Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Turn Of The Tide’ On Netflix, Where A Ton Of Drugs Wash Ashore In A Small Azorean Town, And Four Friends Take Advantage
Why do we root for drug dealers in this age of prestige TV? Because the creators of the shows where that happens have put their characters in situations where they are much better off dealing drugs than working legit jobs. Breaking Bad is the prime example of this, but there have been plenty of shows that have put audiences in that position, including a new Netflix series from Portugal.
Opening Shot: A voice says, “What do you think happens if you dump thousands of kilos of cocaine in one of Europe’s poorest villages?” We then see a scene of a priest seizing from ingesting some of that cocaine.
The Gist: July, 2001 in the Azores, namely the village of Rabo de Piexe. A choir boy at the church runs to three people talking about The Matrix while putting coke in little bags and tells them about the priest.
Ten days earlier, three friends — Eduardo (José Condessa), Rafael (Rodrigo Tomás) and Carlinhos (André Leitão) — do what mostly everyone in the poverty-stricken village do to get by: They go fishing. A fourth friend, Silvia (Helena Caldeira), works at a video store that rents American movies. All four are struggling with the same poverty and hopelessness like everyone else in the village is.
Eduardo is trying to get a visa to live in the U.S., and he runs to the embassy as his father waits to get eye surgery. He finds out that his application was turned down and that his dad’s surgery was not scheduled for that day. Then his car breaks down in a massive storm. He goes to the video store to rent a movie and hang with Silvia, whom he has a crush on, despite the fact that she’s dating Rafael. She’s down because she chickened out of entering a beauty pageant because her photos were so bad. She ended up stealing a Discman from one of the preppy contestants.
During the storm, two mafioso — Gianluca (Filippo Fiumani) and Francesco (Marcantonio Del Carlo) are crossing the Atlantic in a small sailboat packed with cocaine. They barely make it through the storm without a rudder and need to find a spot to hide the drugs. They think they find an alcove near the shore, but the next day bricks of coke start washing up on the shore. Everyone in town run to pick up their share. Gianluca thinks they should tell their boss, but Francesco knows they’re both dead if the guy finds out.
Eduardo isn’t interested in snorting the coke, unlike his buddies. But, when he hears what the street value of one kilo is, he uses his knowledge of sailing to figure out where the rest of the haul is. He brings back over 300 kilos of the stuff, and encourages his buddies to start up a new business that can not only make them rich but, more importantly, get them out of what they think is a godforsaken town.
Our Take: What creator Augusto Fraga is trying to do with Turn Of The Tide (Original Title: Rabo de Peixe) is set up a show that’s dramatic but has some fun with the idea of all of this coke washing up on the shore of such a poor village. The people in Rabo de Peixe are desperate for anything to happen to shake up their lives, which is why it seems like Eduardo is the only one who thinks to not only retrieve all of the coke but to sell it instead of snort it.
Of course, things aren’t that simple. The local crime boss, Arruda (Albano Jerónimo) is not a fan of Eduardo’s — he basically took Eduardo’s dog right in front of his eyes — and he also happens to be Silvia’s father. He’s going to want a piece of the action. Gianluca and Francesco are going to be looking for their cargo. And now a federal agent, Inspector Frias (Maria João Bastos), will be poking around the village, trying to recover as much of the haul as she can and find who brought it there.
So while the show has some annoyingly cutesy elements, like a narrator that drifts into English when convenient and a soundtrack that screams “Alt rock radio station circa 2000”, the first episode sets up the situation well. We have desperate people who want to change their lot in life and feel that they’ve had a lucky turn of events for once versus people who want to stop all that for reasons both legal and illegal.
We’re hoping the tone matches the first 40 minutes or so of the first episode, with seriousness mixed with a bit of irreverence. Because after Eduardo’s inspiring speech to his friends that prompts the four of them to go into the coke dealing business together, they have an accident in Eduardo’s car that might, pardon the use of the title here, turn the tide towards a show that’s more serious.
Sex and Skin: We see Silvia and Rafael having sex, but no real nudity is shown in those scenes. Same with Carlinhos having relations with an older man.
Parting Shot: After that serious accident, Eduardo notices a tattoo on the victim’s hand that he remembers is also on the wrappers of the cocaine bricks.
Sleeper Star: Helena Caldeira plays the tough-as-nails Silvia, who is likely harder-edged than her three male companions put together. She’s also pretty aware that Eduardo has a thing for her; we’ll see if she does anything with that knowledge.
Most Pilot-y Line: As the townspeople pick up and run with the bricks of coke, the soundtrack plays Smash Mouth’s “Walking On The Sun,” a song we got sick of hearing somewhere around 1998.
Our Call: STREAM IT. The first episode of Turn Of The Tide sets up what looks to be a wild story where we might actually end up rooting for the cocaine dealers. Not the first time that’s happened on TV, of course, and it’s always fun when it does.
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.