30 Coins: “Ghost Town” (S2 E1)

Image courtesy of HBO

The church bells ring, the time has come. Sinners and saints will be put to the test. Do you have what it takes to embark on the journey? A new foe has entered the ring, but lest ye forget the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Pedraza is no longer what it used to be. One year later we join our cast of characters for what can undoubtedly be called a test of faith and humanity. Are you ready for Season 2 of 30 Coins

That was dramatic, wasn’t it! I know, I know, Alex you can DM me, I’m open for freelance work. All jokes aside, Season 2 of 30 Coins is here and it’s a DOOZY. I had the wonderful opportunity to review the first two episodes for Fantastic Fest, but it wasn’t my typical play by play stream of consciousness you’ve come to expect from me. Without any further ado, we MUST jump right into Season 2 of 30 Coins

Oh wait, here’s a quick recap from Season 1! 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 Laguna (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. *catches breath*

Episode 1 “Ghost Town”

It feels so good to sit down and write this. I’m so happy we actually got a second season of this incredibly strange and terrifying show. Anyways. We pick back up with Padre Vergara and Cardinal Santoro falling over the ledge of the balcony. The Cainites rush to grab the coins, leading to an all-out brawl as they try to make their escape with their coins. The witch, who helped Merche curse Paco and poison Elena, walks into the bloody mess of the castle grounds. Bodies are strewn about. With a wheelbarrow, the witch loads up Padre Vergara, and another man, and takes them back to her lair. In what is just the first of many incredible and gnarly practicals, the witch cuts a large-sized strip of flesh off of Vergara’s forearm. On the strip of flesh, she writes “quad saepius ressurectioni cacnis resistiun.” If my translation is correct this means “how often they resisted the resurrection of the cannibals.” Rad. 

Paco walks through a tack of books
Image courtesy of HBO

The witch takes this inked strip of flesh and shoves it into Padre Vergara’s mouth, before putting him in a coffin and covering him with maggots and worms of some sort. Sometime later, Vergara wakes up to find himself surrounded by figures in black cloaks. Vergara walks down a set of foreboding-looking stairs. The river of lava he sees makes it pretty clear that he’s in Hell. 

One year later…

We meet the first two new characters of the season when Haruka (Najwa Nimri) and Jonás (Manuel Burque), two true crime-like content creators drive into Pedraza. One of them will die in this episode, any guesses as to who? We get our first real look at the town since what we’ll dub “the incident.” It is covered in graffiti and just a complete wreck. Oh, and remember the giant hole from the Satan beast in Season 1 Episode 8 “Sacrificio (Sacrifice)”? It’s still there! Jonás gets out the camera and starts filming Haruka, who refers to her audience as Night Rats. There’s some quick, and well-handled, exposition here as Haruka tells her audience that some of the townsfolk are now in psychiatric hospitals crying, screaming, and unable to explain what happened. Jonás questions Haruka’s claims, but the conversation doesn’t go too far. 

A quick cut and a lower third reveal we’re now in Madrid, Spain. Maria Salcedo (Nuria González) is being spoken to by a room full of suits. We find out she was released from a hospital one week ago. There is another man at the meeting who is there on a video call, this is Pereira (Pedro Casablanc). If you recall Maria and her partner Cristina (Greta Fernández) were sent to Pedraza to find out why Sargento Laguna wasn’t doing his job to the best of his abilities. Maria tries telling these people the whole town was controlled by something and that, “It all began when the fog came in.” Back in Pedraza, Jonás and Haruka walkabout town for some compelling b-roll. We see food still on tables, clothes still in wardrobes, things that people wouldn’t leave out/behind. This looks like the house from Episode 3 “El Espejo (The Mirror)” but I was unable to confirm this. Suddenly, a white van pulls up and it’s marked ‘RNUK’. People in white hazmat suits get out and corral a man into the van, all while he screams, “You’ve got the wrong man.”

FINALLY we get to see our boy, Paco. Remember when he used to be the mayor? Simpler times. And remember when he, and Merche, opened up an abattoir? Well now Paco works at a meat facility, so full circle for him. He leaves work and goes to a hospital. Rose in hand, he enters Elena’s room. Paco replaces the wilted rose with a fresh one and goes to check on her. Only, Elena is still in a coma. And it seems like she has been for this entire year. 

Our film crew finds the castle where the massacre took place is now completely walled off for renovation. A sign boasts it’s being turned into a hotel called Castillo de Pedraza Hotel. What company is taking on this daunting task? None other than RNUK! Unable to see over the tall wall, Jonás gets out a drone. Inside the walls of the soon-to-be hotel, we see more people in white hazmat suits, meticulously scanning the sectioned-off grounds for… something. (Coins, they’re looking for coins.) Through some act of technology, someone gains control of Jonás’s drone to deliver the second bloody practical, with some digital help, of the season. We’re getting these back to back and this is just Episode 1! The drone flies over the wall at top speeds and hurls itself deep into Jonás’s chest, sending blood and viscera spewing out. I told you one of them was going to die!

A lower third reveals we are now in Sepúlveda, Spain. Laguna walks through the streets, following someone. It’s his wife, Rosa (María Isasi). Back at the hospital, Paco gives Elena a massage so her muscles don’t atrophy—it’s really sweet to see he still loves and cares for her. Elena’s heart starts racing like crazy and we are transported to… Hell. In Hell we see Elena in a grungy cage, with a few other people, all of them wearing rags and covered in grime. Their large cage, which sits in the center of the room, is surrounded by tall and terrifying demons. One of the demons is played by Javier Botet, which is awesome! The designs for these demons are truly gnarly, each one has its own look and weapon. We’ll get into them a little later. 

Back in Sepúlveda, we see Laguna following Rosa again, and she still doesn’t know he is in the same town as her. He has a note that he reads over that says, “Trump, black holes, Barbrow, dark matter.” At a newsstand, he looks for newspapers and magazines with those headlines. Laguna ends up purchasing four newspapers and a Trump book. The worker at the stand asks what exactly he’s looking for and he says it’s just to kill time. They respond back, “You don’t kill time, time kills you.” Laguna gets in his car and drives off, listening to the radio. One of the broadcasts says that the Byelorussian Army has bombed Warsaw, the Polish president Andrzej Duda and the Archbishop of Warsaw call for general mobilization, and a few other things. We finally arrive at Laguna’s location, which is a vast field of wind farms. He goes inside and we find out he resides in the base of one of these turbines with Antonio! Now, Antonio has been hard at work since they escaped Pedraza; the entire inside of their temporary home is covered wall-to-wall in what can best be described as the Charlie Kelly/Pepe Silvia conspiracy board. Whoever was on set dec for this, bravo. 

Paco gets a phone call from Maria. Maria tells him she needs him to back her alibi. Let’s not forget, that their last encounter ended with Paco trying to shoot Maria. Just then, Paco sees a priest he’s never met before walking out of Elena’s hospital room. A chase ensues where Paco runs into, and through, patients and staff, which causes a huge commotion. In the turbine, Laguna and Antonio talk some more. Laguna wishes he could tell his wife he’s alive and that he loves her. And it’s finally time to talk about the big baddie of the season, Christian Barbrow (Paul Giamatti). Antonio and Laguna discuss how some portal and how it can only be opened with a stone of some sort.

Cut to: New York! Concrete Jungle where dreams are made of, and world-ending stones can be purchased at an auction. We find Barbrow at an auction house. They bring out a petroglyph from an archeological site in Peru. Barbrow wants it and bids 100k. That’s when we see that Angelo is also there. Angelo bids 200k. Barbrow bids 250k. Angelo bids 300k. Barbrow bids a whopping one million. Angelo hits back with two million. Barbrow ups it to five million. Angelo says 10 million. And, for the win, Barbrow bids 20 million. Barbrow looks back to see who he was bidding against, but Angelo has disappeared. 

Barbrow stands in front of a giant poster with his face on it
Image courtesy of HBO

Maria and Pereira have a conversation at a park, while Pereira pushes his kid on a swingset. It turns out that Maria is being blamed for Cristina’s murder. During their talk, Pereira gets a phone call. Maria hears a small portion of the conversation, specifically the word Pedraza. Eventually, Pereira relents to Maria’s constant investigation and tells her about Jonás’s death, she plans to go see what’s up. In Pedraza, Haruka talks with the police but Jonás’s body is gone and they don’t believe her. Haruka refuses to leave Pedraza and sleeps in her car. She won’t leave Pedraza without his body… or answers. Out of nowhere, fog starts to roll into town. The witch gets the drop on Haruka, leading to a chase. Somehow they get separated. Haruka leans up against a wall to catch her breath, only the wall turns out to be a hidden passage. The room Haruka finds herself in is definitely one of nightmares. Baby doll parts are strewn about the room, some hanging from chains. Round two! The witch comes out of nowhere with a scythe, and it looks badass! We need more scythe fights in film and TV. This fight leads back into a chase, where Maria eventually runs into Haruka. 

Antonio has a dream about blind demons, his words. He also tells Laguna that Elena is trapped in a cage. There’s a back and forth about where she might be, but Antonio can’t say because she’s in hell. Back at the hospital, the staff is still pretty miffed at Paco for how he acted the other day when he sprinted through the halls and caused a huge scene. He brings another rose for Elena. Suddenly her heart starts to race again, this time she convulses and arches her back significantly. Back in Pedraza, Haruka and Maria walk the streets. Haruka takes Maria to where the hidden door was, only this time it doesn’t open. They decide they need to go to the psychiatric hospital where the residents are. At Elena’s hospital, Paco gets the doctors to come check on her. The primary physician, Juan Carlos (can’t find his credit), unprofessionally flips out on Paco saying she’s in a coma and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. While they argue, we join Elena back in her hell cage, where a tall creature with a long whip, covered in nails, walks around. 

Haruka and Maria arrive at the psychiatric hospital in Segovia. They ask to speak with Dr. Giraud (Frank Feys). Eventually, they get their meeting with Dr. Giraud. Haruka makes a comparison to the secrets of this building to that of Area 51, and that the patients are all just guinea pigs. Dr. Giraud says in no way is that correct and then that it’s afternoon snack time. We get a hard cut to Padre Vergara in hell fighting demons. Like a badass! Vergara gets close to the cage and tells Elena she’s actually in a coma. He also tells her that he is in fact dead, before apologizing for what’s going to happen. Cryptic!

Back at the psych hospital, Haruka and Maria talk with some of the residents of Pedraza. There’s a whiteboard in the room that has RNUK written all over it hundreds of times. That’s when Haruka sees the person she witnessed get kidnapped in town a few days ago. She wants to talk with him, but the attendants make sure that’s not possible. One of the residents says the word must be disconnected and that the button must be found. Got it. Then, like in Todd Browning’s Freaks, they all start chanting “One of us,” over and over.

The final scene of Episode 1 thrusts us back into the burning pits of hell. Elena watches as Padre Vergara continues his badassery against the demons. Vergara tells Elena the demons will use the love he has for her to get to her and she will experience the most painful time of her life. That when the time comes she’ll have something in her hand. That thing, that object, that’s what’s important. Vergara ends the episode with one final line, “Come and get me, you bastards.”

Elena walks the halls of Hell
Image courtesy of HBO

Wow! What an episode! Álex de la Iglesia, and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría, have really given us one hell of a first episode. We have some questions answered from Season 1, with even more questions raised. It’s clear de la Iglesia has complete control over the dissemination of information and he knows exactly what direction he wants to take the show in. Nothing feels forced or overly grand for the sake of it. It’s impressive to see how much control he really does have with the story. These demons are truly frightening and the scenes in hell have completely raised the stakes. This story is going to take some wild directions, so put your neckbrace on because we’re going to be twisting and turning for the foreseeable future. Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, for your safety. 

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Written by Brendan Jesus

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

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