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Fantastic Fest 2023: 30 Coins (S2 E1&2)

Welcome to Hell.

Image courtesy of HBO

If you read my Fantastic Fest review on UFO Sweden you’re probably thinking, I thought you said that was the last film you watched? You’re right! Now I’m talking about a show! Seeing episodes of a show at a festival is definitely a first for me. When the opportunity arose to screen one of my all-time favorite TV shows at one of the greatest festivals around, I could not pass up the opportunity. 30 Coins fell into my life at an early point in the pandemic, and it really helped me get through it. If you are used to how I typically do coverage and breakdowns of shows then this will feel very different. Since the show has not yet been released it felt like the wrong move to do a breakdown of something only a handful of people have seen. This piece will be my review of Season 2 Episodes 1&2 of 30 Coins, with a full breakdown coming out upon the show’s release.

Elena walks the halls of Hell
Image courtesy of HBO

Season 2 is written by Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría, and is directed by Álex de la Iglesia. Let’s do a quick recap before we jump into it. Season 1 ends with the Cainites coming into possession of the 30 coins after taking over the large castle that becomes their compound. Elena (Megan Montaner) is stuck with a pin by Merche (Macarena Gómez), given to her by the witch, and goes catatonic while in the catacombs beneath the castle. Angelo (Cosimo Fusco) revealed to Padre Vergara (Eduard Fernández) that he was the one who put the coin in his possession for safekeeping, we also find out that Angelo was Giacomo (Riccardo Frascari) the whole time. Cardinal Santoro (Manolo Solo) stabs Vergara with the Jesus knife and adorns the crown of 30 coins. Santoro walks to a balcony to lord his crown and the powers to come, over the rest of the Cainites. He should have checked his six though because Vergara gets a running start and tackles Santoro over the ledge. The crown hits the ground and smashes; coins go everywhere and the Cainites scramble to retrieve them. Realizing that this plan didn’t work, Angelo shapeshifts into a new person and walks into a mirror, transporting him to New York. Merche obtains one of the coins and makes her escape with Lagrange (Francisco Reyes). Sargento Lagunas (Pepón Nieto) escapes Pedraza with Antonio (Javier Bódalo), while Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) fireman carries Elena out of town and into a car with the hopes of getting her to a hospital ASAP.

Oh, and it’s up in the air whether or not Vergara survived this encounter.

All caught up? Great! Season 2 starts with snippets of the Season 1 finale and plays heavily on the aftermath of Cainites trying to escape town with any coins they may have retrieved. Fights break out, and Cainites crash into each other, brutally attacking other members. After the little recap, we are thrust one year forward. The individual who introduced me to the show had stated their main criticism is how the show went from almost standalone episodes for the first few and then transitioned into a more linear story. That criticism does not fit for me whatsoever. Now, I did really enjoy how the first few episodes were more Monsters Of The Week-type episodes, but I quickly fell in love with the story and lore behind the rest of Season 1. Season 2 is more of the same, from what I’ve seen so far. Get ready for some whiplash because Season 2 quickly shifts from Pedraza to Sepúlveda, Spain, to New York, and more. Our main cast is broken up between all of these locations and the show does not hold your hand through any of it. This works for me though it would be understandable if that is a turnoff for some viewers.

Padre Vergara looks over a balcony in hell, trying to help Elena escape
Image courtesy of HBO

Where to start with the discussion for Season 2 is tricky. There’s so much that needs to be discussed but without spoilers, it’s definitely difficult. Firstly, it’s just really nice to see all of these characters back on screen. When Season 1 ended there was no available info on whether or not a Season 2 was even being considered, so the fact that HBO Europe would take a chance on another season of a weird niche show is really heartwarming to see. The first two episodes of Season 2 have more action than the entirety of Season 1. Álex de la Iglesia comes back with a vengeance and holds the audience hostage in a hell of his own making. Some questions from Season 1 are answered and even more questions are raised. The intricacies of 30 Coins never cease to amaze me. It goes to show just how excellent writers Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría are. From my viewing, there have been no plot holes, just questions without answers. Every small detail that is brought up is either hinted at at some point or becomes something bigger later on.

What’s really interesting about Season 2 is how some foes actually become friends, and coalitions are formed in a way that would not seem possible in Season 1. A new antagonist is introduced in the form of Christian Barbrow (Paul Giamatti). If you thought Angelo was a terrifying force, you haven’t seen anything yet. Barbrow is a multimillionaire on a mission to do something nefarious. One of the funniest things about Barbrow is how he is unquestionably a caricature of L. Ron Hubbard. It’s said that he lives on a fleet of yachts, writes sci-fi novels and self-help books, and runs an organization called BEPHAM which half of Hollywood is a part of. L. Ron Hubbard eloped with Jack Parson’s wife AND stole his yacht, he wrote sci-fi novels and self-help books, like Battlefield Earth and Dianetics, and there are SO many Hollywood actors in Scientology like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and convicted rapist Danny Masterson. If this whole season is Álex de la Iglesia’s hellish rebuke of Scientology, as Season 1 feels almost like a hellish rebuke of Christianity, then I am completely on board.

Episodes 1&2 do an incredible job at building the tension for whatever is going to be thrown at us. Elena is still in a coma and it’s clear the Cainites, or Barbrow’s people still not sure yet, are after her. Her scenes are truly terrifying for a reason that’s too spoilery to go into now but trust me when I say it gave me nightmares. Padre Vergara continues to be an uncompromising badass and every scene with him feels like a treat we don’t deserve. There’s also a new character introduced with Haruka (Najwa Nimri), who joins the cast as a paranormal content creator who breaks into Pedraza to try and figure out what happened to the townspeople. After something happens to her cameraman she becomes hellbent on getting to the bottom of the mystery behind the town and the organization that has locked down the castle, RNUK.

Paco walks through a tack of books
Image courtesy of HBO

With just two episodes in it’s clear that 30 Coins Season 2 has upped its game tremendously. If you loved Season 1 then you’re in for an absolute treat. The stakes have never been higher for our cast of sinning misfits. It’s quite unclear what direction this season is planning to go in, and I’m completely along for the ride. It’s clear that Season 2 plans to be scarier than Season 1, though I don’t think they’ll completely rely on scares. If you remember, Season 1 turned almost into a soap opera for the middle few episodes in order to fill in the gaps, and that understandably bothered some people (not me). After thinking back on it, if the only scares we get in Season 2 are in the first two episodes then I would be content, as, like I said, there are some truly terrifying images brought forth. But knowing the type of work Álex de la Iglesia has under his belt, I definitely do not think that’s the case. Be prepared for more psychological torture, more hell, and more twists and turns. 30 Coins is just getting started.

Season 2 premieres on HBO on October 23rd, 2023, just in time to bookend your spooky season with some frightening religious horror. Count your change, and your blessings.

30 Coins poster shows each character of Season 2
Image courtesy of HBO

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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