A young man floats in an ethereal void, a demon looming above him. It tells him, in a haunting voice, that it has lurked within him his entire life. That it knows the dark secrets of the mysterious origins that eat away at him, even as he questions his forward path in life. But demons do nothing for free, and this one will only reveal its truths for a price, one that it has been denied for many years—because its host has never experienced it. If Andrés Valdez wishes to know the answers to his deepest questions about himself, he must accede to the creature’s demands … and watch The King’s Speech.
“The movie?” Andrés, played by Los Espookys co-creator Julio Torres asks, slightly incredulously, in the cold open of the show’s fourth episode.
“Yes,” the demon (Spike Einbinder) replies, “A wonderfully meticulous period drama starring Colin Firth.” (Later, after they actually watch Tom Hooper’s 2010 Oscar winner, the demon will apologize for making such a fuss. “It’s not a bad movie…but will I think about it tomorrow?”)
And that, in a nutshell, is the gentle, strange appeal of HBO’s Los Espookys, which wrapped up its second season on Friday, cementing its place as one of the best comedies currently on TV—and one of the most comforting supernatural shows around. And Los Espookys is a supernatural show, for all that Andrés and his friends Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco), Ursula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), and her sister Tati (co-creator Ana Fabrega) make their living by faking up scares for a variety of weirdo clients. There’s the big, obvious stuff, of course: the water demon—who spends the second season learning English (and Photoshop) while picking up some outside office work—the creepy mirror realm, the fact that Andrés is close personal friends with the moon and constantly begs her for favors.
But there’s also the smaller stuff: a strain of magical realism that runs through the entire show, creating a world where even the silliest reasoning is taken in stride, and where consequences can almost always be simply shrugged off. When Tati—who will later, casually, explain her general scatterbrained affect by revealing that she exists outside the linear flow of time—decides in another first-season episode that she’s indestructible, it’s very hard to tell whether or not she’s actually right. The only thing that can ever actually hurt our heroes in Los Espookys, after all, are those moments when they hurt each other, or are unsure of their path in life; this is a show that will happily rest the fate of a national election on a perfectly timed tube top pull-up, but treat Renaldo finally growing into being less of a people pleaser as a powerful emotional moment.
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Weirdly, the show Los Espookys most often reminds me of—for all that they’re worlds apart in terms of violence, and even, to some extent, tone—is the other great horror-adjacent supernatural comedy on TV right now: What We Do In The Shadows. Because while Shadows is, generally, a much meaner show, it shares with Los Espookys an understanding that the intersection of comedy and magic can essentially be a Get Out Of Boring Consequences Free card when a show realizes that “stakes” are only as interesting as they are funny. The paradoxical effect of this laissez-faire attitude to comeuppance is to create shows where viewers can feel incredibly safe, because even if someone gets savaged by a werewolf (Shadows) or brainwashed by malevolent news producers into becoming the ninth Gregoria Santos (Espookys), they’re only a few quick lines of the script away from safety.
If every show—and even just every comedy—on TV pulled this trick, it’d be chaos, of course; consequences ground us in characters’ emotions, make it so that we can connect to stories as people. But there’s something incredibly liberating about having characters—especially queer characters, which the majority of the main roster of both of these shows are—who can’t be hurt in any long-lasting or meaningful way. Instead, they’re free to play, make mistakes, and have fun, real people running around in a supernatural-tinged, cartoon world where the demons don’t demand blood—just two hours of your eyes in service of some mid-brow Oscar bait. The comfort of that is very hard to overstate—and when it’s combined with satire and joke writing as polished as Los Espookys’, you end up with something truly magical.