Review: Monarca, season 1

Irene Azuela, Osvaldo Benavides, and Juan Manuel Bernal in Monarca

Monarca brings Mexican melodrama to Netflix with an dangerous brew of intrigue. The story centers around a family worth millions from a tequila empire. Their tequila brand name is Monarca.

Set mostly in Mexico, the story actually begins in LA where Ana María Carranza (Irene Azuela) has lived for the past 20+ years. The phone rings. It’s Ana María’s father, asking her to return to Mexico.

Irene Azuela in Monarca

She does go back. Her daughter goes with her. Her son is already there. Her husband travels back and forth to visit her.

The reason she left Mexico is slowly revealed through flashbacks. When she returns, we glimpse of the vast green fields of blue agave growing around their hacienda. It’s beautiful.

Her father wants her to help him run the various family businesses. The family also has hotels and construction businesses. The trick is, Papa is trying to go straight, be honest, obey the law. That isn’t easy in Mexico where government corruption, drug cartels, and general greed and graft have always made the wheels go round. Papa played by those rules in the past. Now he wants to reform.

Almost as soon as Papa can explain this to Ana María, he is shot and killed.

Andrés Carranza (Osvaldo Benavides) runs the hotel side of the family business. He’s in the process of opening a new hotel in Mexico City. It features a 3 ton hanging sculpture made by his male lover. (His wife knows about her husband’s sexuality and always has.) He and his wife have a son.

Juan Manuel Bernal in Monarca

Ana María’s other brother Joaquin (Juan Manuel Bernal) runs the construction part of the family business. He very much wants to run everything now that Papa is dead. He is the most corrupt of the three siblings and causes no end of drama in season 1. He also has a son and daughter. His wife died about 10 years ago.

Rosa María Bianchi in Monarca

At the reading of the will, we learn that Cecilia (Rosa María Bianchi), the mother of these three, is tasked with naming the new CEO of Monarca industries.

After some suspense, Cecilia names Ana María as CEO. The twists and turns that follow from that decision are many and often dangerous. Ana María wants to find out who killed her father. There are double-crosses, blackmail, threats, dirty deals, fires, and deaths. And that’s just among the family! The teenage and young adult children of the Carranza clan create their own dramatic storylines to keep everything even more interesting.

I’d love to tell you the names of some of these characters and actors, but the information on places like IMDB and Wikipedia where cast lists are found weren’t ready for the Sept. 13 release of this new series.

Mingling with the overarching themes of wealth, greed, and power there are lesser themes. The class bigotry in Mexican society is laid plain. The treatment of women trying to lead in a world full of men is also exposed. The difficulty of trying to run a business honestly in a society that demands corruption is fully explored.

With plots, subplots, and drama in every episode, this 10 episode first season of Monarca is addicting and soapy. I haven’t actually heard that there will be more seasons of the story of the Carranza family, but season 1 ended with an appropriately forward looking cliffhanger and shocker.

poster for Monarca

The available trailers don’t have English subtitles. Here’s one anyway.

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