In Los Espookys — an HBO comedy from Fred Armisen, Julio Torres, and Ana Fabrega — a group of horror movie-obsessed friends come to the realisation that all the time they spend waiting around for life to happen could be better used turning their passion for jump scares into money-making opportunities.
Slacker Renaldo (Berardo Velasco), dental hygienist Ursula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), Ursula’s weird sister Tati (Fabrega), and chocolate empire heir Andrés (Torres) all bring something different to their unique business that specialises in creating the illusion of supernatural happenings for a reasonable fee. Renaldo and Tati’s willingness to go all-out with their wild plans to fake demonic possessions and sea monster sightings is tempered by Ursula and André’s exacting eyes for detail, and together the group is able to convince more than a number of people around their town that there’s a lot of spooky shit afoot.
While the talents that everyone else brings to the table are quite human (though impressive), Andrés is unique amongst his friends for a number of reasons. Chief among them? There’s a actual otherworldly spirit known as Water’s Shadow (Spike Einbinder) living within him. After Los Espookys first introduces Andrés as a misunderstood eccentric who feels out of place within his adoptive family, the show begins to explain that his electric blue hair isn’t actually dyed, and his blank, dissociative stares into the distance are more than him simply being extra. Relatively secure in his identities as Andrés is in general, the mysterious nature of his origins confounds him, and his loving parents are not keen on going into detail about the circumstances of his adoption.
While the people close to Andrés are slow to come to him with answers, he finds guidance in water itself as it calls to him throughout Los Espookys’ first three episodes. Eventually, he ends up on a beach vibing with the ocean and, with a flick of his wrist, he briefly causes the wave to freeze in space. Los Espookys stops flirting with the idea of Andrés being mystical and gets quite serious about it in the final moments of “El monstruo marino,” the season’s third episode, as he’s transported into an aquatic spiritual dimension where he first meets Water’s Shadow, whose voice he’d been hearing in his mind.
Rather than being unreasonably secretive, the way sea witches tend to be, particularly when dealing with queer boys with affinities for reflective surfaces and/or bodies of water, Water’s Shadow is quite direct with him about the knowledge she possesses that he desperately wants. Water’s Shadow promises to share the truth about his origins and the identities of his birth in exchange for the opportunity to finally see The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper’s 2010 historical drama that won him an Academy Award for Best Director, and Colin Firth Best Actor for his portrayal of King George VI.
As much arcane insight about the depths of André’s interiority as Water’s Shadow has, her exposure to pop culture and the larger world’s limited to what Andrés himself has actually seen, as she’s apparently kinda trapped (or maybe just prefers chilling in there). What’s interesting about the way Los Espookys works The King Speech into its plot is that, by the time that she and Andrés begin discussing whether or not they have a deal, Hooper’s movie had been out for years and become part of the larger, casual film discourse within the world of the show. While Andrés personally had never seen the movie, he was generally aware of the buzz around it that tends to bubble up around prestige films clearly crafted to be Oscar bait.
It’s unclear whether Andrés and Water’s Shadow are actually a singular being because of their magical connection, but in the context of their subplot, they represent two of the kinds of opposing stances people tend to take whenever the hype around big studio movies hits a certain critical mass. Though the armchair discourse around The King Speech is part of what left Andrés rather apathetic about seeing it, it made Water’s Shadow want to see it that much more. That’s why she makes clear that a shared viewing is the only way she’ll give her host what he wants.
What’s worth taking to heart from the series is the way she reacts to The King’s Speech when she finally sees it, though she’s forced to wait a few days longer because the HD file he’s torrenting takes forever. This gives Andrés time to think; he considers whether he should just resign himself to not fully knowing who he is and going along with his parents’ wishes that he marry his scheming cookie magnate boyfriend Juan Carlos (José Pablo Minor).
Water’s Shadow’s insistence that Andrés consider an alternate path is obviously driven by her desire to see The King’s Speech, but Los Espookys does suggest that she genuinely cares for his well-being and wants to support him (especially if he’s willing to help her out). Though Andrés is never truly sure what to expect from Water’s Shadow, he stands by his word and watches the movie both for himself and the spirit dwelling within him, and the next time the two of them have a face to face, Water’s Shadow is quite honest about her thoughts. It’s not so much that she objectively disliked everything about The King’s Speech, but rather that, in all of her theatrics on top of the second-hand hype that she experienced by existing within Andres, she put herself in a position to be somewhat disappointed by a movie that she was made to believe was a big deal.
Watching Los Espookys now, it’s interesting to consider movies that have come to be many people’s white whales the way The King’s Speech was for Water’s Shadow. Movies like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Zack Snyder’s Justice League most immediately come to mind because of the feverish way fans demanded to see both projects for years, and because they’re both parts of the larger Warner Media family that Los Espookys is.
In a less compelling version of Los Espookys, Water’s Shadow might have become something akin to an enraged fan after she finally saw and was let down by The King Speech, and decided to take her fury out on Andres. Instead, though, she chooses the sensible option. After explaining her issues and admitting that she was being a stunt queen, she tells Andrés what he’s been longing to hear. (What she ultimately tells Andrés is a secret best revealed by actually watching Los Espooky’s perfectly compact six-episode first season ahead of its season two return.)
The King’s Speech is neither Tenet nor Justice League, and the latter two films’ fans are generally water demons in screen name only. But we could all stand to be more like Water’s Shadow when it comes to expressing our emotions — positive or negative, really — about things we’ve worked ourselves up into frenzies over. Sometimes the things we love let us down, and that’s fine. Being able to admit that is what makes celebrating the things that are truly fantastic enjoyable, and finding that balance is the key to not drowning in an all-or-nothing sea of takes.
Be like Water’s Shadow.
Los Espookys is now streaming on HBO Max. It does not have an Australian home just yet.