“House Prison” is a fun and well-built series that arrived at the right time
NiT has already seen the first episode of Optos Produktion. There are similarities to the fall of Socrates, but the story is more than that.
Marco Delgado plays the role of a career.
With a cigar in his mouth, a colored silk or satin robe, combed hair and an attitude that makes him king of the palace he lives in, Álvaro Vieira Branco is a kind of Pablo Escobar adapted to Portuguese politics. He is the great driving force behind “House Prison”, the new series of the SIC opto-streaming platform, the first episode of which premiered this Friday, April 16.
Conceived and realized by Patrícia Sequeira (“Terapia”, “O Clube”, “Snu”, the future “Bem Bom”), it was written by João Miguel Tavares, Catarina Moura, Rodrigo Nogueira and Tiago Pais. There are eight episodes in total – a new chapter in the story appears every week.
Álvaro Vieira Branco (Marco Delgado) was Minister of Public Works, played an important role in the ruling party and somehow – which we still don’t understand well after watching the first episode – was clearly involved in illegal negotiations that benefited him.
We found him three months later on the day he returned from prison and stayed there in the “home prison” with an electronic wristband on our ankle. It’s a luxurious house arrest: a huge mansion with gardens, a swimming pool, and even a Turkish bath where you have conversations with the lawyer because it’s the only place where certainly no one can listen. The setting at Hotel da Lapa, where the series was filmed this February, is almost a character in itself. And it’s so diverse that even if all of the action takes place inside, it’s unlikely to get claustrophobic.
In this first episode, Álvaro Vieira Branco is a man who tries to take advantage of his regained semi-freedom. He sleeps with a prostitute, sponsors a family barbecue, tries to enjoy the little joys that have been deprived for three months. Only he denies and does not notice how everything is falling apart around him.
Ms. Raquel (Sandra Faleiro) is of course full of doubts. He says friends and professional contacts have stopped answering the phone and are running a foundation called the family that may be in danger of collapse after the name Álvaro Vieira Branco became toxic. The daughter who goes to college reads the papers and points a finger at what the father did. The young son hardly says a single word in the first episode and lives in a secluded place in his cell phone or his consoles.
There’s no money for university fees, tuition, or a maid cleaning the mansion – because the politician’s fortune is frozen – but Álvaro wasted a few hundred euros on a few minutes with a prostitute from Wer ist in the first five minutes of the episode a regular customer. He is a man who lives beyond his means and receives envelopes with money that his driver Arnaldo has transported.
Obviously there are some allusions and similarities with the case of José Sócrates – as João Miguel Tavares himself suspected in an interview with NiT, although the character of Álvaro Vieira Branco has many differences and is present under different circumstances. The timing of the debut is also up to date, just a week since it was known for which crimes the former Portuguese prime minister had to answer in court. We also know that the protagonist of this conspiracy will try to maintain a status quo in politics – he wants to ensure the influence he had in the party.
In the beginning it seems to us to be a very well constructed series. The characters are rich and complex enough to be exciting. In addition to the central core of the family, there is Álvaro’s mother (Valerie Braddell), who sold the house to help her son and who will now live for the palace for a while. There is also Zé Mário, a kind of fixer for Álvaro, which Fernando Rodrigues interprets incredibly well. Afonso Pimentel has the role of asthmatic lawyer David and Filipe Vargas plays the advisor to the current Prime Minister, who took advantage of Álvaro’s fall to rise in the party machine.
The narrative oscillates very well between satire and drama. For example, the episode starts with a peculiar conversation about Armando Gama at the Festival da Canção, which shows the relentless and impulsive personality of Álvaro Vieira Branco, and ends with a more solemn moment with Álvaro and his wife dancing in the bedroom on the first night I have been together since I got back from prison. The tone can be fun without exaggerating and without reaching the melodrama as well.
Marco Delgado has the role of a career here. And we already realized that he didn’t miss the opportunity to even play this character, as they say out there, “bigger than life”. He’s calculating, merciless, terrible, but he also has a seductive side, affectionate when it comes to it. He’s an antihero like the ones we’ve got used to in television series, from Pablo Escobar in “Narcos” to Tony in “Os Sopranos” to Heisenberg in “Breaking Bad”.
“House Prison” has all the ingredients for a great series – and the door seems to be open for a possible second season. Opto, the streaming platform that SIC made available to us last year, is already hosting several national quality productions, and Patrícia Sequeira is once again showing all her talent and elegance as a director. It’s series like this that give us encouragement as we think about the future of fiction in Portugal. Oh, and it’s also worth highlighting the beautiful music by Samuel Úria for this project (he also plays a small role as an actor).