El Ministerio del Tiempo 3×02 Review: Time of Spies

I am a sucker for stories set in the World Wars, and there is something alluring about time travel shows or films that visit this period. Should something be changed? Would that alter the course of events? Should we kill Hitler?

The story we are offered in ‘Time of Spies’, by the way, is the plot of a novel that was published last year, called El Tiempo Es El Que Es. If you can more or less read Spanish, I suggest you buy this book, because it is entertaining, educative and thrilling.

The plot revolves around Lola Mendieta, albeit a 23-year-old Lola, ten years before Salvador recruited her. It is 1943, and she is in Luchon, France, to meet English-with-a-heavy-Andalusian-accent spy William Martin, to whom she gives the documents about Operation Mincemeat. But there is an incident, and while William gets out in time, Lola is arrested by the Nazis.

In 2017, Lola is dying of cancer (thanks to Darrow) and, with her next-to-last breath, she begs Salvador to go back in time and stop Darrow from ever being created, so she doesn’t die. Problem is, Salvador is now busy trying to save Young Lola, to which end he sends to 1943 the team and Ernesto, who is fluent in German. They need to save Young Lola so that she doesn’t share the details of Mincemeat with the Nazis -Salvador is already worried, because she was never meant to take part in that operation in the first place.

But of course, things go wrong from the start. As Ernesto impersonates a German officer to take over the car transporting Young Lola, a gunfight ensues, and while he is shot in the leg, the girl refuses to let her saviour behind, and they are both taken to Camp de Gurs.

What does the team do? They are told to forget about Ernesto and Lola, and travel to Punta Umbría, where William is, so that they can help him with Operation Mincemeat. And they find the guy pretty quickly, singing in a bar.

Unfortunately, the Brits have aborted the operation, but William and his English-Andalusian friends don’t give up, so they and the team decide to continue with their own operation, Operación Albondiguilla (Operation Little Meatball). They will create all the fake documents, take a photo of Amelia to pass as the soldier’s girlfriend, and will even write love letters.

In the meantime, Irene informs Salvador that Walkman Guy from last week is actually an operative from 1958 that was believed to have died during a mission, so who knows how many other agents are actually moles now.

In Gurs, Ernesto receives the visit from a priest (sent by Salvador) that informs him about the team, and gives him a blade to kill Young Lola if he thinks she is going to give in and spill all the secrets. But in the end, Ernesto can’t kill the girl who just stood by him.

Our friends in Punta Umbría have more problems, though, because while the Brits send a code to let them know Mincemeat is still happening, the receiver has a broken cord and the message doesn’t get to them.

So while Albondiguilla is still on, the team visits (sneaks into) a morgue to find a body to disguise as the soldier, but none of the corpses they find fits. That is when William has an epiphany: it has to be him, he must sacrifice himself. He sneaks out in the middle of the night, but Alonso wakes up and follows him, a scene that ends with an emotional conversation between the two soldiers, and Alonso acknowledging how brave William is, and respecting him like the soldier in the middle of a war that he is.

Alonso’s feelings quickly turn to anger when he returns to the house and learns that the Brits are still sending a corpse of their own, which would mean William died in vain. “Luckily,” the submarine transporting it is intercepted, so they can still make sure William becomes the unknown soldier. All they need to do is make sure his face is unrecognisable and put back around his neck the medallion he’d given to Alonso before he went into the sea, because that way he can be buried straightaway, alluding to the fervent Catholicism of everyone in the town. Hitler buys it, William is buried, and Pacino asks Isabel, the little girl whose parents were friends with William, to make sure there are always fresh flowers on his tomb.

74 years later, an aged Isabel is seen in the cemetery weeping, while her granddaughter puts flowers on William’s grave, as she had promise Pacino she’d do.

And on the same year, Salvador arrives to the hospital to find out that Lola has passed away, and has left him a note with a poem by Miguel Hernández written on it. Will Salvador try to meddle with time to save her?


Operación Albondiguilla – the secret files

-I almost forgot! Young Lola and Ernesto are about to be executed by a firing squad, but Salvador appears with the cavalry and saves them.

(Pacino tastes an awful coffee) “I know we can’t change history, but damn it, the coffee…”

-You could say Pacino was clearly enjoying being the one who got to explain the story. Lucky him that he’d read The Man Who Never Was and watched the movie.

-When they are about to enter door 222, Pacino sings “the biscuit you order by its number,” which was the jingle of these biscuits in Spain in the 20th century.

(after Ernesto gives animal names as code names) “A rabbit, a lion… Now we only need an eagle, our friend the crocodile and we are in El Hombre y la Tierra, eh?” “What?” “Felix Rodríguez de la Fuente? Okay, bye! (My God…)”

-“I should have stayed with Ernesto.” “Sure, because you look so German,”

(about the Nazis) “They’re the Inquisition.” (Ernesto, whose son was Torquemada): “I know a lot about it…I’ve studied it in school.”

-“He was a writer, his name was Ian Fleming. He worked for the Secret Service and then became a novelist. He created James Bond.” “Who’s that?” “You don’t know 007? Get Smart? Then I’m not even gonna mention Anacleto.”

-“The wingbeat of a butterfly can change the world. F**ing butterfly.”

-“Where should we start looking for him?” “We are Spanish. We start at the bar.”

(The team finds William singing cante jondo) “Wasn’t he English?” “He’s clearly acclimatised himself.”

-“For an English guy, he curses in Spanish perfectly.”

(to the Nazi officer) “We are done here, son of a bitch.” (to Ernesto) “What a relief that these morons can’t understand Spanish.”

-“I’ll never understand how a soldier can kill civilians.” “True soldiers don’t do that, fanatics do.”

-Alonso’s face in the first photo they take of him is priceless.

-How can you explain to a 16th century man what the contraceptive pill is so that he can understand?

-“Your wife and children will be so happy to see you again.”

-“I can’t stop thinking about Ernesto, William, and young Mendieta… But you know how I cheer myself up? Reminding myself that we have spun Hitler a yarn.”

Categories: Spanish Historical Fiction, Television | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “El Ministerio del Tiempo 3×02 Review: Time of Spies

  1. Pingback: El Ministerio del Tiempo 1×03 Review: The Way Time is Rewritten | Corleones & Lannisters

  2. I just realized while rewatching this episode that there is actually a scene at the cafeteria where Amelia and Pacino acknowledge what happened between them. For some reason, I had no memory of this scene and always believed that their “affair” had been buried in season 2.
    On the contrary, in the first two episodes of season 3 there’s more on this front than what I had remembered or could even hope for.

    In 3×01 we have two moments: first Amelia is about to tell Alonso that the baby in the picture with her and Julian disapperead because she slept with Pacino when the policeman calls her, interrupting the revelation (to this day, I don’t think Alonso ever learned about it, as far as we know). The rest of the episode is clearly focused on other things, but after Pacino is re-instated in present day Ministerio, there’s a meaningful moment at the cafeteria where he buys beers for his team where Amelia regrets what had to happen for them to be reunited. Clearly, she is thinking about Julian and Pacino about Marta, but I couldnt help but notice how his gaze would wander toward her much more than toward Alonso, how sincerely glad she was to have him back and so on. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part but my feeling was that the actors were still playing a bit of that connection that their characters had last time we saw them together in 2×08.

    Cut to 3×02, where the “elephant in the room” is even addressed by the script.
    Amelia asks what happened with Marta and Pacino seems like he’s almost justifying the relationship in the eyes of Amelia by explaining that he was “feeling alone” back in 1981. If you have watched the Ministry’s Archives from s2 (Capitulo 15, minute 16 circa), this would actually match Hugo Silva’s interpretation (and possibly a direction from writers/producers) that Pacino’s infatuation with Amelia is more than a simple crush. He’s always been a very successful man with ladies, he calls himself a “heartbreaker”, but – according to Hugo – Amelia is the first one that he truly admires for a lot more than just being a pretty woman and…he’s not sure what to do about it. Acting like the usual dongiovanni doesn’t really seem the best thing to do around the only woman you really want to impress, right?
    So, knowing this, it would make sense that he would try to downplay his story with Marta, to the point of almost having to justify it with his loneliness in the eyes of Amelia.
    She cuts him short saying she doesnt meant what happened between them romantically, she doesnt care about that (but let me please remind you that that’s exactly what she said about his one night stand in 2×07…if you play the two scenes back to back they are almost comical because they are so similar).
    Amelia is also quick to point out that just because they “did what they did” it doesn’t mean she expects them to marry and have children. I felt this was really in-character for Amelia, who always wants to be so “modern” and I appreciate the writers letting her say this, but – at the same time – I also feel there must have been more to this. He was, after all, her first, they have been through a lot together, formed a deep bond and have to see each other every day. You can’t just dismiss the whole thing with one sentence, especially after the other potential love interest is completely out of the picture now.
    And I maintain that Aura has done a terrific job at playing this Amelia who basically said “We’re done and I am ok with it” but deep down couldnt really wipe out that connection just like that: have you noticed her reaction, later in the episode, when Pacino and the others join her on the beach for the pictures? She has no problems joking and laughing with William and Alonso but as soon as Pacino gets closer she is hyper aware and the expression caught in that group picture is not the one from a woman who is over someone. Maybe she even feels guilty for feeling like that after Julian “just” died and I feel there is some of that in the tears she sheds while writing the fake love letters, obviously thinking of Julian.
    I would have paid big big money to have a behind-the-scenes of this episode and know if those moments were acted like that on purpose. Any chance they say something in the dvds?

    To wrap this up, my feeling is that, until the end of this episode, both actors still played as if the connection between Amelia and Pacino still existed underneath the embers and could have, at some point, re-ignited.
    On the contrary, starting from 3×03 you can tell that everything changed between them, no more sparks, no more longing gazes, no more tension, nothing. Just a companionable fellowship, no different from what everyone feels toward Alonso. Like if, from above, someone decided that (with Aura leaving soon) there was no more room to play that possibly romantic angle anymore, so they just dropped it.

    I apologize if I was long and boring but I just wanted to explain how I got to my conclusions.
    Has anyone else felt like that or had a similar interpretation? At this point, no doubt that my brain could just be making indepent movies on its own, but without sharing them they wouldnt be half as fun 😉

    • Ginny C

      I agree about the way she acts on the beach!

      I think that, upon Pacino’s return, there is still a lot of tension between them. I guess that, as they continue to see each other every day, they internally decide to act as just friends, because, even though Amelia is very modern, she is still from the 19th century, and she still has a moral obligation towards her parents (which will become the reason for her departure later on). I still maintain, in season 4, that her relationship with Pacino is the most meaningful one because it is the most far-fetched: he is from a time where he can get any chick, and she is from a time where men don’t value her. Sure, in the present day, all her male colleagues value her, but Pacino having feelings for her, even when he expected nothing in return, is the most poignant. His relationship with Lola comes from no actual work on his side, because Lola has always been very intrepid and adventurous in a way Amelia can never be.

      • Amen to that.

        Despite my feelings on the subject, though, I’m curious to see where the writers are taking this Pacino/Lola relationship because Javier Olivares seems very convinced of their bond and it looks like Pacino is going to move mountains (and time!) in order to save her, so I’m intrigued.
        Let’s just say that anything with Hugo Silva in it is worth watching anyway 😉

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