It’s the show currently storming Netflix at the moment, hitting #1 on the UK Top 10, so there’s no better time to watch Álex Pina’s White Lines – and if you’re thinking about checking it out, we’ve reviewed the first episode to give you a taste of what you’re in for.
The first thing you’ll notice about White Lines is how vibrant the world is – set in Ibiza, it’s packed with sun, sand and luxury, akin to spaghetti Westerns of bygone eras (a tidbit that is mentioned by Boxer in this episode). The impressive cinematography, which lingers on these stunning landscapes and opulent mansions, really gives you the chance to drink in the culture – and although cliche, the level of cultural immersion is impressive. Clubs and casinos become a very clear focal point in this episode, and it plays into the dichotomy the show toys with – the thin line between luxury and darkness.
And this conflict between the beauty of the landscape and the dark underbelly seems to encompass all elements of White Lines. We are introduced to Zoe Collins (played by Laura Haddock, in a more substantial role than her work in The Inbetweeners Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy) as she travels to Ibiza following news about her long-missing brother, Axel (Tom Rhys Harries), and while it seems like a simple crime story, it takes plenty of turns in this episode that pave the way for a mystery-laden season to come. Yet the show is anchored by its cast of wonderfully vibrant supporting characters – particularly Marcus, who is played fantastically by Daniel Mays. Marcus is bubbly and playful, yet clearly is involved in a world much different to Zoe’s, and their interactions are great to watch – there’s clearly plenty of secrets being kept from both of them, and watching their dynamic evolve over the next nine episodes will surely be interesting.
Despite its bleak concept, White Lines never gets bogged down in despair, and the writing from showrunner Álex Pina ensures the bouncy mood rolls on. From the vibrant electronic music to moments of genuinely funny comedy – a scene with two drug traffickers dancing on a boat particularly sticks out – the tone is well-balanced between the serious nature of the events and the bliss that goes hand-in-hand with the Ibiza setting. Even the characters who are meant to be villainous are still somewhat likeable – Boxer (Nuno Lopes), a henchman for the influential landowner Andreu (Pedro Casablanc) is a great example of this, with Lopes dominating the scenes he’s in, combining menace with an undeniable charm that aligns with something Andreu hints at in the episode: that in films, good and evil are clear-cut, but real life isn’t the same.
The only potential weakness here is how Zoe comes across – she’s played well by Laura Haddock, but her personality falls into the background when compared to more layered and charismatic characters such as Marcus, Boxer and Andreu, who all seem to have some form of inner conflict and nuance driving them. Of course, this is only one episode in, but her quest to find out the truth about Axel is already less gripping than seeing what the other characters are plotting. And some scenes of Zoe talking directly to the camera – which is explained towards the end of the episode – feel stiff nonetheless, with the script unnecessarily spoon-feeding information when it’s pretty clear already. Pina has work to do to make her narrative more interesting, and there are some movements towards this as the episode reaches its climax, but despite a few strong scenes – particularly her dialogue with Marcus – it feels like Zoe is slightly drowned out by the charisma the show otherwise thrives on.
That said, this is episode one of ten, and there’s plenty of time for Zoe to develop as a character, fitting into a world populated by likeable heroes and often more likeable villains. This show is charming, wryly funny and sets up a pretty interesting mystery, with some endearing characters – and the mystery that this episode establishes is surely worth following for the duration, particularly with how strongly this episode ends. If you’re considering checking out White Lines, it’s definitely worth a try – it’s stylish, sunny and heading in a positive direction.