Netflix UK TV review: Sky Rojo
Ivan Radford | On 21, Mar 2021
“What do we want to be? Hares or foxes?” That’s the question three women ask themselves in Sky Rojo, Netflix’s new thriller that follows the ladies on the lam. Who are they running from? Romeo (Pain and Glory’s Asier Etxeandia), their pimp, who is out for revenge.
Within minutes of meeting Coral (Verónica Sánchez), Gina (Yany Prado), and Wendy (Lali Espósito), we see them knock him out cold and flee from his club, Las Novias, and that speed sets the tone and pace for the series – one that doesn’t hold back from anything, be it violent acts of desperate justice or explicit acts of degradation. And that sashaying between empowerment and exploitation, between style and sleaze, makes Sky Rojo a compulsive but superficial ride – a show that’s never less than glitzy but never more than grimy either.
It hails from Álex Pina, creator of La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), one of Netflix’s biggest non-English-language hits, and Esther Martínez Lobato, who together craft a series that accelerates quickly and doesn’t take its foot off the pedal. Essentially a cat-and-mouse story, the writers gradually peel back some of the past secrets and motivations of their central trio, while coming up with increasingly twisting ways for them to end up in yet more peril.
That mostly stems from fraternal henchmen Moisés (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and Christian (Enric Auquer), who pursue the women at Romeo’s behest, bickering and dishing out brutal blows as they go. And, as they get closer and the women find ways to break free – while making their way to Romeo’s safe for some money to build new lives for themselves – flashbacks gradually tease out the complicated relationships and bonds between members of the ensemble. Coral, for example, is at one point asked by Romeo to be the tutor to his daughter, because he knows that she is well educated. Gina, meanwhile, reveals that a client of hers, Fernando (Chani Martín), has promised her that he will leave his life and run away with her.
The cast do well to bring some nuance to their characters, from Sánchez’s analytic, shrewd leader of the group, who will do anything to disconnect from the world, and Espósito’s defiant, determined sidekick, who has found herself more trapped than expected in her profession, to Prado’s naive trafficking victim who thought she was being moved to Spain from Argentina to work as a waitress. But they’re also fulfilling roles that aren’t far from the stereotypical personas that Romeo projects on to them – and while the show is voicover heavy to give the women a chance to vocalise their experiences, we also hear Romeo monologuing about his work, which muddies the moral waters rather than gives us a villain to root against.
The series talks of dissociation, of objectification and of normalising abuse, but it also shows us gratuitous footage at the same time, as if it’s justified by illustrating its point. Late on, it has a speech from Moisés in which he argues that the world should “ban poverty, not prostitution”. It’s less a complicated dissection of the sex work industry and more a case of having your cake and eating it.
The season does fly by at enough of a breakneck speed to skirt over its muddled tone, with deliberately short runtimes and cliffhangers popping up any time your brain threatens to kick into gear – it’s a superbly calculated piece of trashy Netflix fodder. But by the time the finale races around, a climactic showdown leaves the whole thing not in a dissimilar situation to its starting point, with its choice of closing shot highlighting the less tasteful instincts to the storytelling. With a hefty production budget up its sleeve, the result is a visceral piece of Grindhouse TV, but one that’s as shallow as it is glossy.
Sky Rojo is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.