Review: Locked Up

Maggie Civantos as Macarena Ferreiro in Locked Up. Source: www.channel4.com
Maggie Civantos as Macarena Ferreiro in Locked Up. Source: www.channel4.com

Looking for something to while away the hours until you’re back with your nose to the grindstone? Or maybe you need some time to relax in front of the old electronic device after a hard slog in your summer job? Well it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing to be honest, just have a listen.

Locked Up, a gritty Spanish thriller, has become must-see TV for me. Season 1 is available on All 4, Channel 4’s online service. The gem of a show is part of Walter Presents, a compilation of Award-winning foreign drama curated by a former TV director called Presents… I mean Walter. After finishing Season 1 within days, I can honestly say that Locked Up is my favourite show right now. The show is set in a women’s prison and focuses on Macarena Ferreiro (Maggie Civantos), who is awaiting trial for a crime she claims she didn’t commit. Quite quickly she becomes embroiled in the life-or-death politics of prison life. The series has thrilled me consistently, with moments that have had me verging on happy – and sad – tears. There’s plenty of crude language and lewd visuals too, but what do you expect from a prison drama?

Reviews I read of Locked Up universally compared it to Orange Is The New Black. I’d just like to say that I haven’t actually seen OITNB, so I can’t compare. If it’s the exact same show but in Spanish them I am truly sorry and I hope you forgive me in due course. I do, however, see similarities between Locked Up and Prison Break. Both shows are thrillers

. The respective main characters are gorgeous. There’s plenty at stake both inside and outside the prison. There are plenty of far-fetched moments; yet they are both gripping, must-see TV.

The real trick in a thriller is to make you care about the characters. The plot has to be thrilling, which means a fast pace and often character development, which tends to need a slower build-up, is neglected in its place. Well, there is one character in particular whose fate I actually care about properly in Locked Up. Curly (Berta Vázquez) is the most vivacious – and one of the most compassionate – characters in the series. I can’t help but smile every time she comes on screen. It might be partly because she is really, really good-looking. But she also exudes a warmth and an honesty from her character that makes you care. If you dislike Curly, then we can’t be friends.

Berta Vázquez as Curly and Maggie Civantos as Macarena Ferreiro in Locked Up. Source: www.channel4.com

As with any subtitled show worth its salt, you become immersed almost instantly, to the point where you don’t feel like you’re watching “foreign TV”. Still, the Spanish language has its own quality, with some of the singing of the prisoners making you want to get up and dance and some of the threats made feeling like assaults on your ears. I confess that my GCSE Spanish skills haven’t been much improved by watching the show, unless someone gives me lip (¿Quieres morir, puta?) but apart from bringing out the convict in me, Locked Up has managed to be worthwhile viewing in a sea of background TV. It has prompted me to care, yes; but it has also prompted me to ask, “What would I do in that situation?” All lines are blurred and all choices unclear in Locked Up, and as such I expect my answers to that question would differ from yours, or anyone else’s.

To reiterate, I would advise you to find the time to watch this show and then we can talk about it over a nice cool pitcher of sangria when summer actually starts. Maybe I should move to Spain for the summer…