Siempre Bruja (Always a Witch) s1 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

19 year old Carmen is in a somewhat precarious position. She’s a black, female slave in 17th century Cartagena, in the middle of a (deeply problematic) doomed romance with her white slavemaster’s son, Christobal, and she has genuine magic powers, at a time when any one of these characteristics is liable to get her summarily executed. Oh, and her boyfriend‘s mum and the local woman-hating priest hate her guts so said execution is going to take place pronto.

At this point, one would think our heroine might rustle up some magic to spirit her (and lover boy, I suppose, if she really must) away. Or perhaps, after she’s caught, if Casanova Junior really cares, he might scare up some cash and pay off a guard or something so she can escape to somewhere they aren’t planning to burn her at the stake. Sadly, though, her powers are more in the “make dogs growl” area of the spectrum, so she’s a bit stuck, and he is not only complicit in the subjugation of fellow human beings but also a moron. Rather than use his privilege to do something useful, he gives a stupid pointless speech which I think is supposed to be romantic but just gets himself killed. “Thanks for nothing, fathead,” Carmen should say. But she doesn’t.

Luckily, after bae bites it, though, Carmen just happens to be plonked in a cell next door to a similarly incarcerated wizard – why he’s just getting the jail rather than the same big fiery fate intended for Carmen is unexplained – and he has a Plan. A quick chat with Mr Wiz and some enthusiastic chanting later, then, and Carmen manages to transport herself right off the stake into 21st century hospital, albeit with severely burned feet and an almost obsessive desire to go back in time and save Christobal who isn’t worth a trip to Tesco, let alone a trip back to enslavement and almost certain death, FFS, but there seems to be no telling Ms Carmen that yet. Ms CJ, however, is wondering if the combination of the hot cop investigating the imaginatively-titled Fire Killer, the even hotter music student who isn’t up to all that much as yet but seems nice enough, and, oh yeah, the prospect of living to see 20 while not chained to anything (burning or otherwise), might eventually change her mind.

Meantime, there’s some sort of supernatural smoke monster murder mystery happening and some magical intrigue nonsense in the background, which I should probably care about more than I do, but I‘m too distracted by a) the possibility of a love quadrangle, and b) really hating Christobal. Plenty has been written elsewhere about the problem with the show perpetuating the outdated, offensive slave/slavemaster romance trope so I’ll just leave a link here on that front, and co-sign. Having said that, I’m hoping that, in an episode or two, once Carmen spends a bit of time with folk who might buy flowers or gifts for the people they fancy, rather than buying the actual people themselves, she and the show will break out of that particular cliché and she’ll leave that creep Christobal back where he belongs, whether she gets together with any 21st century love interests or not.

If you can set the Christobal/slavemmaster romance problem and the show’s innate silliness aside for now, though, this first episode is reasonably entertaining; it feels like the show could be fun when it gets going and (if) Carmen gets a clue. On that basis, and since I have absolutely no interest in watching the many true crime documentaries about serial killers, child abusers and all the other horrors people keep recommending to me, I might well watch a bit more Siempre Bruja in due course. If you check it out, let me know what you think.

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