Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
There’s been a whole host of decent Spanish small screen hits over the years. Whether it be El Ministerio Del Tiempo, Elite or La Casa De Papel (Money Heist), Spanish production companies are certainly no strangers to producing well written and compelling hits.
The Mess You Leave Behind is certainly well written (for the most part) and has a good enough hook to keep you watching until the end. Unfortunately what starts as a bright glimmer in the crime drama world soon dims to a more formulaic and predictable lull, leading to a slightly contrived ending that betrays some of the foundational work done up until that point.
At its core, The Mess You Leave Behind revolves around a woman named Raquel arriving at Novaris High ready to teach literature to a group of high school students. Only, unbeknownst to her the previous teacher in charge, Viruca, committed suicide 3 weeks earlier.
With two timelines running concurrently to one another, The Mess You Leave Behind thrusts an unwitting Raquel into a whirlwind mystery revolving around this troubled teacher, Viruca. At the same time we see exactly what happened to Viruca in a series of flashbacks that lead up to her death.
Trouble begins for Raquel on her first day of school as she receives a death threat on the back of a Missing Person poster – for Viruca no less.
With the police all but written off Viruca’s death as suicide, it soon becomes apparent that within this small town of Novaris, secrets lie everywhere. And this essentially sets the foundations for the series to follow.
Interwoven around Raquel investigating Viruca’s life and questionable relationship with her students are the moments involving Viruca herself. To begin with (as early as episode 1 no less) we see her in class and clearly on a downward spiral.
Later episodes shed more light on what’s led Viruca to this point as a melodramatic knot of drama, affairs, romance and deceit are all twisted together to produce a compelling mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.
Unfortunately a lot of these guesses are disguised as red herrings. Wirthout giving too much away, those who have watched a lot of crime dramas will probably figure out what’s happened pretty early on and if you stick to those assumptions the chances are you’ll probably be close to the truth.
It’s here where The Mess You leave Behind leaves a bit of a mess behind as the series closes up. I won’t spoil too much but suffice to say the conclusion to this tale feels rushed and unsatisfying. It’s a shame too because the actual drama and characters in this show are pretty good.
Both Raquel and Viruca have some stand out moments in the episodes and each do an excellent job bringing their respective characters to life. There’s some wonderful juxtapositions between the two teaching styles and the tenacity they both have overlaps through key moments during the series’ run-time too.
Thee supporting characters are more of a mixed bag though and as the series progresses, there’s some seriously contrived decisions made with each of them.
Students Iago, Nerea and Roi all portraying troubled but compelling students while Viruca’s widowed husband Mauro is arguably one of the worst characters in terms of growth and motivation.
If you can suspend your belief a bit with the characters and the ending, The Mess You Leave Behind delivers a slow-burn thriller with just enough in the tank to whet the appetite for crime drama enthusiasts. It’s not the best series in this genre but it’s a good enough entry to tide you over until another heavy hitter arrives.