I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Los Bastardos will be wrapping up its year-long run within three weeks. ABS-CBN's finale teaser suggests many things. However, that is something to be discussed later.
For now, let us address the show and why it deserves to be reviewed. Los Bastardos serves as ABS-CBN's most standard yet most peculiar case of flawed, long-running soap operas. While it never had the staying power of Ang Probinsyano and its constant relevance to Filipino society, Los Bastardos was built to entertain and excite. How did it do so far?
Highs: Commendable Resilience
Not many teleseryes last more than 100 episodes or days of airing. This means that within the next six months or so, another teleserye can take its place. Some were not expected to last but others had long-running plots that had to be squeezed into tight schedules, leading to rushed finales. The phenomenon of the rushed finale is hard to pinpoint, given that we might not know exactly if the writers intended for the story to end this way or at the very least to get to the ending in this manner.
"The Promise of Forever" is one example of that confusion and I already had the suspicion that its lack of attention partly demoralized writers to give any thought as to how it would properly end.
For Los Bastardos to reach this point, it is commendable. However, what furthers my appreciation for the series is the fact that the loss of one of its main cast did not hinder the story as much as it could. The introduction of Lorenzo (Joseph Marco) may have possibly been intended to stir conflict with the illegitimate Joaquin (Diego Loyzaga) but the character served both roles fine. While this did reduce Alba from potential Big Bad to spiraling nutcase, the new storyline was able to maintain enough cohesion to assure viewers there was a plot being followed.
In my previous article on Los Bastardos, I have said that the series has some bland characters or those who were not properly placed. The inconsistent character development tends to happen during low moments. Lucas (Albie Casino), for example, was interesting in his own development after the death of his mother Sita. Even when he sided with the menacing Gigi (Jane Oineza), it was natural. This was not the case for Isagani (Jake Cuenca) when he blamed the Cardinals for the loss of his adopted parents. Thankfully, the writers resolved it by using the public outrage he had already put on as part of a devious plan against Catalina.
This does not mean that the inherent problems of Los Bastardos were solved with that move. Even without the main cast facing hurdles like they were gym reps, the rest of the supporting cast had issues.
Dulce's (Kylie Versoza) development is the clumsiest. She went from "princess" to "crazy lunatic" in a heartbeat. Even when she was tired of her Cardinal friends and their feud with her brother Matteo, the conflict between them felt too forced. This was not helped at the very least by her acting.
Catalina (Jean Saburit) is probably the worst offender of "overacting". She comes really close to "evil witch" with her cackles and sadism. While she has an island, army and resources to face the Cardinals, her plans are poorly-thought of and lack foresight, which even the former Big Bad Menandro Silverio (Lito Pimentel) was able to respond to. Catalina's introduction was also a bit too sudden and her overhyped presence was unwarranted, since even her own henchwoman Nina could prepare for enemy attacks better than she could.
This is not to say all the characters are awful. As I said, Menandro worked as a fine villain and while he does have a crazy streak, he is more methodical.
Ironically, Matteo is probably the best bida-kontrabida this show has to offer. He may have his dumb moments but the times he revealed his humanity were worth exploring. The recent arc reveals why he could not return to Don Roman. When he learned that Menandro had him beaten up and was the man who killed his mother, he realized that everything he did was fruitless. Now pursuing only wealth to keep himself alive, Matteo has no one to turn to. He had lost the true family who could have accepted him because of his evil deeds, choosing to wallow in misery and carrying the death of Sita in his conscience, in spite of how this was also another plot by Menandro.
As a bit of a side note, the love teams were fun to watch. Isay (Maxine Medina) and Isagani were always the right fit. Connor's (Joshua Colet) love for Lupita (Mica Javier) is romantic in its form. Lucas and Coraline (Mary Joy Apostol) were the typical best friend duo that are obviously into each other. The best love team definitely goes to Lorenzo and Dianne (Ritz Azul), who are plain opposites of each other but their emotional connection opened each other to their respective insecurities and deeper desires.
Proper characterization does not solve everything.
You can make Team Cardinal and Team Silverio into a mix of well-rounded people and terrible performers but they are limited by the space they have.
The setting of Los Bastardos benefits from its smallness because there are fewer places to think about. We know where the Cardinals and Silverios are positioned.
The problem is that it seems they are the only people who seem to matter.
Everyone else is just added in as part of whatever scene comes up. A local sari-sari store has only the owner and the customers but not a neighborhood of gossipers. Even those who talk about the goings-on seem to be randomly put in. Many teleseryes do their best to build a world that feels alive. This does not feel like it. Los Bastardos' locale feels more like a film set than anything else. Perhaps it is the isolation of the area or the fact that there was no apparent need to add people.
Kadenang Ginto felt more lively through its bustling streets and crowds gathering in company lobbies. The extended world is part of the cast and should not be minimized.
Los Bastardos has many opportunities to take risks but its conservative approach to character and worldbuilding barely make it interesting. Its character writing and cheesy dialogue is standard but the world around it is so bland it stands out from the rest of ABS-CBN's teleseryes.
Add the constant mental monologues that deafen much of the scenery with almost ludicrous amounts of cheesiness and you have your average Pinoy teleserye that was built to please the audience and perhaps, to attract the concern of critics like myself.