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Like many people, I spend a large and probably unhealthy amount of time binge-watching whatever Netflix throws at me. And sometimes I stumble upon absolute gems, foreign shows and indie films I’ve never heard of but end up enjoying immensely, along with the all the other usual shows. Sometimes, when Netflix recommends something for me, it’s awful, but sometimes I find myself watching something new, changing it up from the usual Friends or The Office marathon and being pleasantly surprised.
My latest indulgence has been Merlí, a show about a father (the title character) and son learning to respect one another during the school year after having to live and spend time together after so long apart. Bruno, the son, fears living with his dead beat dad, who he feels no connection to and is disenchanted with. A large part of the show’s appeal for me was the way both characters grew to know the other, Merlí teaching his son to take responsibility and stop being ashamed of his passions, while Bruno learns to become comfortable with his sexuality, simultaneously teach in his father how to communicate with others.
I started this show with no idea what I was getting into, it seemed impersonal and a little bland, but I was definitely judging it by its cover and initial ten seconds. But once a few character introductions were out of the way, I quickly found myself wrapped into a fun and enlightening story.
To say what I can without spoiling anything, the show is filled with practical lessons of philosophy and human nature that were refreshing and applicable. It breaks down stereotypes on education and philosophy while addressing history and the oblivious social patterns of people. Now, I know that’s not the most riveting way of describing a show, but that’s just my way of addressing some underlying themes. More importantly, Merlí shows a growing bond between father and son and the complicated dynamics of a range of different families.
To be entirely cheesy, it’s a show that embraces love and companionship, the duality of people and the importance of genuine connections.
Along with these family themes, the Catalan based show provides a fresh perspective on the culture and lifestyle of a country currently striving for independence. The politics of the nation aren’t addressed in the show, but being aware of the conflict just adds another element to the lives being represented. The insight to a culture I am personally unfamiliar with, I always find refreshing and fascinating, and Merlí is filled with such immersion
What I found most shocking was the relationship of Bruno with his friends. Their dynamic was the most accurate depiction of teenagers I have ever seen in media, it was refreshing and powerful to see my own age group shown as I know we are. They were a group of diverse individuals, with different struggles and different passions who fought and bickered but were still friends, with laughs and miscommunications and deep connections that were beautiful to watch. The reactions and behavior of the characters was realistic and personal, and I could not find myself hating any one of them because in the end, their humanity and the reasons for their behavior was justified and understandable.
The main characters aren’t perfect, and there’s no way you can make the mistake that they are. Their flaws and faults are on display, it makes the human and relatable, it makes the show have a personal charm, where it feels like you truly know the characters and can root for their success as equally as mourn their failures.
Beyond the fantastically depicted relationships of the characters, you also have genuine struggles represented, as characters recognize sexism, homophobia and a world of other issues that we confront every day. The show never shies away from showing the truth, every dirty detail of it, and why it’s important to recognize it.
There’s history and depth to Merlí that is unparalleled and I can’t wait for Netflix to put the second season up.