Netflix's 'White Lines' Sets a Drug-Fueled Murder Mystery in Party Paradise
'White Lines' heads to to Ibiza, the gorgeous party capital of the world, to investigate a suspicious disappearance.
A decade-spanning murder mystery nestled into the drugs, parties, and downright debauchery of Ibiza nightlife, Netflix’s White Lines benefits from being an easy sell. Set between the splendor and free spiritedness of one of Spain’s most gorgeous islands and the simplicity of Manchester, the show -- created by Money Heist's Álex Pina -- pairs you with Zoe Walker (Laura Haddock), a woman who must identify the body of her brother Axel (Tom Rhys Harries) after his disappearance in Ibiza nearly 20 years ago. When authorities tell her that Spanish law dictates that any further investigation wouldn’t lead to an arrest due to the amount of time that has passed, Zoe takes matters into her own hands and heads to Ibiza to solve the long-abandoned mystery of her brother’s death.
While stumbling through Ibiza with Zoe, viewers are treated with breathtaking shots of the island, introduced to the suspicious characters connected to Axel, and given glimpses of Axel’s life and demise on Ibiza through flashbacks. For many of the characters of White Lines, partying isn’t something done for special occasions -- it’s their way of life. Thus, their carefree attitudes are heavily responsible for the show’s delightful and often lighthearted tone. It’s an odd vibe that results in a mystery that’s, ultimately, not too thrilling.
However, by no means is White Lines a boring show. All the orgies and drug-fueled benders give it a kind of Anglo-Spanish Wolf of Wall Street vibe, and the sticky situations and underlying demons plaguing the characters bring intense bursts of drama and violence. The show’s subplots eventually became more intriguing than the mystery Zoe set out to solve in the first place, but for a series in its fledgling season, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
By focusing away from the main storyline, White Lines is able to do great work developing its cast of characters. In addition to her quest to find her brother’s killer, Zoe struggles with her identity and becomes romantically involved with Boxer (Nuno Lopes), a club bouncer and the head of security for Andreu Calafat (Pedro Casablanc). Suspected by some to have killed Axel, Boxer’s motives are a bit hazy throughout the season, but his development as a self-aware and calculated middle-aged bouncer is one of the show’s highlights.
The family that he works for, the Calafats, are twisted enough to have their own soap opera. In the first episode, Axel’s body is discovered on their land, but even as the primary suspects in his disappearance, their internal conflicts are their utmost concern when decades of distrust, infidelity, incest, and distancing create major consequences for their family and other inhabitants on Ibiza. Even though White Lines is rooted in Zoe’s quest for the truth, the Calafats' family drama -- which Axel played an integral role in instigating -- steals the show as the most captivating storyline of the entire season.
Ultimately, the season-long mystery isn’t quite worth the bloat you'll have to sit through to get there. The more that viewers see of Axel through flashbacks, the more it becomes clear that he was a dick, so the urgency to know what happened to him wanes by the conclusion of the season. Once the killer reveals themselves -- which feels like an egregious cop out by the writers because not much was even done to provoke the admission -- most of the characters just go about their business. It’s an unfortunate plot resolution that was foreshadowed since the first episode, and, still, nothing legal can be done with the truth.
However poetic it was intended to be, the ending is utterly anticlimactic, making Axel’s arc feel prolonged and unimportant. It’s a shame because White Lines has all the ingredients necessary to make a great show. Complex narratives and great character development are the show’s shining achievements, and the stylistic depictions of nudity and drug use contribute to its unique flair. With unresolved plot and new conflicts bubbling in the season’s finale, there’s still hope for more worthwhile consequences in a second season.
Totalling at 10 hour-long episodes, Netflix’s White Lines is a solid weekend binge that will keep you glued to your streaming device. If you can look past its cardinal sin -- revealing its hand too late and too lacklusterly -- you’re in for a fun and aesthetically pleasing tale about love and confronting the past set against the unruliness of Ibiza nightlife.
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