Hard to believe that Netflix hasn’t had a Greek original series until now. Its first series from that region features one of its beautiful islands as a backdrop for a romantic story that’s equal parts sweet and scandalous.
MAESTRO IN BLUE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A shot rings out. We then see someone being dragged through a wooded area.
The Gist: On the idyllic Greek island of Paxos, we see a girl riding on a scooter. Klelia (Klelia Andriolatou) says in voice over that she’s fortunate to grow up in such a “blessed” place. But then she puts on her helmet, cranks up the music in her earbuds, and we hear her in narration say “I hate them all.” She hated the faux-progressiveness of the people on the island, when in reality most people are looking out only for themselves. It’s something that’s gotten worse since the pandemic started.
She encounters a handsome man getting off a water taxi (the only way to get to the island is by boat), well before tourist season starts. She volunteers to lead him to the tiny voillage where he’s staying. Orestis (Christopher Papakaliatis) has been hired by Fanis (Fanis Mouratidis), the island’s most prominent businessman and mayoral hopeful, to revive the music festival that basically got killed off by COVID over the last few years.
Fanis is Klelia’s father, and he seems to have his hand in a lot of what’s going on in town. and uses his boat to transport more than just himself between the island and the mainland. His wife, Sofia (Marisha Triantafyllidou), is on the mainland to get an abortion; she brought her friend Michalis (Antinoos Albanis) because she didn’t want Fanis to go.
Klelia’s younger brother Antonis (Orestis Chalkias) is sneaking around with Spyros (Yorgos Benos), the son of Maria (Maria Kavoyianni), who has volunteered to help with the festival and the grumpy Haralambos (Giannis Tsortekis). Fanis warns Haralambos to make sure Spyros stays away from his son.
There are talented musicians on the island; Klelia is a great piano player, and Antonis plays the bass guitar. But Orestis is having a hard time roping in the under-40 population of the island to play during the festival. But Klelia is interested, for more than just musicianship reasons. Oh, and it’s also not the first time she and Orestis have met.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Take Virgin River‘s romanticism and mix it with Sex/Life‘s steaminess, and you have Maestro In Blue.
Our Take: Papakaliatis, who wrote and directed Maestro In Blue, wants to evoke Harlequin Romance-style feelings with this series. An exotic locale punctuated by blue seas, rustic cottages and lush vegetation. Forbidden — or at least scandalous — romances. Nosy villagers. Nefarious goings-on. It’s all there, and it mostly works.
While we love the energy Andriolatou brings to her role as Klelia, we’re not buying the side of her that’s some 18-year-old innocent who’s just looking to sow some wild oats. When we see her true first encounter with Orestis, for instance, she comes off way older than what she’s playing; in fact, she comes off closer to her true mid-20s age. Is it possible that an 18-year-old can make that transformation? Sure. Is it enough to not make someone like Orestis, who’s in his 40s, think he’s doing something very, very wrong? No, it doesn’t.
Andiolatou and Papakaliatis do have good chemistry, but we still watch their dalliances with a little bit of side-eye. She may be “legal”, but sexy scenes between people with such big age gaps are always problematic. As their relationship progresses, we hope the fact that she’s so young will keep being an issue.
The rest of the story, mainly revolving around Fanis, needed to be a bit less obscured in the first episode. We know Fanis is doing something less than legal, and we know Sofia is a part of it — she helps him hide money in a wooden bench. But we don’t know why he pays off Haralambos and how that shot that rang out at the beginning of the episode is related. That kind of misdirection and obfuscation just frustrates viewers more than anything else.
Sex and Skin: Less than you might think. Klelia and Orestis have some passionate tongue-first kissing during their encounter, and the top of her dress comes down, but her arms are placed in a way where we don’t see anything. Perhaps the steaminess will be amped up in subsequent episodes.
Parting Shot: We see who is being dragged through the woods. Then we see him dumped in the water, from a camera angle on the sea floor.
Sleeper Star: Haris Alexiou plays Haris, whom Klelia says is the “youngest” in the family, despite being her grandmother. Alexiou’s energy matches that description very well.
Most Pilot-y Line: For some reason or another, Sofia’s Netflix password leads Antonis to become very curious about the band ABBA. Will that thread somehow get picked up in subsequent episodes?
Our Call: STREAM IT. The chemistry between the leads and the spectacular Mediterranean scenery will keep your eyes on Maestro In Blue, even if there are a few storytelling inconsistencies.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.