30 Coins (now streaming on Max), created and directed by Álex de la Iglesia and co-written by de la Iglesia and his frequent collaborator Jorge Guerricaechevarria, combines bits of biblical fancy – the silver pieces Judas Iscariot received for his betrayal of Jesus Christ are these days sought by a determined and supremely evil cult – with lots of horror movie-style gore (giant spiders, anyone?), people being possessed, demons doing bad deeds, objects and people disappearing through dimensional gateways, and even a little bit of a love story. And that cult and the coins it’s hoarding are making even more maniacal moves in season two. Paul Giamatti and Najwa Nimri join the cast for the second eight episode season, with returning co-stars including Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Megan Montaner, Pepon Nieto, Nuria González, and Eduard Fernández.
30 COINS – SEASON 2: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: “The Lamb of God is welcome!” 30 Coins opens with a look at fan favorite Padre Manuel Vergara (Fernández) during the final moments of last season. The priest yanks the spear that pierced Jesus’s side from his own guts, makes a flying tackle on Cardinal Santoro (Manolo Solo), and then they both seem to fall to their deaths.
The Gist: Last season, when a humongous demon beast crawled out of the cracked pavement in the middle of a Spanish town square, and a Catholic priest proceeded to engage this hellspawn with two submachine guns like he was Chuck Norris in a clerical collar? Yeah, that wasn’t even the craziest thing to happen in the space of ten minutes. 30 Coins had finally aligned Vergara, the ex-con/exorcist/pugilist/gun owner/priest, with wholesome Pedraza mayor Paco (Silvestre) and Elena (Montaner), a veterinarian-turned-warrior for truth, against forces known as the Cainites, Catholic clerics who actually serve a dark master and who would use Judas’s collected coins as a beacon to begin the earthly Apocalypse. But if there was a plan, nobody followed it. Chaos ensued on all sides. Vergara sacrificed himself. Paco watched his possessed wife Merche (Macarena Gómez) leave Pedraza with Lagrange (Francisco Reyes), a high-ranking Cainite. And he tried to make his own escape from the destruction dragging Elena, who was rendered unconscious by an evil witch working for – well, maybe she was working for Satan? When circumstances get as nuts as they do in 30 Coins, the Prince of Darkness is always a good bet.
So where are we at now? The town of Pedraza is deserted, and its surviving residents are under psychiatric care after what is believed to have been a mass possession. A hotel and resort development is planned for the historic church that served as the Cainites’ cult gathering site, but its mysterious new owners seem none too happy to have dark arts podcaster Haruka (Nimri) and her cameraman snooping around. A federal board of inquiry is grilling Inspector Salcedo (González) about the deaths and ruins in Pedraza, the presumed missing Sergeant Legunas (Nieto) is nearby and gathering intelligence on the cult with the help of eccentric Pedrazan resident Antonio (Javier Bódalo) – Antonio sees Cainite movements in his dreams – and Paco is monitoring Elena, who lies comatose in a hospital bed. Behind her eyelids, we’re also privy to dreams, and hers are full of horrible demons who have her imprisoned with a handful of other unlucky souls.
And then there’s Paul Giamatti as Christian Barbrow. Not much is known about the wealthy New Yorker, but when we meet Barbrow, he’s purchasing a petroglyph from an ancient Peruvian archeological site at auction, where he’s joined by Angelo (Cosimo Fusco), who we last saw covered in runish tats and helping lead the Cainites in their worship of the 30 coins.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Netflix didn’t renew Feria: The Darkest Light for a second season, but with its Satanic cults and sinister townsfolk, the Spanish series would make a fine companion to 30 Coins. And Coins co-star Miguel Ángel Silvestre is also in the enjoyable Spanish action series Sky Rojo, which finished its three-season run earlier this year.
Our Take: Often in 30 Coins, you’re left with only threads of an explanation before something newer and stranger and scarier happens, which itself requires more explanation. (Your pause button and a search engine might come in handy for this one.) If an old lady slices off the skin of her own forearm, inscribes upon it Quod sepsis resurrection carnis resistitur, and stuffs that epidermal patch into the mouth cavity of a dead clergyman, that might be where some shows would leave it. But in 30 Coins, that same woman reappears as a vicious attacker wielding a scythe, or as a human/spider hybrid with murder on her mind. The priest whose body she desecrated envisions a hellish cityscape where lava runs like blood and believers are held captive by demonic goons. And a skeptic who wants to believe in earthly reasons for all of the unearthly occurrences in Pedraza is nevertheless game to take on a gang of vicious clerics, some of whom she knows shapeshift at will. With 30 Coins back on its horror-shock-dark divinity bullshit, it’s never just one other shoe that drops. It’s the whole damn shoe store. Better pray you can keep up.
Sex and Skin: Nothing in the first episode, anyway.
Parting Shot: Father Vergara, a Catholic priest whose fighting spirit can’t be contained by anything as mundane as a coffin or a grave, raises his heavy spiked morning star and turns to face two Cenobite-looking demons. “Come and get me, you bastards.”
Sleeper Star: Najwa Nimri is embracing some terrific goth energy in 30 Coins season two as Haruka, a paranormal hunter and video podcaster. She’s off to a great start, watching a colleague get whaled on by mysterious forces, finding herself sucked through a magical stone passageway, and teaming up with a rogue police inspector to get the real story. Oh, and she also fights a witch.
Most Pilot-y Line: “We’re here in Pedraza to find out what happened that fateful day of October 2019. Did the Earth swallow everyone up?” Of course this isn’t at all what happened. But those questioning the chaotic events of last season will unfold new layers of the mystery.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Legitimately scary at times, 30 Coins is also totally crazy most of the time, with Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarria gleefully throwing horror tropes, critiques of Catholic church dogma, and the growing shadow of a worldwide conspiracy against a wall to see what sticks.
Johnny Loftus (@glennganges) is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift.