'Dark Desire' is Netflix's New Dark Thriller
In the beginning, “Dark Desire” grabs viewers with the erotic appeal of an affair between a teacher and her student. Within the first few episodes, all one gets is lots of passion and secrets. This could describe the typical telenovela combined with “50 Shades of Grey,” but the plot quickly evolves into a whodunit murder mystery where everyone could be a suspect while at the same time a victim.
The traditional phrase of ‘everything is not what it seems’ could probably sum up the 18 episodes of the show. The Mexican drama series focuses on Alma (Maite Perroni), a law school professor who is having an affair with her student Dario (Alejandro Speitzer) while thinking that her husband Leonardo Solares (Jorge Poza) is cheating on her. Then there is Esteban Solares (Erik Hayser), Leonardo’s brother who is a police detective that enjoys bonding with Alma and Esteban’s daughter, Zoe (Regina Pavon). Three men and one woman are quickly entangled in a web of lies and secrets that connects them to be the main suspects in the murder of Brenda Castillo, (Maria Fernanda Yepes) Alma’s best friend.
When Brenda is found dead at the end of episode one, Alma and Esteban team up to begin investigating the reason behind her alleged suicide while Leonardo seems to want to hide all evidence on the case. This becomes more challenging when Alma realizes that Dario, who she is falling in love with, has a past that ties him directly to Brenda and Leonardo.
As Alma tries to end her affair with Dario out of fear he is seeking revenge, he begins to become obsessed with her. One of the most memorable scenes from the show is when Dario stalks Alma during her wedding anniversary. He channels Joe Goldberg from “You,” by climbing the balcony of the hotel room next to their suite to spy on them as they have sex. He bumps into them at breakfast the next day while pretending he has no clue they were there.
While the inner “You” fan in me was excited for a Mexican version of the show, the relationship with Alma is only the beginning. As she pushes him away, Dario finds a way to stalk Zoe and then be in a relationship with her while trying to get hired by her dad at his law firm. Therefore, Alma has to suffer seeing her daughter with her former lover while we find out that also both Solares brothers had an affair with Brenda.
As if the twists and turns of the series could not be enough, once people start to crack under pressure and the closer we think we are to finding who could be the possible murderer, the plot switches its storyline to making Leonardo the main suspect and then Esteban towards the end. At one point, I thought Alma had all the reasons to kill her best friend.
Though the show’s suspense and constant secrets hook the viewer into solving the mystery, it is not until around 12 episodes that truths begin to reveal themselves along with the police investigation. The appeal of the Dario and Alma relationship loses its focus around this time and the show switches into a battle between the Solares brothers and their connection to Brenda.
With Dario pushed as a secondary character halfway through the show, smaller plots start appearing that make the show lose its main storyline. Leonardo’s assistant, Edith Ballesteros (Paulina Matos) and Officer Garcia (Claudia Pineda) are then brought on to take a bigger role in solving the murder.
The show also quickly brushes over one of the biggest turning points where Zoe finds her mom kissing her alleged boyfriend, Dario. Other pieces to the puzzle as to why Dario was seeking revenge from the Solares come to light which instead of answering questions, they confuse the viewer even more. A so-called “Padrino” and a large inheritance from Dario’s grandfather become the main reason to why Esteban had a plan to get rid of Dario.
This leads to the end of the show where Esteban and Dario meet in Manhattan and mention Dario is his boss now. Though a cliffhanger for a potential season two, I was left unhappy with how Alma did not have any type of happy ending. In the end, she is even more confused and distraught than she ever was. Since she was a recognized law professor passionate about analyzing femicides in Mexico, I held on to the hope that she would turn the tables and crack the case down herself. But in the end, the reason for Brenda’s murder was the most obvious though yet hard to believe.