TV might be replete with spoiled rich kids, but in Los Espookys, Saturday Night Live writer Julio Torres plays the one twerp to rule them all. Has Chuck Bass ever successfully asked the moon to “go full” so he can recover a lost earring? Because Torres’ silk-pajama enthusiast Andrés has.
The earring, by the way, serves as his totemic reminder to reject any and all accountability for his actions.
After a long hiatus, HBO’s most delightfully bizarre comedy returns Friday for a six-episode second season. The series follows a group of horror-loving friends who brand themselves “Los Espookys” and start a production company. The company’s gigs this season include: staging a fake Shakira appearance to save a bad sculpture artist; pulling off a convincing ghostly group resurrection in a graveyard; and helping a politician win an election by any means necessary. (You could call them “odd jobs.”)
Los Espookys debuted its first season in 2019, but fans will find the wait is well worth it; these new episodes demonstrate that creators Torres, Ana Fabrega, and Fred Armisen’s writing has become even more focused. Also improved? The group’s ability to find that final turn of the screw that takes a joke one step past its expected punchline. In one scene, we watch a character talking over a movie on his phone while fellow theatergoers look on; eventually, he hangs up on his friends in shock as Mufasa dies. He’s been watching Lion King in theaters—for the first time in his life.
That off-kilter sensibility sets Los Espookys apart the most. All of these characters seem just a tad askance—from the witchy Andrés, to the warm-hearted goth Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco), to the dead-eyed cynic Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti).
Fabrega frequently steals the show as Tati, a childlike weirdo whose self awareness is low enough to allow her to proclaim her cooking prowess to a friend while squirting several bottles of ketchup into a bowl to make “gazpacho.” (If that grotesque imagery has you thinking of those nasty early-pandemic “food mess” videos, you’re not far off the mark.) Underlying all of these characters’ strangeness, however, is the intense desire to connect. Whether it’s Úrsula’s devotion to affecting political change or Tati’s misbegotten efforts to write her own “versions” of famous novels like Don Quixote, all of these characters are reaching for ways to end a pervading sense of alienation.
This season picks up several threads from the last while keeping our favorite horror producers busy with a steady stream of gigs. Still, some hallucinatory daydreams and haunting real-life nightmares also break through. The parasitic water demon Andrés used to converse with last season has decided to polish up her resume and get an unpaid internship, leaving our favorite entitled man-baby to confide in others, just as his divorce leaves him financially destitute for the first time in his life. (Cue a lot of extremely demanding couch-surfing.) Úrsula is on a mission to block an awful president’s re-election, and Renaldo is trying to figure out his sexuality while also being haunted by a slain pageant queen. You know, just your ordinary, everyday problems.
Perhaps the most delightful aspect of Los Espookys, however, is the degree of surreality the comedy is able to inject into the hum-drum existences of its characters. Beyond Andrés’ connections to otherworldly figures and celestial bodies, Tati is able to parlay her glorified book transcriptions into a successful (if short-lived) writing career, while Úrsula lives up to her long-established reputation of mythical incorruptibility. (In a joke bound to amuse Spanish speakers, it turns out we have child-Úrsula to thank for the elimination of “LL” as an official letter from the alphabet.)
With its idiosyncratic comedic voice and unforgettably gonzo visuals, Los Espookys is exactly the kind of series one would hope to see more of in a content-rich streaming environment. Alas, it’s also exactly the kind of series that seems at risk as a newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery axes distinctive, voice-y series left and right in a bid to court “middle America.” Then again, maybe that challenge is just another prop monster for this group to defeat.
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