It is difficult to get invested in these new plot strands this late in the telenovela’s run; but the Patty/ex-fiancé story, utter bunk though it is, at least has afforded Patty portrayer Ana Layevska some substantive material to play. Patty’s visit to her mother and subsequent guilt-ambushing by her ex, who told Patty he was dying (later revealed to the viewers to be a ruse) and wanted her to make his final months happy were exquisitely mortifying. In the scenes with her mother, Ana Layevska does some bravura work – racked with guilt yet determined not to allow that guilt to stand in the way of her own happiness with Joaco, somehow she manages to be waveringly indecisive and steadfastly determined almost simultaneously, there is a kind of sad fracturing within Patty, aspects in her speech and manner suggesting a regression into the frightened girl again under her domineering mother’s thumb but then she snaps back into the resilient young woman who ultimately managed to break away from her mother and obtain her independence. There was a small moment I especially loved when Patty walked into her mother’s residence, Layevska showed a sense of trepidation circumnavigating a house plant in her path – as if in her mother’s presence, no leaf may be disturbed. The overwhelming impression left in the scenes is that of a dreadfully stifling upbringing dominated by shame-based discipline; in these brief scenes with her mother, Layevska manages to backfill, through her performance, the underpinnings of the profound psychological hang-ups that left Patty unable to consummate a relationship until the age of thirty.
UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Telemundo) entered its últimas semanas (final weeks) this week. As the stall stories of Marisa’s imprisonment and Lalo’s coma concluded, they were replaced with the umpteenth instance of Marisa (Litzy) putting a halt to her romance with Cristobal (Eugenio Siller) because she was afraid their relationship would hurt his senatorial campaign. The telenovela has repeatedly thrust this barely credible obstacle between the protagonists, with only slight variations, almost from the start, and needless to say, it has long become tiresome. The lack of more substantial hurdles for the protagonists to overcome in their relationship is probably the biggest flaw of this pleasant, though unexceptional telenovela. About the only question left is will Cristobal, during this latest break up, follow the unfortunate telenovela cliché of the male protagonist bedding another woman, in this case, the villainess, Sara (Vanessa Villela). It’s worth noting on Telemundo’s current slate of telenovelas, Cristobal is the only male protagonist who hasn’t slept with another woman after falling for the female protagonist (though RELACIONES PELIGROSAS tried to mitigate Mauricio’s romp with Olivia by making it drunken sex). It’s also worth noting the only sexual partner for the female protagonists on all three shows have been the male protagonists.
The Cinderella theme was especially conspicuous this week on UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision) with the Torreslanda company’s twentieth anniversary celebration serving as the ball, gown drama for the telenovela’s Cinderella, maid Luciana (Zuria Vega), and her eventual triumphant, head-turning arrival at the party climaxing with a romantic dance with the prince, Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto).
I still find the pueblo life scenes at Luciana’s home village tedious, but I also get those scenes provide a necessary contrast with the upper-crust sphere the Torreslandas inhabit and drive home the immense class differences between Rodrigo and Luciana, an aspect that is largely missing from the other current Cinderella telenovela, UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN, where the different worlds are spoken of in the dialogue, but rarely depicted in a meaningful fashion.
This week, the Torreslanda matriarch Roselena (Laura Flores) was given greater dimension. It was revealed Roselena’s dislike of Luciana isn’t merely an issue of class prejudice, but has to do with Luciana’s resemblance to a woman from the past named Aurora, who Roselena claims almost destroyed her marriage to Maximino (Roberto Blandón). Only slivers of the backstory are being provided thus far, but Roselena is suffering horrific guilt from some past wrong she committed against Aurora, and Luciana is a daily reminder of that wrong. Racked with guilt, Roselena is in constant consultation with her priest, but is unable to actually bring herself to confess. Roselena’s guilt adds a facet to her habitual hand washing – no longer just an obsessive-compulsive trait, it now also suggests the torment of Lady Macbeth and blood on the hands (“Yet here’s a spot”). Laura Flores’s audacious performance further descended into madness when Roselena suffers a raging breakdown during an argument with her husband over Aurora, and it was a shocking turn to see the thus far rigid, cold woman collapse into a bawling mess on her bedroom floor, screaming over and over again as her husband left the room, “It was your fault!”
EL TALISMÁN (weekdays at 1 p.m. ET on Univision) ends its run this week with its finale scheduled for Friday, June 15th. A near total misfire, not surprisingly, its missteps persist even into the final weeks with the odious murder of Mariana (Karyme Lozano). When a character is made to suffer as much as this one - her mother dies in the first episode; her father dies of cancer; then, in a truly repugnant scene, her unborn child is murdered when she is repeatedly kicked by the telenovela’s villain; she loses her mind from the trauma; and she is then kidnapped and abandoned in the street – it is not Pollyannaish to hope the character finds an eventually happier fate than to be shot dead by the same man who murdered her child. This was Karyme Lozano’s first telenovela is five years and she was one of the bright spots, making the most of the meaty material provided by the ordeals inflicted on her character. Sadly, the other standout performer in the cast, Marcela Mar, wasn’t afforded the same opportunities and remained criminally underutilized throughout the show’s run.
Univision has not run any promotions for a telenovela to replace EL TALISMÁN leaving me to believe they will be extending one of the currently airing telenovelas, CORAZÓN APASIONADO or AMORCITO CORAZÓN, to two hours, probably the latter as it runs over two hundred episodes.
EMPERATRIZ (weekdays at 1 p.m. ET on Azteca America, no English friendly options) is a mixed bag, horribly conventional a great deal of the time, but I continue to be entertained by Gabriela Spanic’s performance as the title character - it’s the only categorical diva turn in any of the first-run telenovelas currently airing in this country. The character seems one of those protagonist/antagonist hybrids as this week she used quite commonplace villainess machinations in her attempt to split up the man she loves, Alejandro (Bernie Paz), from his fiancée, Isabel (Marcela Pezet). Honestly, Alejandro, a rather dull fellow, hardly seems worthy of Emperatriz. She proves unsuccessful and at the wedding, victorious Isabel lays into Emperatriz with a marvelous stream of invective capped off with a glass of champagne tossed in Emperatriz’s face. This, of course, means war and an outrageous scene follows of a crazed Emperatriz throwing rocks up at the window of the hotel room where the newlyweds are spending their wedding night, shattering the glass.
- TELENOVELA WATCH: No Spanish? Our New, Weekly Column Makes Telenovelas Fun for Everyone! (April 21, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: A Look At RELACIONES PELIGROSAS; Plus, Short Takes! (April 28, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: MIA MUNDO And Product Placement On Telemundo (May 5, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: EMPERATRIZ Coming To Azteca America; Plus, Short Takes! (May 12, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: OJO POR OJO and UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR Coming This Week; Plus, The Upfronts! (May 19, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: Compelling Debut For OJO POR OJO; New Series AMORCITO CORAZON; Plus, UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN, EMPERATRIZ & More (May 26, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR Improving; Plus, OJO POR OJO (June 2, 2012)
- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ana Brenda Contreras On Her Career, The Telenovela Process & More!
- VOTE: Primetime Soap of the Week (June 3-9, 2012)
- VOTE: Daytime Soap Best of the Week Poll (June 4-8, 2012)
R.G. Morin writes a weekly column for We Love Soaps, "Telenovela Watch: A weekly look at the world of telenovelas for non-Spanish speakers." For feedback or questions, you can email R.G. Morin at email@example.com.