In the southern region of Spain, near Almeria, more than 180 square miles of land are covered by plastic greenhouses. The food produced is sold throughout Europe. The work is primarily done by migrant laborers from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Wages are low, and working conditions are poor. The associated pollution and demand for water are tough on the regional environment. As a result, tension and controversy surround the greenhouses, which are known as Mar de Plastico, sea of plastic.
This situation serves as background for the Mar de Plastico TV series from Spain, a soapy crime drama and murder mystery on Netflix. While the real setting (with a fictional town name) and racial and ethnic conflicts in the area serve as an intriguing basis for the TV show, the result leaves much to be desired. Still, we found ourselves returning episode after episode to find out what happened.
Mar de Plastico opens with a young woman, at night, waiting by one of the greenhouses. She disappears, and, minutes later, we find out she has been murdered. The lieutenant with the local civil guard (police) station isn’t interested in investigating crime at the greenhouses, murder or not. The assumption is it only involves migrant workers, many of them illegally immigrated. Fortunately, there is a new cop in town. Hector Aguirre (Rodolfo Sancho) is recently returned from duty in Afghanistan and is inclined to treat all local residents fairly.
Hector’s team includes two locals, Lola (Nya de la Rubia), a gypsy shunned by her family for becoming a guard, and Salvo (Lucho Fernández), a young man with direct connections to some that become suspects in the case. Hector also has local connections. Marta (Belén López) is an engineer with a young son. Her husband was Hector’s best friend and died on duty while serving with him. The incident haunts Hector.
As the investigation begins – and goes on and on – the list of suspects includes numerous colorful characters. Along the way, there are several side stories, romances and dramas that may or may not relate to the case. It all becomes a bit of a soap opera.
The main story in Mar de Plastico is interesting. It is enhanced by the unique setting, the conflicts, and some of the characters. However, it feels like a TV series that tries to fill up 13 episodes rather than one edited down to tell a good story efficiently and suspensefully. The drama gets tiresome. There is too much macho posturing and over-the-top dialogue. Some will find it amusing. Others may just give up.
The Mar de Plastico TV series was produced by Boomerang TV and first aired on Spain’s Antena 3 network in fall, 2015. The 13 episodes on Netflix run about an hour each. It’s too bad they weren’t edited down to 45 or 50 minutes. Mar de Plastico season 2 aired in 2016, but is not yet available in the US.