Why Los Bastardos' Story Feels Forced: A Teleserye Review
Los Bastardos starts with a bastard son of a hacendado, Don Roman Cardinal (played by Ronaldo Valdez), rising to prominence and father one son after the other after the supposed death of his beloved Soledad (Gloria Diaz) and their child.
Our male leads are as follows. We have the paragon Isagani, the long lost heir of the Cardinal empire. There is also Lucas, the youngest of the bastards and son of Don Roman's housekeeper, Sita. We also meet the antagonistic Matteo and Connor, sons of women who fell for Don Roman in their time of need. Matteo was the Cardinal son to Madeleine Silverio, who suffered under her harsh husband, Don Menandro. Matteo was reared as a child of spite. Connor's mother Pilar was Roman's friend but she was pushed away from Roman's life by Alba, the landowner's erstwhile spouse. Alba herself gave birth to Joaquin, who was meant to succeed in his father's distillery-based empire but his untimely death (and subsequent reveal of his true paternity) opened the floodgates to more conflicts. Matteo also becomes an active hindrance to the family. We also meet one more Cardinal, Lorenzo, who was motivated by a misinformed sense of vengeance but now joins his brothers.
Now you can see the web of the plot but a lot of the conflicts presented in the show feel somewhat forced. We will explore some of the problem areas but allow me to acknowledge a few of the show's good points.
Isagani the Paragon
Isagani can be considered the main protagonist because he fits the average teleserye male lead. He is a man from a less privileged background that discovers his more privileged heritage and uses the values he learns from the ground to succeed in life.
Normally, this would be too cliche and problematic but his traits are interesting. He loves family and is easily forgiving. This draws people to him but it makes him a martyr. He is the big brother that everyone looks up to. He is closest to Lucas, who shares in his groundedness and was able to see the good in Connor in spite of the many things he has done (including pretending to rape his future girlfriend Isay). However, it is this trait that frustrates Lorenzo and it brings us to the second trait that is interesting to look at, his morality. Isagani is treated as having the moral high ground and it certainly gives Los Bastardos a bit of a theme revolving around the need to weigh between justice and mercy. Unfortunately, Isagani focuses so much of himself on mercy that he emphasizes on the potential good of a person over the greater harm he has already inflicted. For Connor, Lucas and Lorenzo, Matteo, their brother, has gone too far. Even Soledad felt that he could never come back.
Matteo the Difficult Prodigal Son
I emphasize on the difficult not only because he is a terrible person at heart but because of how frustrating of a character he is.
For starters, he really has no reason to spite his brothers, other than having gone too far.on the deep end. He hates his sister, Dulce, even though she does so much good for him. He does have moments of realization, such as when he mourned for Sita's death. He had originally plotted to use a bomb at the entrance of Lorenzo's resort to scare the Cardinals but due to Menandro's interference, the bomb sets off inside the building and killed people, such as Lucas' mother.
While one would condemn him for being an idiot, he possesses enough of a conscience to show empathy for those he has wronged, especially when they have done him good. If Matteo finds his redemption, it might involve telling the truth behind Sita's death and opening his heart to his family.
The Antagonists and Why Conflicts Feel Forced
Let us kick off with something that many viewers might have noticed.
When Joaquin (Diego Loyzaga) dies, everything sudden changes. Joaquin is no longer Don Roman's true son but a bastard from another man with Alba. This is immediately shafted, along with Alba turning into a delusional lunatic.
This is the first serious issue Los Bastardos faces: antagonists. After Joaquin's death, Alba, the supposed main antagonist, lost her prestige in her mad quest to end the illusion of Soledad (and is proven, as Soledad is alive all along). Menandro took over but even he grew weaker when Gigi, Matteo's ex-girlfriend, took over. While shifting conditions among antagonists can create some meaningful chaos, it must not come at the expense of character building. As of right now, there is a new antagonist introduced, Catalina, the sister of Menandro. Did anyone expect her to exist? Their connection to the bandits in Episode 1 is interesting but let us hope Catalina is not another carbon copy of the other villains.
As Loyzaga exited abruptly early in the story, it seemed that Los Bastardos lost its narrative cohesion. It returns to its plot of returning the lost sons of Cardinal back home yet even that is delayed several times. Matteo had many opportunities to repent, especially when he was accused of Sita's murder. His unwillingness to cooperate and even his plot to ruin the Cardinals from within borders on the ridiculous. Sure, this fit his character somewhat but his schemes only devolve Matteo into another Alba, an antagonist whose only drive is hate that goes nowhere.
Even the conflicts among the protagonists are off. Lorenzo begins the story as an antagonist and feels really evil even though we know he is Isagani's full brother and at the same time, the son of the woman Roman loved dearly. Yet he is strongly convinced that Roman had Soledad killed on purpose, when in fact it was Alba's doing. His lack of clear information is not the problem. His very existence is. How could Soledad still carry a child without that being set up at the beginning. His addition felt forced. Furthermore, his introduction sparks a lot of unnecessary tension among the characters.
The second and most glaring problem lies in the current tension between Dulce and Lorenzo. Dulce has been shafted as well but not as awfully as Alba. She went from Isagani's princess to Lorenzo's through a breakup that could be considered somewhat contrived. With Isagani being with friendzoned Isay and Lorenzo moving to Dulce's heart, it all feels too convenient. And it is sad to see such a strong woman wasted. This worsens when Dulce admits that she does not know what Matteo has been up to after his latest escape, which should have been enough. In spite of this, Lorenzo forces her to cooperate and this creates more tension that was not needed and a possible opening for our new antagonist to coax her to her side, seeing that Dulce is in fact her daughter.
This can come out as messy. We are seeing the results of prolonged conflicts that may amount to nothing in terms of character development.
Los Bastardos still has some room to improve its plot. While it works as a character piece, a lot of the conflict should come off as reasonably expected of its characters and not at the expense of their overall development. Nevertheless, the series might still surprise us with more revelations.