'White Lines' Is Primed to Be Netflix's Chaotic, Summer Breakout Hit

Justin Kirkland
Photo credit: Des Willie - Netflix
Photo credit: Des Willie - Netflix

From Esquire

White Lines has all the makings of a perfect summer show: a sunny setting, half-buttoned shirts, vespas, and bikinis. In a way, it's an ideal antidote for being stuck in quarantine. In its premiere, a sun-kissed haze covers the Spanish island of Ibiza and for a moment, that salty beach breeze is nearly palpable. But the key ingredient to a bingeable summer show is scandal, and considering that the mummified body of Axel Collins is uncovered just minutes into the pilot means that there should be plenty of scandal.

In terms of pedigree,White Lines has the goods, too. The newest project from Money Heist creator Álex Pina is a joint effort from the production team of The Crown—both of which are huge successes. But unlike its predecessors, White Lines is a labyrinth of themes, all jammed into one series. One moment, there may be an orgy; the next, a torture scene. But no matter its changing tone, White Lines never pauses to reassess or apologize for its decisions. For all the reasons White Lines is a narrative bomb—hedonism! murder! comedy! harpoons!it also will be the most fun, unwieldy series you'll watch this summer.

In its premiere episode, the series sets up its premise nicely: Zoe, a concerned sister who can't shake the memory of her older brother, heads to Ibiza to identify his mummified body and decides investigate his murder, which took place 20 years prior. What Zoe doesn't know is that her brother, Axel, had his own complex web of relationships in Ibiza. Years after his arrival, Axel's friends (now in their early 40s), continue to live there as DJs and drug dealers in the lucrative Ibiza club/EDM scene. Oh, and for an added splash of fun, it just so happens that Axel's mummified body was found on the land of his old girlfriend's wealthy family.

As the series settles in though, there are little narrative surprises that feel like unnecessary embellishments. At the end of episode one, Zoe shoots a hitman in the leg with a harpoon, and by the time the second episode is 10 minutes in, Zoe is chummy enough with him that he lets her borrow his car. There's no real conclusion as to how we got there beyond the fact that they both want to figure out what happened to Axel. To reiterate: one of the series' central relationships begins with one party shooting another party with a harpoon.

These bizarre jumps happen more than a few times. There's an elaborate dog funeral, but it's unclear as to why it's relevant. There's high-end orgies that seem to exist only to put beautiful, nude bodies on display. A woman jerks a priest off in front of a window. Oh, and there's a lot of cocaine, but this is Ibiza, so that's implied. White Lines checks all the boxes, but marking items off a to-do list is really only powerful if the requisite work to warrant it is done first.

All that said, White Lines is a blast to watch because it's full of absolutely chaotic energy. From a storytelling perspective, White Lines takes way more big swings than it has earned, but the swings are so wild and egregious that it's like watching a controlled burn. Spoiler: that coked out labradoodle nearly dies after drowning in a pool following an overdose and a drug dealer says, "If you can't take care of your animals, you shouldn't have one," which in my opinion, is enough reason to watch this show.

For every inconsistency and asinine plot device, the series leads you just close enough to that initial question: What happened to Axel Collins? Those pieces, for the determined viewer, are enough to get from chapter to chapter in this saga. As for what happens when the story of Axel Collins isn't directly center stage, there are eyebrow-raising oddities aplenty to keep you entertained. That's not quite enough to excuse shoddy storytelling, but to quote Axel Collins' favorite refrain from flashback scenes: Have you never had a good time?

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