Ever since the original iconic duo, Thelma and Louise, roared onto cinema screens in 1991, the female duo narrative has been reimagined and reinvented countless times. From Edina and Patsy, to Buffy and Willow, and Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana, it’s a tried and tested formula for entertainment success.
Now, there’s a fresh update with a modern spin in sexy, intriguing new Spanish drama, The Pier by co-creators Álex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato. Their female couplet: Alejandra and Verónica.
Like Thelma (the shy and retiring housewife) and Louise (the independent, free-spirited waitress) Verónica (Irene Arcos) and Alejandra, or Alex (Verónica Sánchez) embody sharply contrasting personalities. One is a tousled beach babe and the other, a successful corporate architect. Even their respective residences and hometowns reflect the differences in their personalities – the stark, structured, vertical city of Valencia, versus the horizontal rice paddies, waterways and marshes of Albufera National Park.
The Pier owes much to Thelma & Louise. It’s an exploration of self-discovery with a feminine gaze. The narratives of the two leads are ultimately defined by the reprehensible actions of the men (or man) in their lives. Lobato describes the series as an “emotional thriller”, whereupon the simple act of asking questions can result in drastic life upheaval.
A mysterious double life
When Alex is summoned in the middle of the night to identify the body of her husband, Óscar (Álvaro Morte), she insists that it’s a case of mistaken identity. After all, she tells Detective Conrado (Roberto Enríquez) her husband is in Frankfurt, not Spain. She spoke with him just last night. She even heard people speaking German in the background.
Alex’s world continues to unravel as she’s handed Oscar’s possessions – among them, an unfamiliar mobile phone. The phone leads Alex to Verónica, and she’s soon on a mission to untangle her husband’s lies, and find out more about the woman who is at the centre of her husband’s secret life.
Writing authentically feminine characters was important to The Pier’s creators.
“We wanted to tell a character-driven story, as we always do,” Pina says. “On this occasion, it’s different from a thriller, crime or prison genre – from any other genre, really. We wanted to look at the psychology of someone who faces two milestones that happen in her life as a tsunami.”
The stunning Albufera National Park provides an expansive backdrop to Alex and Verónica’s journey together. The landscape has been shot in a golden-infused light, giving the earlier scenes an ethereal quality. It is, as Lobato notes “emotionally particular”, as the intention was to recreate the sense of holidays, beaches and sunsets.
There’s also a sense of the unexplored and the untamed in the landscape, imitating the unknown parts of each woman’s journey of self-discovery, as they venture into foreign emotional territory.
Just like Thelma & Louise all those years ago, The Pier is an unconventional take on the female duo narrative, and the strength of the series lies in its inherent identity. However unconventional though, The Pier’s plot doesn’t stray into unfamiliar emotional spaces. In fact, every viewer who is in, or has ever been in a romantic relationship can certainly sympathise with or recognise Alex’s predicament without too much imagining.
Whilst Thelma and Louise’s destinies are sealed by their fateful (and iconic) decision, Alex and Veronica’s futures are also irrefutably altered forever, as they embark on a journey of self-discovery, which, for Alex, raises far more questions than answers. Did she love a stranger for 15 years? Who is the mysterious Veronica, and does she know really what happened to Oscar on that terrible evening on The Pier in Albufera?
The only thing that is certain, is that neither woman will ever be the same again.
The Pier, season one is streaming in full, from Thursday 16 May at SBS On Demand:
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