If you had the chance to go back to the past and do something that could affect history, what would you do? Would you persuade Miguel de Cervantes to rewrite his masterpiece Don Quijote de la Mancha or would you dazzle Houdini with your talent? It might be that you would steal Diego Velázquez’s paintings or install yourself as the king or queen of time and be present in all eras. These are some of the situations presented in the second season of El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time) to those who travel in time.
El Ministerio del Tiempo is a Spanish series about its namesake, a secret yet indispensable government agency that safeguards the past from opportunistic time travellers who wish to mess with history in exchange for fame and fortune. El Ministerio del Tiempo’s top agents are Amelia Folch (Aura Garrido), Alonso de Entrerríos (Nacho Fresneda) and Julián Martínez (Rodolfo Sancho), also known as the brains, the brawn and the brooder, respectively. Folch is a university student from the 19th century. Entrerríos is a religious Army of Flanders soldier from the 16th century. Martínez is a paramedic from present time Spain who lost his wife to a vehicular accident. Even though they live in different periods, their paths cross because they were recruited by the agency. The trio go as individuals or as a group to as far back as year 1053 and as far as the Philippines to aid brave historical heroes and legendary cultural giants in performing what they were supposed to have performed according to archival records.
Based on the first season of El Ministerio del Tiempo, Martínez was my least favorite character in the series – too much brooding makes him boring and me, bored. Unfortunately for him, El Ministerio chief Salvador Martí (Jaime Blanch) thinks that his brooding is enough for his exclusion from group patrols (in reality, Rodolfo Sancho had to shoot for another series). Fortunately for me, his replacement is suave policeman from 1981, Jesús Méndez Pontón (Hugo Silva). His name has three tildes, but shifting from English to Spanish keyboards to type those is worth the trouble. Jesús Méndez Pontón (yes, I like him so much I just had to write his full name twice) calls himself Pacino because he thinks he looks like actor Al Pacino. He does not resemble Pacino and his 80s hairstyle is greasy while his facial hair is off-putting, but he is charming. In the words of El Ministerio’s secretary Angustias Vázquez (Francesca Piñon), Pacino is “tan guapo” (very handsome).
For seven episodes, Pacino joins Folch and Entrerríos in keeping history constant and true by using their knowledge of the past, physical strength and superior weapons. In Pacino’s case, he also uses appeal to woo women and men to do the group’s bidding. They catch a serial killer, convince Pau Gasol that his future is in basketball, not in medicine, encourage Cervantes to abandon theater directing and focus on writing Don Quijote instead, manage to eradicate samples of gripe española, and save the ancestors of one of Spain’s president.
Pacino and his playful smirks bid El Ministerio del Tiempo adios to make way for Martínez’s supposed return from Baler, Philippines. Pacino’s departure leaves a hole in the shape of a “70’s pornstar moustache” in my heart. I am sure that Folch misses his easygoing manner and Entrerríos, his dating advice and banter.
As mentioned, Martínez lands in Baler in way of Cuba to give medical aid to Spanish soldiers fighting against local insurgencies. I watched both episodes that feature Manila and Baler on June 12, 118 years after Martínez got involved with Los Últimos de Filipinas as they withstand the Siege of Baler. June 12 is also the independence day of the Philippines from Spain, exactly 118 years ago. So yes, Martínez gets screwed in that unlucky detour as fighting intensified across some parts of the archipelago. I pride myself as a decent Philippine history student, but I learned at least one thing from those episodes: Los Últimos de Filipinas stayed inside the town church for 337 days. In order to give credence to the Baler scenario, conversations in Tagalog are audible as background noise. One of them is a mother shouting, “Anak, halika na. Halika, bilis!” (Child, come here. Come here quickly!)
The Philippine episodes should have been shoo-in as my favorites, but I like laughter more than I like gunshots and despair so I choose the episode El Monasterio del Tiempo (The Monastery of Time) over them. It has Napoleon Bonaparte (Fernando Cayo) slicing and dicing chicken and vegetables, a male French officer (is this redundant?) shamelessly flirting with Pacino, Angustias as an abbess with horrible singing voice and Pacino posing as a priest who rolls his eyes as he hears confessions from a lovestruck female. It is a feel good episode littered with tongue-in-cheek funny scenes. Without a doubt, it is the most riotous El Ministerio del Tiempo episode in two seasons.
The season finale of El Ministerio del Tiempo is not as entertaining as El Monasterio del Tiempo but it drives home why the agency is vital for the security of the past. After the staggering defeat of the Spanish Armada, King Philip II (Carlos Hipólito) decides to take control of the agency to reverse the fortune of his kingdom. Once he discovers the power that lies behind the doors of time, he becomes drunk with ambition and installs himself as the king of the world for eternity. It is easy to dislike King Philip II for his selfish actions but Hipólito makes the character endearing, especially when he talks directly to the audience a la Frank Underwood of House of Cards.
For two seasons, El Ministerio del Tiempo has not failed to come up with delightful guest characters to interact with the main cast and teach the audience a thing or two about Spanish history and culture. It is like slipping in diced vegetables in cookies. At the same time, the show has not forgotten to develop the story arcs of Folch, Entrerríos and Martínez. Folch’s future and death might change with the appearance of Pacino, but she remains the soul of the team. When she busts the balls of men who question her leadership position, I clap my hands with glee. Entrerríos’ cavalier spirit is greatly rewarded with a doppelganger of his wife, lawyer Elena Castillo (Susan Córdoba, also of El Príncipe). Watching him acclimatize to the women of 2016 is as fun as watching him ooohhh and aaahhh over microwaves and washing machines. Thankfully, Martínez seems to be almost over openly brooding over his dead wife. The time he spent reliving (and changing) the moments with her in Season 1 is better spent with the living in Season 2. Tuloy naunahan siya ni Pacino.
To read more, here is my review of El Ministerio del Tiempo – Season 1.
Quotes from El Ministerio del Tiempo (I wrote what I heard. English translations are mine, so they are far from perfect):
“En todos los años que llevo trabajando en esto, he aprendido algo muy importante: nunca le cuentes un secreto a un político, ni un periodista.” (In all the years that I have been working on this (agency), I have learned something very important: never tell a secret to a politician or to a journalist.) – Salvador Martí
“Asi es la guerra, matar los desconocidos y perder los amigos.” (War is like that, killing strangers and losing friends.) – Alonso de Entrerríos
“Hay, tan guapo y tan asesino. Qué pena, ¡Dios mío!” (*Sigh* so handsome and so deadly. What a shame, my God!) – Angustias Vázquez, referring to Pacino
“Disparar siempre es el ultimo recurso.” (Shooting is always the last resort.) – Jesús Méndez Pontón alias Pacino
“Sin riesgo, no hay arte.” (Without risk, there is no art.) – Miguel de Cervantes
“Tenemos un problema y gordo.” (We have a problem, and it is a big one.) – Gil Pérez
“La reina de todas las pasiones es el amor.” (The queen of all passions is love.) – Lope de Vega
“La ignorancia es la semilla de la estupidez humana.” (Ignorance is the seed of human stupidity.) – Amelia Folch
“Y el conocimiento es la semilla de sufrimiento. Los listos sufren mas que los tontos.” (And knowledge is the seed of suffering. The intelligent suffer more than the fools.) – Jesús Méndez Pontón alias Pacino
“Robarle los cuadros un rey, uno de los sueños de mi vida.” (To steal the paintings of a king, one of the dreams of my life.) – Lola Mendieta
“La experiencia me dice que después de la calma, viene una tempestad, y de las gordas.” (Experience tells me that after the calm, comes the storm, and huge ones.) – Salvador Martí
“Cambiar el orden de las cosas no es asunto de hombres. Solo dios debe tener ese poder.” (To change the order of things is not a matter of men. Only God must have this power.) – hand of King Philip II, I do not know his name so let us GoTify him.
“Es imposible governar un reino donde no se pone el sol. No queda nadie y he sobrevivido a todos, a los que me odiaban y a los que me amaban.” (It is impossible to govern a kingdom where the sun sets. There is no one and I survived all, those who hated me and those who loved me???) – King Philip II
- This is a way easier series than El Tiempo Entre Costuras. It took me less than two weeks to finish it.
- El Ministerio del Tiempo’s Diego Velázquez (Julián Villagrán)with hangover is a sight to behold, almost as mesmerizing as Las Meninas.
- I assume that El Ministerio del Tiempo’s Irene Larra Girón (Cayetana Guillén Cuervo) has dated more women than Entrerríos and Martínez combined.