El Ministerio del Tiempo 1×01 Review: Time Is What it Is

I have been a fan of El Ministerio del Tiempo since its inception back in 2015. How couldn’t I? Isabel had just ended, and here were its creators, the Olivares brothers (RIP Pablo), giving us a time travelling show that starred king Fernando himself and was going to have a cameo by the queen and Cisneros, plus many of the actors were going to reappear playing different characters.

That is why I’ve decided to recap/review the eight episodes that form season one. As this is something I have already watched and I now what’s going to happen next, it’s not going to have the style of my reviews of season two and three, because those I recapped week by week, after the episodes were first broadcast. Thus, this is going to be a nostalgic rewatch, one where I am going to notice little hints and clues that were laid out to tell us what was coming next, which I think makes for a richer viewing, in my opinion. So without further ado, here it comes, my long overdue reviews:

We first meet our trio as they try to go on with their lives. In Alonso de Entrerríos’s case, his is ending. It’s 1569, and his officer at Flanders has betrayed him -he ordered Alonso to carry out something that’s got everyone else killed. And now the officer has taken back his words, which means our Alonso is going to hang. He says goodbye to his wife Blanca and tells her to move on with her life. But wait! A mysterious man, whom we know to be Ernesto, appears and asks Alonso if he wants to be saved and start a new life with a new job. Our favourite soldier immediately agrees, and Ernesto drops the officer as Alonso’s substitutefor the hanging.

Next stop, Barcelona, 1880. Young Amelia Folch is one of the first female university students, and her teacher is already unnerved by the Lisa Simpson cleverness of the only woman in the room. But she does know more than the rest. When a woman (Irene) leaves her a note, she runs to meet her, and immediately agrees to be part of something that will allow her the freedom she doesn’t fully have right now (right then?)

And here comes our main character. In the present (2015) we meet Julián Martínez, a widower SAMUR paramedic. Since he has nothing left to live for, he constantly puts himself in danger, and therefore, also his colleagues. When he arrives at a fire, he notices there is someone still inside the building, and when he enters, he sees some men dressed like in Napoleon times, but the building collapses and he awakes at the hospital, where he is told he has to take a leave by force.

As we see everything through Julián’s eyes, Irene and Ernesto invite him to be part of a secret ministry, since he will probably never be allowed to be on duty again, what with his suicidal personality. He enters the ministry and meets Salvador, who tells him they found a dead man in the burning building, and believe two others are loose in Madrid, having come to 2015 from the past.

Julián is finally convinced that time travel exists after Salvador takes him to see the construction of the aqueduct of Segovia and the Meninas, and learns the story of the rabbi who found about the Time Doors and shared them with Queen Isabel of Castile (wink wink). Julián tries to remember what the other two men looked like, and gets a pretty good facial composite, courtesy of Velázquez.

Meanwhile, these two men, one Spanish and one French, enter a book store to learn the outcome of the Peninsulan War and, seeing that France is going to lose, decide to return to 1808 and prevent the guerrilla that would defeat the French. Although the Frenchman kills the Spaniard before going back to his time, because rivalry.

Julián, after meeting Amelia and Alonso, finds out that there is a door that takes you to the day that Atlético de Madrid won its first double, back in 1996. Julián travels there for a different reason: that was the day he and his deceased wife, Marta, first kissed. It is heartbreaking to watch and it is a testament to this show that, only half an hour into its first episode, you are already feeling for these people. But as we now know, Julián’s grief and his internal struggle about whether or not to use the doors to change his past will become central to MdT’s first season.

But! The team goes on their first mission, to 1808. Not knowing for sure what the Frenchman will try, they have to stop him from using a gun he stole from 2015. And it is in 1808 that we see the French meet a woman named Lola, who later turns out to be from a different time as well. Ah, the old mysteries…

Thank God Amelia is part of the team, because they would get nowhere without her history knowledge. She realises that the French wants to kill Juan Martín Díez, “El Empecinado“, the man who started the guerrillas that won the war. Unfortunately, the Frenchman does shoot Díez, but that’s nothing some modern medical technology can’t solve.

It is after Díez is safe that the team realises Lola has a door inside her closet, which leads to the burning building where Julián saw the men earlier in the episode. The door is closed, and Salvador tell the team that Lola was an agent that they believed to have died during a mission at the Carlist Wars. But it looks like she didn’t!

This first episode ends on a sad note again, as Julián travels to 2012, to the night before his wife died, and lays in bed with her for a few minutes. But when he leaves the house, he finds Amelia and Alonso, who have followed him, and tell him that visiting his wife is a terrible idea, and that he must let go. But Julián can’t forgive himself, because the morning Marta died,they’d had a huge fight, and he’s had to live with it since then. But Amelia has an idea: Julián calls her on the phone, and apologises for being a jerk. She still dies, but at least she is not mad at him anymore, and he gets to tell her he loves her for the last time.

For now…

Dun dun duuuuuun!!!! To be continued.

 

We are Spanish, aren’t we? Improvise!

-When we first meet Ernesto, he is dressed as a monk, which will be revealed to be a key part of his past…

-The same way, we foresee Amelia’s future: at uni, she is discussing Lope de Vega’s work, which she is a fervent fan of.

-“I don’t need a man, but the thing is, I like them.”

-As usual, Atlético de Madrid is always present. The first time we see something Atleti-related is the poster at the bar where Julián is with his co-worker.

-I had forgotten about this, but it is mentioned that Julián was one of the brave paramedics present at 11M.

-“He is from 1808… and he’s kept himself this fit?”

-“Our history is not the best, but it could be worse.”

Julián sees a perfect portrait of the two men “He (the artist) is very good.” “Of course he is good, he is Velázquez.”

-Also in the pilot, we see the first mentions of Alonso looking like Alatriste -he even steals one of the novels from the book store.

-And it is also nice to see the evolution of the relationship among the three of them: the way Julián tries to shake their hands and kiss them when they meet, but they do their own thing, how Alonso questions Amelia’s leadership because she is a woman (my, his character development will be one of the best) and the way Julián keeps making jokes at their expense, along with pop culture references.

-One of this running gag references is the mention of Terminator. It begins here because the mission sounds a lot like the plot of that movie.

-And it’s always a delight to see Alonso amazed by modern things, from CCTV cameras to his first encounter with a motorbike.

-“Whose independence?” “Ours.” “An Empire such as the Spanish one, fighting for its independence?” “Well, about being an Empire…”

-“Do we bow before anyone?” “Yes, the ECB.”

-“It will take him less time to walk to his century than it will take you to get home on the subway.”

-Something that always gets me: when Julián registers at the 1808 house and says his name is Curro Jiménez, which was the name of a TV show that starred his late father, Sancho Gracia.

-“When a lady says no, it means no, here and in Paris.”

-Julián’s attitude towards anything reckless Alonso does never changes: “We’re gonna die here.” Funnily, this will also be the way Pacino reacts to Alonso’s actions in the future.

Amelia, to Alonso: “He is the Empecinado.” “Who?” Amelia, to Julián: “You know who he is, right?” “Yes, yes, I do, but tell him, you tell it better.”

-Another meta joke that begins in the pilot: the fact that, whenever Ernesto, Irene or Salvador wonder where the team is or how they are doing, the team calls.

-“We have a wing in the hospital just for us.” “Can you do that?” “Why do you think there are always areas closed for refurbishment?”

Categories: Spanish Historical Fiction, Television | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “El Ministerio del Tiempo 1×01 Review: Time Is What it Is

  1. Heather

    I’ve been rewatching the show as well on Netflix and sadly noting how I liked the first two seasons better. I don’t blame Aura or Rodolfo for leaving as the way RTVE treated the show was pretty crappy. Just sad we couldn’t get a Pacino/Amelia/Alonso/Julian story.

    Luckily,I’ve now found Catedral del Mar on Netflix and it’s like an Isabel reunion, with seemingly ageless Michelle Jenner . Just wish the women wouldn’t be either dying or complete witches. Never realized how much Spanish TV needed a character like Amelia Folch.

    • Ginny C

      Michelle Jenner is now doing a net TV series for RTVE set in the 1920s, called El Continental. It starts this month or the next one, I think, and I’m guessing you’ll be able to watch it on the RTVE website or later on if it’s sold to Netflix.

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