El Príncipe – Season I

El Príncipe is a Spanish television series that covers all bases for controversial and entertaining viewing. Impossible love between a Christian CNI (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia) agent from the mainland and a Muslim from a rough neighborhood, check. Illegal drugs, check. Corruption and abuse of authority, check. Extremist beliefs and terrorism, check. Explosions and gunfight, check. Sex, and lots of it, check.

The Spanish TV series El Príncipe - Season I. Photo from vimeo.com

The Spanish TV series El Príncipe – Season I. Photo from vimeo.com

The story of El Príncipe centers on the events in El Príncipe, a neighborhood in Ceuta. Javier Morey (Álex González and his enviable abs) is a CNI agent sent to Ceuta under the pretense of being the new chief inspector of the local police station. His main objective is to investigate the collaboration between the local authorities and the members of the jihadist network. Even before he arrives at the station, Morey crosses path with an attractive Muslim, Fátima Ben Barek (Hiba Abouk), and unbeknownst to them it is the start of many more meetings to come.

El Príncipe's Javier Morey (Álex González) and Fátima Ben Barek (Hiba Abouk). Photo from vertele.com

El Príncipe’s Javier Morey (Álex González) and Fátima Ben Barek (Hiba Abouk). Photo from vertele.com

The local police is led by Francisco “Fran” Peyón (Jose Coronado), a popular and respected leader among his peers but he is without his faults, both as a policeman and as a family man. Quílez (Juan Manuel Lara), Fran’s best friend and assistant, the outspoken and brave Mati (Thaïs Blume) and the hardworking yet funny Hakim (Ayoub El Hilali) round up Fran’s main support group at the station. With the arrival of Morey, their strengths and weaknesses are tested and their allegiance to each other questioned.

The main cast of El Príncipe. Photo from stargatestudios.net

The main cast of El Príncipe. Photo from stargatestudios.net

The civilians are mostly composed of the Ben Barek household, which is headed by Hassan Ben Barek (Thomas Calleja) and his wife, Ben Barek Aisha (Merce Montalà). They have four children, Faruq (Rubén Cortada), Fátima, Abdu (Samy Khalil), and Nayat (Carla Díaz). The Ben Barek offspring have different persuasions. Faruq, the supposed model to the younger Ben Bareks, is a local drug lord who has repeated clashes with the police and fellow drug dealer, Ánibal (Antonio Mora). Despite his flaws, he is family-oriented who wants his siblings to have a future better than his. He and his wife, Leila (Mary Guinea), try their best to have children. Fátima is a teacher at the civic center that caters to Christian and Muslim teenagers. She is the beacon of obedience and honesty that Najat looks up to, and like women her age, she is excited for her impending engagement with cousin Khaled Ashour (Stany Coppet). Abdu has been missing for three months at the start of the series and is believed to be dead by most.

Abdu’s disappearance, his suspected ties to the terrorists and some drug-related problems are the main activities that need police intervention, all of which place the Ben Bareks under the spotlight. They also act as gravity that pulls Morey’s and Fátima’s worlds to collide with each other. These collisions start with a smile or an innocent conversation but eventually end up in Morey’s bed. Right after the deed, Fátima blames Morey for their transgressions like she was forced by Morey to make love to him. After countless love-hate scenes coupled with Fátima’s repeated repentance and promise to be a good daughter and a fiancé, I lost interest in their love story. I know that Fátima cannot resist Morey and his abs, and the way she throws dagger looks at Khaled tells me that she does not love her betrothed.

While Morey gets his fill of the local delight, Fran has feminine wiles to deal with. Fran’s wife, Raquel (Elia Galera), is a changed person as result of their son’s death three years ago. She spends her time obsessing in bringing the perpetrator to justice and abandons her job as a wife and as a mother to their daughter. This might have forced Fran to spend substantial time with Marina (Susana Córdoba), the owner of the bar the policemen frequently visit.

Not to be outdone by their superiors, Mati and Hakim start their own romance. They actually look good together and are a welcome change from the Morey-Fátima show.

Sadly, Mati and Hakim’s love story is unceremoniously interrupted when Hakim is discovered to be a member of Akrab and steals the memory card that contains important Akrab transactions. Akrab is the terrorist group that recruits teenagers through the civic center that Fátima works at. It is also the group that recruited Abdu and the same group that Morey is investigating.

Speaking of Abdu, he shows up again in the season finale. He goes back to Ceuta, not for a family reunion, but to blow up a ferry that is to carry the tourist bus he is in. It is also the same day that Fátima is to marry Khaled after she finally decided to be a good daughter and let go of Morey. However, as Fátima prepares for her wedding she changes her mind and elopes with Morey.

Fate is a cruel mistress indeed because events lead Fátima, Morey, Faruq, Khaled, and the police force led by Fran to be at the scene of Abdu’s hostage taking. Faruq and Fátima take turns in talking sense into their younger brother, but Abdu is too far gone. Khaled, who is actually the leader of Akrab in Ceuta, also tries to intervene from a distance. The finale ends with a single shot fired just before Fátima emits a heartbreaking shout, and that single shot seals the love story of the Christian CNI agent from the mainland and the Muslim from a rough neighborhood.

El Príncipe is a guilty pleasure that attempts to take on heavyweight issues such as religion, terrorism and duty for the country, and it succeeds most of the time. The show’s main characters, Morey and Fátima, start out strong and interesting but have been bogged down by too much togetherness and predictability. However, the other main character, Fran, is a delight to follow because of the actor’s natural portrayal and good screen compatibility with Quílez and Marina. The supporting cast, mainly Faruq, Quílez and Mati, use the most of their screen time by lighting up the screen with charm and likeability regardless of the role they play. In terms of plot, it is as complicated as the myriad of issues the show tackles but it has been enlightening so far.

El Príncipe – Season II is hereEl Príncipe – Season II B, Part I is here

 

Nagging Questions:

  1. Given the tendency of the police to gallivant all over Ceuta to attend to personal matters and have the sex lives that they have, I wonder how they solve cases?
  1. Does Ceuta have the highest density of sports jersey per capita in the world? Every other extra and two of the recurring cast wear sports jerseys.

3. Does El Príncipe have the highest number of actors wearing sunglasses in TV land?

Favorite Characters:

Fran – Dougal : Outlander :: Fran : El Príncipe. I have nothing to add.

El Príncipe's Fran (José Coronado). Photo from fluentu.com

El Príncipe’s Francisco “Fran” Peyón (Jose Coronado). Photo from fluentu.com

Faruq – His eyes do the talking, and no one can say no to those arresting peepers. He is a bad guy, but he is good to his family and those loyal to him. He must get pogi points for that and for his smoldering looks.

El Príncipe's Faruq Ben Barek (Rubén Cortada). Photo from teinteresa.es

El Príncipe’s Faruq Ben Barek (Rubén Cortada). Photo from teinteresa.es

Quílez – He is the character I am most worried about because I do not want him to die. When he asks Fran for forgiveness for his role in Fran’s son’s death and when he is at the point of taking his own life, I wanted to hug him and tell him that everything would be fine. Everything is not fine yet, but he is getting there.

 

Annoying Characters:

Morey and Fátima – Watching the last half of season one of El Príncipe reminds me of watching 70% of the episodes of El Barco. The love story of Morey and Fátima is good on paper, but watching Fátima change her mind as often as the typhoon changes its direction grates on the nerves. At this point, the main characters go beyond the point of tolerable and cross to the annoying side and I just want one or both of them to disappear for a while.

Creepy Character: That guy who asks Faruq to get stark naked and then slips on surgical gloves to inspect Faruq’s goods. Ufff.

Quotable Quote: ¡Suéltame, cabrón! (Let me go, bastard!)

 

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