Murder, passion, sex and betrayal – Dark Desire is essentially Netflix’s foray into the world of telenovelas. It seems fitting then that Mexico, the country known for being one of the first to bring social themes and behaviour to the table in this format, is the country responsible for producing this 18 episode series. It’s worth noting that the usual televised run for telenovelas stretches on for 45+ episodes. Here though, the series has been condensed down into a far more accessible 18 episode series.
The result is something that feels far more accessible to those not familiar with this style of drama while still adopting all the usual tropes you’d expect from this sort of show. That proves to be a winning formula too because while Dark Desire is unlikely to win any awards or break boundaries in the world of TV, it does have enough of a hook to keep you invested to find out what happens next through the 30-40 minute episodes.
At the centre of this drama lies Alma, a college Professor unhappy with her marriage and suspecting her husband Leonardo is having an affair. When Alma joins best friend Brenda to paint the town red, she hooks up with a handsome stranger named Dario. This sets up the basic crux of conflict, made ever more interesting by the introduction of her brother-in-law Esteban who works as an investigator.
A couple of surprise reveals at the end of the first episode sets the series up for a twisty-turny crime thriller to follow, which works hand-in-hand with more familiar romantic melodrama and familial relations. Alma’s daughter Zoe has her own sub-plot while Dario’s history and motives are explored a lot more deeply as the episodes tick by. All of this culminates in some dramatic episodes toward the end of the series, with some suspension of disbelief needed along the way. I won’t spoil anything here but suffice to say this plays quite closely to all the usual soap opera tropes you’d expect – for better or worse.
The characters themselves all feel quite archetypal too and expect plenty of exaggerated mannerisms, flashback sequences and hidden truths revealed in suitable dramatic fashion.
There’s certainly enjoyment to be had here though and the short episodes do help get through this quite quickly. There’s definitely some nice twists in here that you won’t see coming and the characters have a good amount of progression across the season. There’s lots of romance, passion and sex too but it’s also worth noting that this never reaches the distasteful level something like 365 Days revels in. Instead, the romance is much more purposeful here which is good to see.
Undoubtedly, Dark Desire will find an audience on Netflix. The shorter run-time compared to other telenovelas is a smart move and allows a much wider group to people to experience some of what makes these shows such guilty pleasures. While there’s nothing award-winning or ground breaking here, Dark Desire is certainly desirable enough to sink your teeth into and allow some of that dark drama to keep you invested through to the climactic end.
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Verdict - 6/10