Good corporate citizenship has become good business. With a rise in consumer awareness about exploitative business practices, brand loyalty is increasingly being won through the façade of ethical consumerism. As a result, companies seem almost as eager to promote their philanthropic initiatives and sustainable environmental practices as their actual products. And for good reason – consumers appear more than happy to forgive corporate transgressions if there’s a smiling child, an oversized cheque or a shareable, feel good Facebook post involved.
Which brings us to Argentinian murder mystery Cromo, a 12-part series about environmentalism, our impact on the natural world and what lurks just under the surface of civility. If you like your mysteries with a side of anti-capitalism, this is the series for you.
There’s something in the water
At the centre of Cromo’s many mysteries is Valentina (Emilia Attías), environmental scientist and activist. In the swamps of Corrientes, she is on the trail of an environmental disaster that is poisoning the waterways and local residents. But as she closes in on uncovering the truth behind the disaster, her body is discovered, beaten and lifeless, by a local whose family she had been aiding.
The mystery of Valentina’s murder takes us to Antarctica and an expedition involving her estranged husband, Diego (Guillermo Pfening), and mentor, Simon (Germán Palacios). The juxtaposition between the two locations, the steamy humidity of Corrientes and the bleak chill of the Antarctic, is used to great effect in the opening episodes, and also serves to tell us something more of our leads, and the mysteries and passions that drive them.
Bizarre love triangle
Unusually for a murder mystery, we only make it part of the way through the first episode before Diego discovers Valentina and Simon had become lovers during his time with her in Corrientes. This is the kind of revelation you’d expect to be slowly teased out across the series, but instead it’s used to fuel a seldom-seen onscreen relationship between the two men.
Through flashbacks, we’re shown how the relationship between Simon and Valentina grew and deepened, while in the present, Diego struggles with the betrayal and Simon is wracked with guilt over abandoning his lover. As the two men continue to investigate the mystery surrounding Valentina’s death, their relationship strains and fractures, placing their joint attempt to uncover the truth in jeopardy.
From the opening moments, where Simon pulls a fish from the Antarctic waters, extracting its blood for the anti-freeze properties it contains, Cromo clearly establishes it’s a show with something to say about our relationship with nature. It takes a dim view of those that exploit the natural world for the sake of profit, and draws clear parallels between the causes of its own environmental disaster and the ecological catastrophe faced in the real world.
This idea extends further, with the pursuit of profit poisoning the human relationships of its cast. Whether it’s the personal and professional relationships of Diego, Valentina and Simon or the father/daughter relationship of a CEO and his environmentally-minded daughter, it posits that the root of all society’s problems is an inability to find a compromise between ecology and economic development.
The relationships at the heart of Cromo transform what could otherwise have been a work of preachy environmentalism into an engaging drama. If you want to get angry about the way our pursuit of profit is casually destroying the world and our most vulnerable people but still be entertained by an engrossing mystery or if you just want to subtly radicalise a friend, Cromo should be next on your watch and recommend list.
Stream Cromo now at SBS On Demand: