I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Teleserye endings are short-lived highs for many viewers. The sad state of the silver screen in the Philippines is that the teleserye format reflects our short-term preferences and the brief lifespan of the teleserye. Not many transcend beyond their time. Pangako Sa'Yo, May Bukas Pa and others have managed to garner a lifelong reputation and their stars have gained great acclaim.
Los Bastardos is probably another product of the teleserye deaths, where their stories will not be so much as etched into great memory, unless reviews and analyses are written about them. In spite of my critical view of the series, I do not wish for this mine of interesting ideas to go to waste. Let us take a look at some bullet points on what the series has achieved.
Characters make this kind of story. Due to the lack of a deadline or clear plot structure, the cast carries the weight of the story. How well have they done it?
Well, it is a mixed bag. The Cardinal family acts as the protagonists but their more reactive positions are not always helpful from an audience perspective. While the last phases of the story show them planning against their Silverio opponents, most of the time they are caught off guard by events that could have been prevented with their combined skills.
I also have to be critical about the internal dynamics of the family. Much of the burden falls on the siblings, who have little to do with the conflict of our final antagonist, Catalina. They are part of her revenge because of their blood but not because they directly hurt her in any way (not counting the humiliation against the Silverios).
Don Roman is the first one that comes to mind. I understand why he is not as active as the other members. His health has declined and I tend to see him as becoming somewhat senile. However, he is the source of the story itself, as the father of the brothers and founder of a business empire. His wife Soledad has taken on a more active role but her entrance into the series felt a bit artificial. Her death was obviously misleading but it could have been handled in such a way that Lorenzo's character development did not feel out of hand. Considering how Lorenzo started almost like an evil person, his redemption felt somewhat more out of hand.
With respect to the siblings, I feel that they work better as a team than as individual characters. Without one member, the rest fall apart, as shown when Lucas and Isagani went through their journeys.
Ironically, Matteo has shown the best character development of the rest. His individual journey makes sense. He may not be the brightest of the siblings and his hatred seems illogical but this was due to how he was brought up by Menandro.
The September 25th episode showed us the culmination of his development. Having been made insane by Catalina using drugs, he lost his will to live. His insecurity was replaced by absolute surrender to his basic instincts. However, when he confronted Dulce, he showed her how her own failures to win over Isagani reveal her failure as a person overall. Such a moment could not be possible without episodes upon episodes of well-established character progression. Marco Gumabao fleshes out this morally-conflicted young man into a potential model for teleseryes to follow in the line of anti-heroic protagonists.
One of the series' greatest weaknesses is its cast of antagonists. Menandro could have worked as a mastermind but his constant failures reveal how ineffective he is in the role. Even the short-lived Gigi managed to weaken the Cardinals for a longer period using Lucas. Dulce's character development went down the drain when she suddenly turned evil and felt that the Cardinals took everything from her, even after all the good deeds they did for her.
Catalina is a terrible villain. Not only does she constantly scream like a maniac but she has wasted countless opportunities to directly attack her opponents, all for the sake of her sadism. Worse of all, as the final villain, her endgame was a torture chamber for the Cardinal women and a race against time before the Cardinal mansion takes out everyone inside, including herself. She killed Irma and Bert easily but took too long to end the Cardinals when there were other ways to easily subdue them. Like discreetly plant bombs near the mansion. How could she not have done that much earlier and with so much secrecy. This does not even include the number of times she does not seem to notice traitors around her or to realize that mistreating her henchmen gets her nowhere. In the end, all she did was to set the stage for her own downfall without actually hurting the Cardinals as a whole.
Speaking of which, I feel that none of the villains actually lasting damage to the Cardinals. Even when the deaths of Sita and Isagani's foster parents were traumatic to their loved ones, they were not able to effectively disrupt the relationship that they intended to break.
These villains pale in comparison to the schemes of Hector from "Kadenang Ginto" and Tiago of "The General's Daughter", both of whom have managed to outwit so many characters they barely lost their key positions. Hector, in particular, has maintained his wealth in spite of the downfall of the two Mondragon families.
World Building and Dynamics
While I have been quite critical of the lack of "world" being built in the setting, there are aspects that can redeem that for me.
As I have stated, given the almost isolated location of a hacienda, we do not need to expand the world itself to accommodate the need for "worldbuilding" but the world should feel alive. How then can that happen?
Los Bastardos seems to work around it by not focusing so much on the setting but on the character dynamics and get a sense of their world. For example, we see Dianne as the everyday person living in the dangers faced by the Cardinals, who are the focal point of the world. Through her, we see how an ordinary person responds to their challenges and she does so with resilience. Her relationship with Lorenzo is a testament to how she, as the normal character, can adjust to change in a way that is worth admiring
Contribution to teleseryes
Aside from the character development of Matteo (and arguably Connor, though his journey is quite a common one), one can find that the teleserye has too many commonalities with the mainstream shows of today. There is one final note I can make of it, though, and it is that the show has impressed me on its resilience. In spite of production issues and a lackluster plot, it does capture my fancy and has drawn quite an audience in its last few weeks.
The journeys of the Cardinals are akin to our usual weekday teleserye habit. We see them go through challenges and get inspiration from them. Sure, most of our protagonists are from high states in society but there will always be a way for people to triumph. Resilience might just be the story's selling point.
© 2019 Mar Louie Vincent Reyes