Review: Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas)

María Mera in Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas)

Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas ) is the first Galician language series distributed by Netflix. It’s a complex mystery series with a female lead character.

The Galician language sounded familiar and recognizably Spanish to my ears, but Wikipedia says it’s more closely related to Portuguese. O sabor das margaridas more properly translates to the taste of daisies, so once again Netflix has chosen an English title for a foreign series that isn’t quite right. Daisies are important throughout.

Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas ) is a six part series with each episode lasting about 70 minutes. That few extra minutes per episode made each episode feel reeeealy long.

Newbie Civil Guard officer Rosa Vargas (María Mera) shows up in the small Galicia town of Murias looking for a missing woman. It’s 2010. Pope Benedict XVI is set to arrive in nearby Santiago de Compostela. The Civil Guard are overwhelmed and preoccupied with the papal visit.

María Mera, Toni Salgado and Ricardo de Barreiro in Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas)
The retiring chief, the newbie from out of town, and the incoming chief were the main officials of the Civil Guard working the case.

Lieutenant Rosa Vargas enlisted the help of the outgoing chief (Ricardo de Barreiro) and the officer set to take his place, Mauros (Toni Salgado).

It’s obvious from the first episode that Rosa is up to something more than just investigating a missing person. She doesn’t reveal this secret agenda to any other officers. But we see her digging into it through all 6 episodes.

Before long Rosa points out to the Murias Civil Guard what they should have known all along – there’s a whole bunch of dead and missing women in their small town. The reason it hadn’t come up on their radar is most of the missing and dead women were underage and were brought in from elsewhere and forced into sex work.

This small town is overflowing with evil – all kinds of evil – and nobody appreciates Rosa coming along and exposing it. There’s a big cast with townspeople, church people, prostitutes, and high school kids. Mauros’s daughter Rebeca (Sara Sanz) is an important high school character because she knew the missing woman.

Rosa befriends a prostitute (Nerea Barros) by paying for her services and pretending to be a client. She learns a lot about the missing women that way. Other important characters were played by Yelena Molina, Fran Paredes, Iñaqui Rosado, Denis Gómez, and Jimmy Núñez.

María Mera in Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas)

Rosa takes over an office and charts all the characters out. The more she learns, the more complicated it becomes. Someone among the police is working against them, making it more difficult and dangerous the closer she gets to the answers.

The series was strangely put together. The ‘what happened last time’ and the ‘previews of our next episode’ ran uninterrupted into the actual episode as if they were part of it. It was a little confusing.

There were big gaps in the plot. Something really big would happen and the next scene would be many steps away from it in story terms. What happened in between those two points is never explained. The transitions between scenes were abrupt and sometimes startling. There were major twists near the end.

Some of the subplots about sexual torture of underage girls or murderous games with women were awfully timeworn. Men never seem to grow past these crimes, no matter what culture they come from.

There were dead end subplots and unexplained subplots. Then at the end, each character sits in front of the Civil Guard and explains all the missing bits and pieces and how it all fit together as if this were an Agatha Christie novel.

The police used computers and cell phones and modern equipment, but the town and setting is old-fashioned. It’s as if the town of Murias was living 100 years in the past. It’s small town surrounded by green hills in the northern regions of Spain. It feels removed from the 21st Century in many ways.

References to Dante Alighieri are everywhere. The episodes, or chapters, take their titles from quotes from Dante. Likening the sins committed by some in this town to a journey through Dante’s Inferno felt both pretentious and appropriate to me.

In spite of a number of things that put me off about Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas ), I still found it engaging and suspenseful. I wanted to know the answers to the questions in this mystery series and binged my way though to learn them. Plus, I like seeing a woman bring justice to a town full of sinful men.

Well, almost justice. There’s one evil nutcase still out there. That may mean this 2018 series is in line for another season. If that happens, I can suggest some things that need to improve for next time.

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Poster for Bitter Daisies (O sabor das margaridas)

Watch the Trailer

This is an unhelpful trailer, but here you go.

Have you given this series a try? What did you think of it?

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