When one of the breakout stars of a new TV show is a poodle called Pancho who gets into a cocaine stash in a blow-up banana boat, you know you’re in for a wild ride. White Lines is Netflix’s new show, created by Money Heist‘s Alex Pina. Set between Manchester and Ibiza, this 10-part series is presented as a murder mystery meets gritty thriller but trust me when I say there’s a whole lot more going on.
The setup is this: in 1996, four friends obsessed with house music and pills become disillusioned with working class life in Manchester. And so they head to Ibiza, where it’s sunny all year round and their drug-fuelled day raves aren’t shut down by the police. Then one of them disappears and, when his body turns up 20 years later, his sister Zoe (Laura Haddock) heads over to the White Isle to find out what happened and whether her brother Axl (Tom Rhys Harries) was really the person she thought he was.
Once there, she’s sucked into the hedonistic lifestyles that Axl’s friends have built for themselves. Marcus (Daniel Mays) has become a superstar(ish) DJ and part-time dealer, Anna (Angela Griffin) hosts upmarket sex parties for the island’s elite and David (irritatingly played by anti-woke women crusader Laurence Fox) is some sort of spiritual guru who’s travelled the world, appropriating wellness treatments and beliefs from indigenous communities to sell on to very rich people who like taking a lot of cocaine.
Zoe also falls in with the Calafat family, a powerful Spanish clan who rule Ibiza both above board – with superclubs and beach bars – and below board, by managing the island’s seedy underworld. There’s a weird mother/son relationship going on, a patriarch who cares more about his dog than anyone else and the prodigal return of a glamorous but baggage-ridden daughter, Kika (Marta Milans) from Miami. Oh, they’ve got a really nice house too.
To say White Lines is ridiculous is an understatement, but there’s definitely fun to be had. To start with, there’s the nostalgia of ’90s Manchester (hello bucket hats, The Charlatans, exterior shots of the red terraced houses of Fallowfield and enough house music to get you googling ‘Haçienda live shows’). There’s Daniel Mays’ humorous and hopeless attempts to parent teenage girls and there are plenty of sardonic jibes at Ibiza’s downfall from hippy haven to corporate playground for the rich.
There is perhaps a little too much waxing lyrical from some characters about the power of dance music and being ‘free’ which, at times, sends it into (Zac Efron DJing film) We Are Your Friends territory. We also dwell on the emotional journeys of some characters for way longer than is necessary (looking at you, Zoe). Packed into a tighter time – six episodes, say, rather than 10 – the show may have felt snappier and less like it drags which, towards the end, it totally does.
Nevertheless it’s worth giving White Lines a spin; when it’s good, it’s funny, nostalgic and has a soundtrack you’re definitely going to want on Spotify later. When it’s outrageous, it’s really outrageous: look out for a particular scene from Axl’s 24-hour 24th birthday party and a really awkward family therapy session with the Calafats.
And when White Lines is ‘meh’, well, at least there are some seriously stunning Mediterranean beaches to look at. Let’s face it – it’s probably the closest you’re going to get this summer. If nothing else, it’ll give you some inspo for next year.
White Lines is on Netflix now.
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