The heart is a complex organ, one that we ascribe not only physical qualities to, but emotional ones as well. If we get excited, our hearts race, literally pumping blood faster through our body. If we’re sad, we say our heart is broken. But what if that heart was controlled by – or belonged to – someone else?
If that sounds a little too supernatural to swallow, rest assured: Lifeline, the new thriller from Walter Presents, builds up to it slowly, with a hefty dose of science first. That comes courtesy of Alejandro Puga (Pablo Derqui), a renowned surgeon who is so prolific that he does almost all of his hospital’s operations himself. Such a workload, though, comes at a price – and within the first hour, he’s suffered a heart attack and had an emergency bypass to keep him ticking over.
While the organ saves his life, though, it seems to carry a price: nightmares that keep him awake every evening, visions of strangers celebrating birthdays and repeatedly hallucinations of a motorbike accident. What could be causing them? Alejandro eventually comes to believe they’re organ transplant memories, remnants of the past somehow entangled with his borrowed heart on a cellular level.
It’s a premise that’s borderline ridiculous, but it’s full credit to Derqui for selling it completely. A rational man, he’s skeptical of the idea at first, gradually transforming from a logical scientist to an obsessed conspiracy theorist, trying to track down the locations, people and meaning behind each flashback – much to the frustration of his wife, Bianca, played with an excellent, grounded presence by Leonor Watling.
The result is an intriguing medical theory with emotional weight, backed up by some steamy scenes that are designed to get audience’s blood pressure spiking – particularly back in Spain, where this kind of fare is far from the norm. But what makes Lifeline so interesting is the way it carves that drama together with a high-octane detective story, as writers Emilio Aragón, Carmen Ortiz, Francisco Roncal cut from domestic angst to fast-paced investigations.
Those come courtesy of Lara (a charismatic Meritxell Calvo), a journalist who was working with Rodrigo (Juan Diego Botto), another reporter whose case led to his death. From the cold open in the first episode, which sees a man running for his life in the dark, shadowy docks (shot confidently from overhead with real panache), it’s clear that we’re dealing with some nasty people. The moment that man confides in Rodrigo, it’s a matter of time until bad things happen.
Balancing the two plotlines and tones, as they inevitably bleed into each other, is no easy feat, but Lifeline is created by the same people who made Locked Up, a prison drama that’s among Walter Presents’ best TV shows to date. This is no less ambitious, or stylish, proving once again that Spanish TV can rival that of the US when it comes to high-concept excitement – the opening credits alone are wonderfully conceived, blurry cityscapes and arteries to a catchy tune, while the time-lapse photography of Madrid rivals New York and London when it comes to atmospheric backdrops.
Called Pulsaciones in its home country (literally “pulsations”), the show certainly delivers on the heart-quickening action, as well the racy adult drama, all spliced via underlying themes of justice, identity, truth and memory. It’s a series full of promise that sells its supernatural concept, then leaves you pondering its implications – if Alejandro’s heart can affect the way his brain works, or distort what he sees in the mirror, surely it’s only a matter of time until it changes his feelings too? Wherever his heart ends up, prepare for your pulse, and your mind, to start racing.
All 13 episodes of Lifeline are available on All 4 and Sky On Demand.
For more information on the other foreign-language shows available, see our Walter Presents TV guide.