a positive affect rather than a negative one, and that's because Pina somehow balances them all by throwing everything on top of each other like someone at an NBA halftime show. If you suffer from boredom, White Lines does all it can to slap you back to attention from scene to scene.
White Lines is now on Netflix.