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TELENOVELA WATCH: UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR's Final Week; EL CAPO 2 Finale; AMOR BRAVÍO; ROSA DIAMANTE; Premieres: CORONA DE LÁGRIMAS (Dec. 3), LA MARIPOSA (Dec. 4)

UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR
I intend to write more on UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR as a whole later this month when I run down my favorite telenovelas of the year. For now, some words on the final week, which was darker and more somber than I anticipated. This novela managed to maintain a wonderfully balanced tone through its run, but the humor waned in these final episodes as the novela went after tears instead and earned them: Don Aquiles making peace with the daughter he never knew he had, Violeta, and her mother before his death and funeral; Patricio discovering the proof that street ragamuffin Mateo was Luciana and Rodrigo’s son, missing five years and the subsequent reunion of them all as a family; and saddest of all, Patricio’s death in the final episode after complications in surgery he hoped would allow him to walk again.

The death of Patricio seemed particularly cruel. The kindest, noblest character in the novela, after showing the fortitude and courage to better his life following the accident that left him quadriplegic in the opening episodes, having over the course of the novela regained the use of his arms, only for that life to be snuffed out in the end. It was probably a death too many in the final week coupled with Aquiles, but it was also certainly moving.

One important part of finales is the comeuppance of the villains. Gala and Julie managed to escape the authorities, but they weren't able to escape the telenovela gods and wound up facing horrifically severe divine retribution: Julie losing a leg and Gala stricken with a brain tumor. I must confess, this sort of satiating of audience bloodlust, built up over months by the nefarious acts of the villains to be then punished with agonizing suffering, typically leaves me uneasy and squeamish; but the frequency of these mutilations, particularly in Televisa telenovelas, I suppose indicates they are popular with audiences.

I think Roselena’s final descent into madness was better realized, bringing full circle two dominant themes running through UN REFUGIO: Roselena’s hands and the family dinner. The hands theme was introduced in the first episodes, Roselena’s obsessive-compulsive washing of her hands, a gesture cleansing guilt for her past crimes, perhaps referencing Lady MacBeth’s attempts in madness to clean the blood from her hands. The idea of blood on the hands morphs in the final episodes with Roselena’s hyper-religiosity into a hallucination of the stigmata.

The dinner table is another important theme running through the telenovela, a metaphor for family. As Roselena attempted to enforce stricter control over her children, she demanded they attend formalized family dinners every night. Over the course of the novela, Roselena’s dinner table gradually became emptier and emptier as her past crimes became known and her current transgressions became unbearable. (By contrast, Luciana’s company at dinner, that is her family, grew larger and larger over the course of the novela – her mother, Magda and Ariché, Violeta and her neighbors and friends in the city, her biological father, the Torreslandas, and finally Don Chelo, Chuy and missing son Mateo.) In her final scene, Roselena, in her madness, has returned to the beginning of the novela, her sons planning to go on the fated mountaineering trip that brought Luciana into their lives and where Patricio suffered his accident. Roselena sits at her place at the head of the table, surrounded by her adoring children, but they are only crude dolls. Only her husband Max and faithful nana, Matilde remain at her table.

Some one hundred sixty episodes ago, Luciana left her small village alone to find her destiny, and an indigenous tribal witch, Sabina, promised there would be many tears in Luciana’s future. Coming full circle, the final scene of the novela featured an indigenous tribal wedding ceremony joining Rodrigo and Luciana together. In a lovely piece of symmetry, the first shot of Luciana in the novela was of her, alone, looking out over the mountains; the final shot mirrors it, except now she is joined by the love of her life, Rodrigo, bookending an exquisite journey.

CORONA DE LÁGRIMAS
CORONA DE LÁGRIMAS (CROWN OF TEARS) is the new telenovela Univision will fill the 7 p.m. ET slot with starting this Monday, December 3. It is a suffering, sacrificing mother for the welfare of her ungrateful children telenovela starring the suffering, sacrificing mother of all suffering, sacrificing mothers, Victoria Ruffo (TRIUNFO DEL AMOR; VICTORIA; LA MADRASTRA).

Ruffo plays Refugio, who struggles to raise her three sons alone after she is abandoned by their father. She works hard for little pay to make ends meet and provide for her children, and is stricken with a degenerative eye disease to boot. Eighteen years pass and her sons, now adults, show little regard for their mother’s sacrifices. Only the eldest, Ignacio (Mane de la Parra), who dropped out of college to work as a mechanic at a garage, helps his mother with household expenses and his brothers’ education. The other two sons are Patricio (Alejandro Nones), a law student ashamed of his humble origins, and Edmundo (José María Torre), a medical student who gets embroiled in illegal activities.

The cast also features Maribel Guardia, África Zavala (PARA VOLVER A AMAR; AMORCITO CORAZÓN), Ernesto Laguardia (ALBORADA); Adriana Louvier (EMPERATRIZ), Lola Merino, Martha Julia and Arturo Carmona. CORONA DE LÁGRIMAS is produced José Alberto Castro (LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR; TERESA; RUBÍ).

EL CAPO 2
The second series of the Colombian narco-novela EL CAPO (9 p.m. ET) comes to an end this Monday, December 3 on MundoFox. I didn’t much care for the series, despite the strong production values and the fine work put in by Marlon Moreno as the titular drug lord and three of the finest actresses in Colombia: Katherine Vélez, Carolina Ramírez, and Cristina Umaña. There is a general atmosphere of repugnance in the unrelentingly grim subject matter – night after night of murder, torture, kidnappings – attempting to sit through it five times a week over several months I just find to be an ultimately oppressive experience. Also, frankly, I didn’t find this second series of EL CAPO nearly as good as the first series, in particular those marvelous claustrophobic first weeks. Like a lot of sequels, the whole enterprise just felt gratuitous. The story was essentially told in the first series, this was just more of the same, but of lesser quality.

LA MARIPOSA
LA MARIPOSA is the show replacing EL CAPO on the MundoFox schedule starting Tuesday, December 4, at 9 p.m. ET. LA MARIPOSA is another of the “teleseries,” shorter novelas (this one less than 70 episodes) with a higher budget and emphasizing action.

“La Mariposa” is an alias for Alicia Benítez, a business woman who launders drug money between the United States and Colombia. Manuel Martínez is a U.S. agent who infiltrates the criminal organization, but in the midst of his undercover work, falls in love with Alicia.

LA MARIPOSA stars María Adelaida Puerta in the title role, an actress familiar to U.S. audiences for playing the lead role in the original version of SIN TETAS NO HAY PARAÍSO and La Perrys on EL CAPO. The male lead, Manuel, is played by Michel Brown, who was last seen on U.S. television in some of Telemundo’s Colombian novelas in the mid-2000s like AMORES DE MERCADO and MADRE LUNA. The cast also features Ana Wills, Lincoln Palomeque, Ernesto Benjumea (PABLO ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL), Salvador Zerboni (ABISMO DE PASIÓN; LA REINA DEL SUR), and Jimmy Bernal (RELACIONES PELIGROSAS; DOÑA BÁRBARA).

AMOR BRAVÍO
This week, Camila (Silvia Navarro) finally learned Andrés (Cristián de la Fuente), the simple chauffeur she was in love with was in fact Daniel, the supposed son of her uncle and the inheritor of her La Malquerida ranch. The confession was a good scene, basically the two lead actors for an entire episode, Daniel, still recuperating from his gunshot wound, attempting to make his case for why Camila was kept in the dark. Needless to say, Camila doesn’t take the lies, nor the vast conspiracy perpetrated by her lover and all her friends to keep Daniel’s true identity from her too well – particularly following the betrayals she had already been coping with – her slimeball husband Alonso (Flavio Medina) marrying her only to get the ranch from her, her sister Ximena (Laura Carmine) sleeping with Alonso behind her back, and her mother (Olivia Bucio) siding with her crooked husband Dionisio (César Évora) over her own daughter.

Indeed, the sheer number of characters aware of Daniel’s true identity before Camila was rather comical, and I’m not sure the motivation for keeping Camila in the dark was all that convincing from a story point of view, especially following an outright attempt on her life a few weeks back – it seems too much like Camila had to kept out of the loop in the story to permit these very scenes of her feeling betrayed again by those closest to her. It looks like we’re heading into the first separation stage of the protagonists.

Still, there is a bit of a twist forcing Camila and Daniel together, even now, as Daniel needs to avoid the police, who want him to answer questions regarding his shooting and also prove his identity as Andres, which of course he would be unable to do. So Camila is hiding Daniel in her cabin as he recovers and the next plan of action can be taken.

Also this week, Alonso discovered the truth of his origins – that his mother, Isadora (Leticia Calderón), wasn’t his biological mother, but forced by her husband to raise him as her own. In truth, he was the result of a tryst between his father and a servant. As Alonso finally comes to understand his mother’s lifelong animosity towards him, it sets the stage for yet another fissure amongst the villains.

Alonso also learns that it is possible Isadora murdered his father. Leticia Calderón plays Isadora’s appetite for violence as orgasmic in nature, which we saw again this week as Isadora cut out the tongue of Leoncio (José Elías Moreno) so he couldn’t rat on her and Dionisio before turning the thug over to the police.

ROSA DIAMANTE
ROSA DIAMANTE (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Telemundo) improved marginally this week as Rosa (Carla Hernández) was released from prison. In the early weeks of this telenovela, one of its most enjoyable aspects was watching the bold, audacious Rosa face off against the host of villains, and hopefully the novela is returning that bit to the proceedings. There was a good start as Rosa arranged to clandestinely whisk Rosaura (Lupita Ferrer) away from Miss Margaret (Luciana Silveyra) and her accomplice, Nurse Graciela (Tamara Mazarrasa), who was keeping Rosaura drugged up, and hide her at her new flat.

Unfortunately, the story needed to be moved six months forward to accommodate Rosa’s release from prison, necessary for that central story, but making nonsense of most of the subplots on the telenovela, many of which had reached crisis point, with lives being threatened, only for them all to be put on pause for six months. Characters who were saying their lives were in danger if they didn’t commit some crime or pay some money owed were suddenly given a six month off screen reprieve. Worst of all was the implication that Rosaura continued to be drugged by Graciela for that entire six months even after Rosa explicitly told her father, Dr. Andrade (Marco Treviño), her suspicions regarding Rosaura’s imperiled health.

Also unfortunately, by the end of the week, one of the most tiresome of story clichés threatened to rear its head as Bárbi (Begoña Narváez) discovered she was pregnant with her blackmailer’s child and plotted to stage a sexual encounter with Jose Ignacio (Mauricio Ochmann) in an attempt to pass the baby off as his.

RELATED:
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMOR BRAVÍO Censorship, Final Stage Of UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR, PASION PROHIBIDA Casting Controversy (October 27, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: ABISMO DE PASIÓN Finale; AMORES VERDADEROS Premiere; Five Years Later On UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (November 3, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMORES VERDADEROS First Impressions; AMOR CAUTIVO Preview (November 10, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMORES VERDADEROS, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR, AMOR BRAVÍO, ROSA DIAMANTE (November 17, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR Finale Airing November 30; Plus, AMORES VERDADEROS, ROSA DIAMANTE & CORREO DE INOCENTES (November 24, 2012)

R.G. Morin writes a regular 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 argeemorin@hotmail.com.

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