Griselda: Rushed, Repetitive, and Ultimately Forgettable

Griselda Netflix Tv series poster


True crime trends and missed opportunities: What went wrong with Griselda?

The review of Griselda, a Netflix series that rides the wave of female-led narratives within the successful realm of the Narcos franchise and the ever-popular true crime genre, could very well be wrapped up in a single paragraph summarizing its narrative flimsiness, the extreme fragmentation of continuity between episodes, the lack of rhythm, and the predictability of character arcs even when stepping away from the true crime elements from which it draws. Yet, that alone wouldn’t do it justice, because Griselda represented an opportunity for Netflix to rejuvenate a historically successful narrative approach for the platform and, more importantly, for an actress like Sofía Vergara to break free from her traditional typecasting, showcasing a dramatic prowess that is hard to find in the rest of her, albeit significant, filmography.

Perhaps the only truly intriguing aspect of this series is Sofía Vergara herself: across the six episodes, her performance is compelling, strong, and assertive, sufficiently immersed in her role to not cloud the audience’s view of her entire acting persona while simultaneously managing to break free from potentially insurmountable constraints. It’s a pity that this performance isn’t backed by equivalent writing – too many repetitions and too bold leaps from one episode to the next – and is especially marred by prosthetic makeup that aims to “uglify” the actress’s features, yet results in a fake mask every time Vergara’s unmistakable gaze pierces through the grotesque, illusory veneer. A missed opportunity, therefore, to step out of the loop of her most remembered role – that of Gloria in Modern Family, which, even before Griselda‘s release, allowed for ironic connections between the two characters – to pave a solid and convincing path in different contexts.

For the rest, Griselda confirms a certain rush Netflix has in filling its release gaps with disposable products that mimic established narrative structures and ride more than one trend, aligning native ones – the Narcos thread – with those of the general market – true crime and “dark,” blood-soaked biographies – but ending up as easy, pre-packaged titles of no interest, capable only of flattening potentially interesting stories – this could have indeed been the case – into recursive and numbing schemes and models. Moreover, Griselda gives off the feeling that everything had to be wrapped up quickly, with huge gaps between episodes erasing potentially rich narrative passages, giving space only to segments that, in the economy of the entire story, end up as colorful but irrelevant skits: narrative density is thus economized to bypass seasonality, filling a categorical gap in a cross-sectional niche of the catalog and nothing more.

In its total mediocrity, however, Griselda must ring more than a few alarm bells for those observing the streaming catalogs’ trends: the Netflix series with Sofía Vergara is not an isolated case of a rushed title that rides a multi-trend market wave – knocking at Disney’s door with its very recent Echo – and stands as one of the symptoms of the wounds inflicted by the halt of productions due to Hollywood strikes, destined to resonate in other aspects of the serial landscape. Avoiding these pitfalls will become increasingly difficult for users, and the danger for platforms is to tarnish their own image by pushing the promotional pedal on objectively harmful and insignificant titles.

Nicolò Villani

Birdmen, January 23, 2024


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