HBOs Ingenious Los Espookys Bends a Broken World to the Goodwill of Its Weirdos

Explaining “Los Espookys” in words can be as tricky as high school pranksters on Halloween. Sure, writers could just copy and paste HBO’s official synopsis — “a group of friends turn their shared passion for horror into a peculiar business, providing horror to clients who need it” — but reading that perfectly accurate description is bound to elicit more questions than answers. What does “providing horror” mean? (It varies.) Who are these clients? (Just about everyone, from political leaders and celebrities to teachers and gravediggers.) How can four friends make a living in such a peculiar and particular field? (Don’t worry about it.)

Thankfully, Season 2 provides a typed out explanation for us. Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) is asked by his mother to consider hiring “the daughter of a woman I sometimes run into at the hair salon,” even though Los Espookys doesn’t need any extra help. Still, they agree to an “interview,” and Moníca Martínez comes prepared with a full Power Point presentation. After laying out her background, Moníca asks the key question, and comes prepared with an answer: “Who are Los Espookys?” It turns out the summary doesn’t even require words. Los Espookys are…

🎃 + 🦇 + ?

A jack-o’-lantern. A bat. A question mark. These are the ingredients that make up “Los Espookys,” and even without Moníca’s ensuing commentary — “you guys are so dark, so weird, so artsy” — it’s clear she’s stumbled upon the perfect way to summarize HBO’s wholly original and hysterically sublime comedy: by not summarizing it at all. “Los Espookys” is best as an experience; an experience as spooky and sweet as its two illustrative emojis, but the question mark, whether it represents the show’s larger mysteries or orchestrated unpredictability, is built in to its makeup as well. Together, they form a show that could go anywhere and does go everywhere, but that’s held in place by a guiding love for its winsome characters and their enticing business of horror.

And jack-o’-lanterns. And bats.

Season 2 picks up in the aftermath of last year’s telenovela twist, with Tati (co-creator, writer, and director Ana Fabrega), not Andrés (co-creator and writer Julio Torres), married to Juan Carlos (José Pablo Minor). The failed coupling of two successors to their respective empires — Juan Carlos is the descendant of cookie makers, and Andrés was set to inherit a chocolate company, before his refusal to wed angered his parents — has also created a silent tiff between co-workers, as Tati tries to emphasize her wifely accomplishments to her husband’s ex-boyfriend. But the steepest consequence to Andrés is that he’s homeless. Ousted from the mansion he was raised in, a cold world of friends’ couches and extra roommates awaits the moneyed idea man.

He does not respond well, but Andrés’ ongoing struggle to adapt creates dozens of outstanding jokes, either through his best guesses at “ordinary” behavior or Torres’ snooty reactions to middle-class society. Meanwhile, Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti) is still being chased by TV news producers intent on turning her into “the new Gregoria Santos,” while she tries to help her sister, Tati, adjust to married life. And Renaldo is haunted by visions of a dead beauty pageant winner, whose repeated interruptions make it difficult for him to help the many people asking for his assistance. (Andrés, his best friend, is staying with him, but there are soon more guests to accommodate.)

Horror gigs remain a highlight in “Los Espookys” Season 2. The team gets hired to create a friendly classroom monster, stage a dig site with sexuality-defining human remains, and plenty more. Each project illustrates how much can be accomplished on a low budget with a little ingenuity, both by the fictional Los Espookys characters and through “Los Espookys” very real and very talented craftspeople. Their unconventional plans are delightful to hear, just as the singular execution is a treat to watch unfold.

Ana Fabrega and Cassandra Ciangherotti in “Los Espookys”

Pablo Arellano Spataro / HBO

The horror business also accentuates the series’ benevolence. Some of Los Espookys’ clients are needy; they have nowhere else to turn, or need the impossible to become possible. But even for customers with selfish motivations, the team finds ways to use their talents for good. One job helps mourners find peace. Another is innocent enough, but makes sure the proper parties face their comeuppance. Mixing lighthearted tasks with easy-to-root-for patrons makes it easy to smile through entire episodes, but Season 2 does extend itself beyond pure frivolity, ever so briefly.

Fed up with the (fictional) country’s regressive president and sick of people who are all too happy to do nothing, Úrsula sets out to make sure the incumbent loses his upcoming election. “But Úrsula, politics don’t affect me,” Andrés complains, shortly after she’s cat-called by construction workers sporting sexist, governmental signs. Such juxtapositions are made explicit in “Los Espookys.” There’s no mistaking the negative effects a patriarchal ruling body has on women like Úrsula, just like there’s no way Andrés can avoid his complicity through ignorance. The season pits them on parallel tracks: one learning to take on greater responsibility demanded of someone who can see things clearly and make a difference, the other learning to accept the personal responsibility thrust upon all of us, individually. In the end, their separate journeys come together with the rest of the cast’s in ways both deliriously ludicrous and beautifully arranged.

“Los Espookys” is never preachy. Nor is it particularly optimistic. But the will of its characters is good, their bond to each other — and their work — is pure, and even in a world where “Roma” star Yalitza Aparicio guest stars as the actual moon(!!), the difference between right and wrong is plain as day. “Los Espookys” may be a difficult show to define, but it’s an easy show to appreciate.

Maybe, just maybe, 🎃 + 🦇 + ? = 🤣 ❤️ 🎭

Grade: A-

“Los Espookys” Season 2 premieres Friday, September 16 at 11 p.m. ET on HBO.

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