Final Thoughts: “Locked Up” (Series Three)

The third series of the popular Spanish show sees Macarena Ferreiro (Maggie Civantos), her old nemesis Zulema Zahir (Najwa Nimri), several inmates of Cruz Del Sur prison, and disgraced former lawyer Mercedes (Ruth Díaz), transfer to new prison Cruz Del Norte where, before long, they come into conflict with the ruling Chinese gang, led by the vicious Akame (Huichi Chiu), as well as the commanding, authoritative and brutal chief jailer Altagracia (Adriana Paz). When a guard is brutally murdered by Akame’s gang, this sets of a long chain of events that sees the Chinese inmates using the frightened Mercedes to locate a container filled with money and as the original group of inmates starts thinning out, the ruthless Zulema continues to make plans for yet another escape.

Maca, Mercedes and Akame

So far, Locked Up has been one of the very best shows that the streaming service Walter Presents has given to us and I found the first two series to be absolutely phenomenal – solid five star series that are as good as any highly acclaimed crime drama out there today. So when the third series FINALLY hit UK screens, this was of course a source of great excitement for me and really hoped that this would be yet another five star series.

And having now seen it, I’d say that it doesn’t quite reach the incredibly high standard left by its two predecessors as it isn’t as epic or as genuinely thrilling as it could have been but nonetheless, the third series of Locked Up is still a fantastic crime drama series with excellent characters and a (mostly) engrossing storyline and I’d wager that it’s better than most shows that we could come up with over here.

Cruz Del Sur OGs: Saray, Curly, Antonia and Tere

Starting off with one of the show’s biggest assets, the characters of Locked Up are incredibly colourful, memorable and just so well developed and fleshed out. Having now fully completed her three season journey from “sheep to wolf”, Maca Ferreiro shows herself to be the new queen bee of the Cruz Del Sur OGs and though she may have started off as the naive, easily frightened, doe eyed blonde, she enters this series as a bona fide badass and takes no prisoners as she (misguidedly) takes on the ruling Chinese gang, throwing her weight around as the leader, and as always, Maggie Civantos is a really great fit in the role. We also have the original “family” that consists of Saray (Alba Flores), Curly (Berta Vázquez), Sole (María Isabel Díaz Lago), Tere (Marta Aledo), Antonia (Laura Baena) and even the sadistic Anabel (Inma Cuevas) and by this point, we’ve surely come to see them as a close knit group and through the series, they share some marvellous chemistry as, when they’re not in danger, we see them joking, laughing and dancing with each other in the very effective “interview” segments and all in all, this is a truly wonderful group of characters who we can really support and enjoy spending time with, criminals though they are.

And then of course, there’s the incomparable Zulema who is perhaps given more of the limelight this time around. Zulema has always been a conflicted character – often appearing as the main antagonist but sometimes appearing sympathetic and supportive – and this series is no different, having her commit some truly terrible crimes in order to gain her freedom but we also learn a little more about her childhood and she also appears as “one of the gang” when squaring off against the other villains of the series – especially apparent when the central group of inmates band together to save her from Akame because “Zulema may be a bitch, but she’s OUR bitch!” Zulema continues to be a magnificent character – ruthless, darkly funny, manipulative, dangerous, smart and fully able to see several moves ahead – and Najwa Nimri plays her like no-one else possibly could.

Altagracia and Zulema

What’s particularly amazing is that many of the supporting characters are given their own side stories and this excellent writing and commitment to character development is what makes Locked Up so special. In this series, Saray deals with her pregnancy (courtesy of the evil Dr. Sandoval) and her family’s subsequent disowning of her as well as her tumultuous relationship with her best friend Zulema, her loyalties in serious question, Curly gets a new love interest with a terminally ill detective, Sole faces the aftermath of her husband’s murder and being named as a suspect in his death, the cruel Anabel finds herself out of her depth when she tussles with Akame’s criminal operations, and Antonia continues to worry about the prospect of Tere slipping back into drug use.

But don’t get too attached to the characters because not all of them make it and this series makes some unexpectedly drastic changes by writing many characters out of the show. Dark.

As for the new additions, Adriana Paz is excellent as chief jailer Altagracia; many of the early episodes show her to be remarkably cruel, confident and unrelenting – especially in a thrilling showdown set in a rainstorm and in a gripping confrontation with Maca and Zulema – but she also changes throughout the series and becomes much more of a conflicted and perhaps even a supportable addition. Ruth Díaz takes over the role of the “rabbit in the headlights prisoner” – a role taken by Maca in S1 and Bambi in S2 – and is good in her role of Mercedes, Huichi Chiu is appropriately nasty as main antagonist Akame, though she doesn’t reach the same level of wickedness as Sandoval, Zulema or Anabel, and the actors who play the new Cruz Del Norte prisoners are welcome additions as well.

As before, Locked Up has an engrossing and enjoyable storyline that gifts the audience with plenty of nail biting dramatic scenes that could rival most of those in many mainstream drama series and what’s also admirable is that it’s able to include plenty of humour and maybe even romance as, in amongst all the murder, kidnapping, abuse and serious mortal danger, characters are able to have a laugh and joke around, as well as falling in love and baring their souls, resulting in a very well rounded series that shows off its remarkably strong writing and winning creativity. But as this is the shortest series so far at only eight episodes (S1 ran for 16 episodes, S2 for an epic 19), the series doesn’t have quite the same power or “epicness” that its predecessors had – it’s a little less of a “saga” – and it doesn’t quiiiiiite thrill or take one’s breath away as the first two seasons did. Probably because the other series spoiled us so much and set the benchmark pretty darn high! It’s also a shame that we didn’t see more of Dr. Sandoval or of prison governor Miranda, since the second series ended with the horrible doctor succeeding in his evil scheme to essentially take over the prison by having Miranda kicked out, but in this series, he only shows up for a guest appearance in one episode. Oh well, maybe he’ll return in series four?

On a technical level, Locked Up really excels because the series looks gorgeous as the cinematography and overall design is immaculate, all episodes are ideally directed, and the music is better than it’s ever been – using different choral variations of the main theme, often using a quicker tempo to really increase the tension and to effectively convey a sense of danger.

And we get to see much more of those black prison uniforms and, as it was in series two, they’re completely badass.

Maca and Zulema: Bad girls for life

Though it somewhat falls short of the standards left by the previous two series, the third season of Locked Up is nonetheless a dark, engrossing and highly enjoyable drama with impeccable design and many incredible, fully developed characters.

★ ★ ★ ★

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