I’d much prefer to visit any other place than Easttown.
Pedraza seems like a place that time forgot.
The quaint Spanish village has more than its fair share of stone houses and bleating goats and nosy neighbors—a town so picturesque that it’s just a matter of time before the tourist trade discovers it.
They’ll have to do something about the demons, of course.
The demonic entities were originally drawn to the place by Father Manuel Vergara—or, perhaps, more fairly, a chunk of metal that the good padre brought to town.
Years ago, Manuel was an exorcist in good standing with the Catholic church. But exorcism is an inherently dangerous gig, both for the practitioner and the patient, and one of his exorcisms went tragically awry. The young man suffered a heart attack in the midst of the rite and promptly expired with nary a backward glance. But before he died, the man squeezed out a Tyrian shekel from his forearm—the type of coin that some believed Judas was paid to betray Jesus.
No matter, though: A dead patient is a dead patient, and Manuel was banished to the Spanish hinterlands: Pedraza, to be exact. Along the way, he seems to have lost his faith, too. Never mind that he saw a young man squeeze a piece of silver right out of his own body as if it were a splinter: The priest now believes that his failed exorcism was a needless tragedy. The lad wasn’t possessed: A month’s worth of Latin verses and holy water had driven him insane
But Manuel’s unfaith is about to be put to the test. As much as he insists that the shekel is “just a piece of metal,” some very strange forces seem determined to take it and (they say) return it to hell from whence it allegedly came. Indeed, they want to reclaim all 30 pieces of silver—the very pieces given to Judas and now scattered across the map. And those forces don’t care how many people they must curse, possess and/or kill to see their safe return.
But Manuel has a little help himself. Elena was just the town veterinarian until she helped a cow give birth to a human baby. Now, she’s seen too much to not believe in the supernatural—and what she’s witnessed has her very, very frightened. She’s joined by Paco, the town’s mayor who is (as might be expected) concerned with these strange happenings, too. But he’s also got a re-election campaign to consider, and he’d certainly not want all the town’s strange happenings to leak out on the internet. Paco would also hate outsiders to think that Pedraza’s filled with a bunch of superstitious rubes.
As for those who might visit the town virtually via HBO—well, they have other problems to consider.
30 Coins, a Spanish-language horror mystery, originally aired on HBO Europe before it made the jump across the Atlantic. Those who don’t speak the show’s language will be forced to read subtitles. But trust me, that’s the least of a potential viewer’s troubles. Indeed, the subtitles might be a welcome distraction from all the gore.
Yes indeed, things do get gory. People are liable to be shot, stabbed or disemboweled. Diabolical creatures can enter and leave the world through grotesque, slimy means. Even the opening credits sequence—depicting Jesus’ crucifixion and Judas’ subsequent suicide—is loaded with over-the-top bloodshed, less Passion of the Christ and more American Horror Story.
And that brings us to the spiritual elements in play.
Certainly, 30 Coins tells its viewers that, despite Father Manuel’s protestations, some seriously demonic forces are in play. And that, of course, means that other, more heavenly forces are real, too.
But it’s hard, at this early stage, to say where the show is really going to land, spiritually speaking. And even if it does come to some vaguely positive theological conclusions, you’ve still got to wade through scads of infernal story elements to get there—a no-go for lots of Christians. And let’s be honest: The show itself doesn’t feel very Christlike.
Father Manuel is less a man of God than some sort of campy action figure, complete with a secret panel filled with guns. Characters swear with some frequency, the favorite being the f-word (dutifully spelled out in the subtitles, of course). Sex is not out of the question, either: Elena and Paco seem, at this early juncture, to be headed for a bit of romance—never mind that Paco is married.
All this makes 30 Coins a difficult sell indeed, no matter how you dole out the silver. Seems like the demons are just one of Pedraza’s problems.
When an apparently human baby is birthed by a cow, Elena is understandably weirded out. But after she, the mayor and others bring the issue to the attention of Father Manuel, a local priest, he suggests the whole thing is a slight-of-hand trick: Someone swapped the calf for the baby while Elena was distracted. “The question is why it’s simpler to believe a baby was born from a cow than to think someone tricked you,” the priest scolds. But when the baby starts walking after two days—and the kid’s foster mother seems ready to kill anyone who’d try to take the child away—Elena figures that more may be at work than just a lie.
The episode opens with a mass murder: An older, apparently possessed man guns down several people (as blood flies), even though his own body is riddled with bullets, too. When he apparently expires, an apparent priest breaks the corpse’s fingers to get to what the dead man was holding.
Someone else is apparently shot, too. A man is killed after being stabbed repeatedly with humongous knitting needles, after which he falls down the stairs. Another guy is stabbed several times with scissors and has his head bashed into the floor. A car crash injures a couple of people. Someone holds a baby on a high church roof, apparently ready to drop the infant. (The would-be killer jumps instead; he survives the fall but is in grievous condition.)
A really disturbing monster menaces a woman. In flashback, Father Manuel tries to perform an exorcism on a man—slapping him a few times in the process. The man, who’s tied up, eventually dies of a heart attack. We see a pig carcass cut in two. A cow gives birth, and we see plenty of natural and unnatural bits of the process. A foster mother walks out of the kitchen with bloodstained hands, explaining to her husband that she’s just been making baby food. Later, the woman chops up what looks like a human liver and stuffs it in a blender with some milk. People tumble down a flight of stairs. The opening title sequence graphically depicts Jesus’ crucifixion and Judas’ suicide by hanging.
The entire episode is inherently spiritual. People pray, sometimes using rosaries. The Catholic sacrament of confession is mentioned, and the reverend absolves someone of their sins before shooting them. Holy water is used. People and demons accuse Father Manuel of not believing in anyone. The Mayor’s wife is appalled that anyone would believe in exorcism anymore, and she suspects that the Father is actually manipulating her husband. We see loads of religious iconography. The birth of the baby by a cow is seen by some witnesses as “witchcraft or Satanism or something.”
A high school girl admits to being pregnant by her boyfriend. (We see evidence that her water has broken.) A shirtless Mayor Paco lies on his wife’s lap in bed. The wife seems to worry that Paco might be attracted, or even having an affair with, Elena. Paco worries that helping Elena might make it look as though he’s doing just that—and he’s concerned what that might do to his re-election chances.
Characters say the f-word nearly 20 times. We also hear the s-word, “a–,” “b–ch,” “b–tard,” “d–k” and a misuse of Jesus’ name. A character or two drink wine. There’s a reference to morphine. The priest smokes cigarettes. We hear someone referred to as the “town idiot” and learn that he likely stole quite a bit from the local church.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
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