La Jauría opens with a scene that’s hard to forget. In a classroom in an upper-class Catholic school in Santiago, a drama teacher asks a female student to pretend he’s her boyfriend. As an acting exercise, it’s wrong in all kinds of ways, a creepy, sleazy exercise that’s clearly excruciating for the student. It’s made even worse by the teacher, Ossandón (Marcelo Alonso) recording the results; when the school’s female students mount a mass protest against him, it’s hard not to be relieved that somebody’s standing up for what’s right.
It’s a feeling that’s short-lived. This is a series that doesn’t pretend to have easy answers when it comes to abuse. Sexism and gender violence is a constant presence, whether face to face or through the media, coming from sexist superiors and online groups cheering each other on to commit sex crimes. Abuse takes on many forms, from the openly physical and sexual to psychological manipulation and emotional torture. For the women in La Jauría, fighting back is the only option left.
Soon after the protests start, their leader Blanca Ibarra (Antonia Giesen) vanishes without a trace, and it’s up to a special gender crime unit to take on the case. Put together by commissioner Olivia Fernández (Antonia Zegers) and with homicide detective Elisa Murillo (Daniela Vega) and Corporal Carla Farías (María Gracia Omegna) out front, it’s an elite unit formed to handle crimes just like this. But it doesn’t take long for this missing persons case to take a dark twist, as a video of Blanca being sexually abused by a group of hooded men goes viral and the search for her becomes a race against time.
For Olivia, her new unit is a way to finally tackle head on a crime that for too long the men around her have dismissed or only pretended to investigate. For Elisa, it’s a chance to take charge and put her skills to use in stamping out the crime. And for Carla, the new unit is a step up, an opportunity for her to make a real difference. But all three are going to discover that this kind of crime knows no limits, and this is a case they can’t put behind them when they head home for the day.
Not content to leave the search for Blanca to the police, her younger sister Celeste (Paula Luchsinger), begins her own search. She quickly discovers her sister’s attackers were part of a social media chat group led by a mysterious hacker who encourages men online to form real-life “packs” to stalk and rape young women. It soon becomes clear that what she’s uncovered involves more than kids boasting on social media; these are powerful men who’ll stop at nothing to take what they see as rightfully theirs.
This so-called game has spread far and wide, and it’s not long before the police officers find that their personal lives aren’t immune to its effects. For Olivia, it soon becomes personal; while her job takes up more of her focus, her son Gonzalo (Clemente Rodríguez) is being bullied at school and mocked for being shy and awkward around girls.
For him, the game offers a way to turn his life around and prove he’s a man. It’s a grimly topical look at the way online radicalisation takes place; while Olivia is hunting criminals on the streets, the next generation is taking shape inside her house.
La Jauría can be a confronting series to watch, but there’s a strong theme of solidarity and empowerment running through it. The teenage students protesting against their abusive teacher and school are fighting for change even after their leader is taken, demanding justice and helping in the search for Blanca.
Likewise, the police hunting down Blanca’s kidnappers gain their strength from working as a team. They may each have their own separate issues throughout the series (a policewoman’s home life rarely runs smoothly), but it’s when they work together that they’re able to get things done.
La Jauría translates as “The Pack”, and early in the series we’re told “this is not wolves against sheep, this is wolves against lionesses”. These criminals who hunt in packs are about to get a taste of their own medicine.
La Jauría is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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