Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gabriel – review (TV series)

Director: Augustin

First aired: 2008

Contains spoilers

Whilst the format doesn’t seem to follow the standard (Gabriel being an 11 episode, each 45 minute in length) this show subtitled “Amor Inmortal” would seem to be, at heart, a hybrid of the telenovela format. It is a tragic romance created by SBS (the Spanish Broadcasting System).

Chayanne is Gabriel
We begin in a church, and the series does have a strong religious/Catholic theme. The priest, Father Miguel (Juan David Ferrer) knows that something or someone is there. We see a shadow flitting with speed past the terrified priest. There is someone in the confessional, Gabriel (Chayanne), who asks for Miguel to hear his confession – it has been three centuries since his last one (and a century since he last killed). Father Miguel bursts out of the confessional but stops to listen when the vampire asks the priest to save him.

Pizarro is cursed
We see a scene from the South American jungles. A Conquistador, Pizarro (José Luis Rodríguez 'El Puma'), weaves a bloody wake through the jungle killing any native who gets in his path. A woman stands near, holding an Incan relic. She curses Pizarro as he kills her… Eva (Angélica Celaya) wakes up – it was a dream. She works in the ER room of a hospital as a nurse where she is actively pursued (romantically) by Dr Padron (Julián Gil), much to the chagrin of Vanessa (Mirta Renee), slutty nurse and comedy character.

Angélica Celaya as Eva
Gabriel is talking to Miguel in the church who is somewhat confused that Gabriel can enter holy ground. So is Gabriel to be honest, though he has been able to for around a century. Suddenly he feels a stab of pain psychically connected to an old man, Roberto (Marcos Miranda), who has suffered a heart attack and is rushed into the ER. Roberto, as he comes round, sees Eva and tells her that she is Vivianna. When Gabriel gets there he puts his hand on the old man’s chest and revives him (a vampire that can lay-on-hands it appears). The man berates him for not allowing nature to take its course and says that the nurse is Vivianna.

is it a doomed romance?
The early episodes then follow the stuttering initial romance of Eva and Gabriel. He recognises her as his dead wife Vivianna – killed along with his unborn son by the vampire Pizarro before he turned Gabriel; the turning a vengeance, it would seem, because Gabriel killed one of his vampires during the attack. For her part she feels like she knows him and thus this is a reincarnated love story but it goes a little deeper than that.

a victim is left in plain sight
Meanwhile a neurotic priest, Father Sandro (Álvaro Ruiz) has noted the nocturnal comings and goings in the church, as well as the fact that Miguel is taking an interest in vampires. He contacts the Vatican who send a vampire hunter over (a character called Santori (Sebastian Ligarde) who becomes a rogue vampire hunter eventually, cast aside by the church due to his extreme measures). Other than that Sandro, like Vanessa, seems to be a comedy character but the light relief does not suit the atmosphere. Better handled was the ghost of Eva’s grandmother who watches over her through the episodes.

Freddy Viquez as Bruno
Also involved in the early episodes is a character named Bruno (Freddy Viquez). Pale of skin and horribly scarred, he is built as perhaps being a vampire at first but actually he is a cop forced into medical retirement after he developed xeroderma pigmentosa. This is actually quite neatly handled. He is dying of skin cancer and is trapped in the night and has tracked down Gabriel (someone seems to be sending him clues to his identity, though that thread is lost and was perhaps me reading a little too much in). Now he wants to be turned and is prepared to go to extreme lengths to ‘convince’ Gabriel to make him a vampire.

Camila Burns as Vampirita
Less well handled was the idea added later that the vampire ‘virus’ was something akin to both porphyria and rabies… that didn’t need adding in but was only a small mention, it also didn't quite fit with the description of feeling a vampire's venom during the turning process. The show offers some dark backgrounds. Gabriel meets a vampire chick named Vampirita (Camila Burns) whom he tries to set on the straight and narrow (and tries to convince her to feed via transfusion as he does). We discover that her mother sold her to Pizarro who then abused her until he stripped her humanity away and turned her.

death by stake
She is killed by one of Santori’s men by the good old stake through the heart method, showing us a kill in that manner. The fact that Gabriel, angered by this, kills the killer does not suddenly preclude him from entering churches and yet all other vampires are precluded and holy objects burn them. Is the murder of the vampire hunter not considered sin enough? But, we’ll get back to the religious side in a minute.

wings revealed
I suggested that Pizarro was cursed by a native woman and this is where the reincarnation bit gets interesting. She was reincarnated as Vivianna and Pizarro tracked her down – so she actually caused Gabriel to be cursed. Pizarro gets a kick out of killing her again and again but he also wants to destroy her entire bloodline (who have generally been in hiding since) as by doing so he will be able to walk in the sun; Eva is the last. So sunlight is an issue and vampires can also develop big bat wings.

I mentioned the heavy religious play and there is much about redemption and faith. Santori believes he is doing God’s work but oversteps the mark by murdering Bruno. Miguel asks for a sign that helping Gabriel is the right thing to do and the statue of Christ bleeds. Gabriel is chosen by God – and Eva has a vision in which Gabriel has the feathered wings of an angel and battles demons. There is a suggestion that if someone is bitten (rather than being bitten and drinking the vampire's blood) then the 'demon' can be exorcised out of them.

Eva gone all Joan of Arc
This rule seems a little unfair (and the one attempt we see fails as the victim wants to turn) as we wonder about those forced to drink the attacking vampire's blood? Why shouldn't they be able to be saved through divine intervention? We see an entire crisis of faith bright about due to this scenario and, during this sequence, see that a cross will burn the flesh of someone becoming a vampire. Eva herself goes all Sarah Connor, cutting her hair and adopting combat pants and vest! However, when she later tools up with slaying gear and puts neck armour on, she seems less Sarah Connor and more Joan of Arc.

a flashback moment
The acting from the principles is melodramatic but that is what the show calls for. It is a heaving mix of romance and religion with a bit of voodoo (we get a good voodoo priestess involved at one point) and a bit of ghost haunting in the form of grandma. I could have lived without the more overt comedy moments, as fleeting as they were, but they weren’t offensive just out of place. More could have been done with Vampirita but that’s just me focusing on the fact that Camila Burns is rather attractive.

a vision of a vampiric feast
The effects were, in the main, okay but some of the CGI work was a bit too computer generated. Sometimes the wings worked and at others they looked awful. It appeared that Pedron was the only doctor working in ER and his storyline was a bit of a damp squib. Then again it would be, Gabriel and Eva were the show's main focus.

Gabriel and his transfusion machine
The actual physical aspect of the romance was rather tame, especially since True Blood, and the addition of Latin crooner songs over said scenes was more than a little heave-worthy, but I guess to be expected especially as the show boasted not one but two ‘Latin recording superstars’. The whole thing did roll up neatly at the end, with a couple of (probably purposefully) minor loose ends that could be developed and opened into a second season if they wanted to.

I rather liked this, something a bit different, romance with a little brutality and a whole heap of tragedy. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Pandora said...

Thank you for doing such a wonderful job on the overview of Gabriel. I was fortunate to see the show when it aired, and I do have the DVD. It's an wonderfully well done series! Great Blog!

Reggie said...

Very thorough review. The redemptive element was the heart of Gabriel which was focused outside of himself toward his wife. The other vampires were focused on themselves, their reputations, their agendas. Their hearts were self focused rather than other focused. Therefore they were beyond redemption.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for commenting guys