Siempre Bruja (Always A Witch) makes one too many missteps to be forgiven for and wastes the handful of good things it had going for it.
|Creator||Ana Maria Parra|
|Good If You Like||Shows Which Seem Like They Are From 90s Network TV|
|Isn’t For You If You||Like Shows Which Are Politically Correct|
Don’t Like Shows With A Villain In The Style of Adam West’s Take On Joker
|Aldemar||Luis Fernando Hoyos|
|Braulio||Jhon Alex Castillo|
Carmen is a Cuban born, but Cartagena, Colombia living slave who makes a deal with the wizard Aldemar to save her slave master/ boyfriend Cristobal from death. You see, in defending her, trying to stop her for being persecuted for being a witch, which she is, he was shot. So, to keep that from happening, Carmen made a deal to head into the future, 2019 to be exact, and deliver a stone to a woman named Ninibe. Said woman, a witch, would then work on free Aldemar and sending Carmen back into, more than capable of saving and protecting Cristobal.
However, what Carmen didn’t know when she signed up for all this was Ninibe and Aldemar were at war with someone, and Carmen became a pawn. Said war, against a being named Lucien, has been long and arduous. Yet, while a pawn, in the beginning, Carmen tips the scale and becomes the deciding factor in who wins and who dies.
It Had Potential
Even with the negative aspects noted below, there were times throughout the season it could have turned things around. For example, with Carmen coming to the future and seeing the freedom women have, education and more, it could have led her to realize her relationship with Cristobal may have been more complicated than she took note of. A slave falling in love with the master’s son? She could have learned about Stockholm Syndrome, read great tragedies, since Carmen could read and was quite educated for someone enslaved, and questioned that relationship. Thus fixing the central issue of the series.
Also, just the culture shock alone could have been something. A witch, a dark skin person, someone who was enslaved, coming into a world where she is not only free, but there is some form of equality in place. The commentary that could have came about in terms of how Colombia changed since the 1600s could have given the show the ability to speak about the culture and how Colombia transformed over hundreds of years. Heck, considering we get to see an Afro-Latin area in modern day, it would have been interesting to see Carmen attempt to find people who look like her. Especially since, when in modern times, she doesn’t speak to anyone close to her complexion who is given a name.
Leaving one last thing, considering Carmen had African origins, and her magic came from passed down witches and wizards dating back to the nation her family was sold from, there was that history. Magic in African nations could have been spoken about, the mysticism, and how it was used in practical, healing ways, and perhaps used as a defense, when possible. Yet, still acknowledging that while the power is strong, being away from the source weakened everyone’s magic – or something like that.
It’s 2019 & People Are Still Trying To Make A Slave Owner and Slave Capable of Being Romantic?
Honestly, it was impossible to get past the idea the person who purchased her she fell in love with. Especially since Cristobal didn’t say or do anything which made you fall for him. There is this attempt at a grand gesture, by having him die for her, but then you come to question if maybe he fetishized her being a slave. Alongside that, considering the show has a minimal amount of people Carmen’s complexion, with named characters and lines, and the only love interests she has don’t look like her, so begins the need to wonder if Carmen, if not casting, was color struck?
From there, more and more issues roll out with what is the root to the whole show and it makes every time Carmen seems like she is through with Cristobal something to celebrate. Yet, with her being dragged back in, it becomes clear Parra had some weird agenda that you likely wouldn’t want to hear explained.
The Fight Against Evil, And The Villians Themselves, Were Weak
Let’s take into consideration that no matter how powerful a witch is said to be, someone without notable magic finds a way to defeat them in this show. Also, the villains we get are not treated to be consistently formidable and fearsome. In a way, they are kind of dainty and like most of the people cast, seemingly hired because they are attractive and can remember their lines over anything else. Thus ruining what could have been one of the saving graces of the show.
While Starring A Dark Skinned Afro-Latina, It Isn’t For Those Who Look Like Carmen
As noted in the “Highlights,” Carmen is one of the few dark-skinned characters in the show. The only other one is Hilda, and she doesn’t contribute all that much to Siempre Bruja. This creates a bit of an issue since that is probably the main draw here – at least, based on the trailer, I’d think for many that was the selling point. So for most of the dark-skinned Afro-Latin characters to be slaves in the past, and not have speaking roles in present day, it brings about the feeling that Americans are being introduced to the BS that Afro-Latin people deal with regularly.
On The Fence
The Supporting Characters
While some characters had a potentially interesting story, like Ximena and Lucho, they are just in one episode. Then, for those we see long term, such as Leon, the reveal of their past is as anti-climatic as the reveal of who Lucien is on the show. But, when it comes to Paula, Carmen’s mom, and Braulio, her uncle, these are characters who seem worth investing in. For unlike the others which fall in love with their brothers in law, and your basic, but still odd, teen drama issues, those two present something unique and interesting. Granted, they are barely in the show, since they fail the paper bag test, but they make the scenes they are in worth something. Especially in terms of boosting what it meant to be a Black witch and carry traditions from generation to generation, from western Africa to their present day.
Overall: Negative (Niche Show)
I can only fathom when Siempre Bruja (Always A Witch) was created, it wasn’t looked at in terms of what it could do internationally. That might be the only reason why it seems a bit tone deaf compared to how Netflix decided to market it. For with Carmen being in love with the man who bought her, very little focus on what it meant to be Afro-Latina, especially in the modern age, and acting and writing that seems geared towards the 90s, there is minimal to praise here. You have to admire the potential, that’s for sure, but what is potential unmet besides a disappointment?
Hence the negative label. Siempre Bruja (Always A Witch) feels like a bait and switch, like they wanted to use the allure of Carmen as a dark-skinned, Afro-Latina, to be a Trojan Horse for what you likely always see in Latin American shows. Leaving you feeling bamboozled, especially as the show acknowledges, towards the end, what it could have done, and feeling like you wasted your time watching this.
Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Not Yet
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|Season/ Episode||Synopsis||Director, Writer, and Introduced Actors||Topics & Focused Characters|
|Season 1, Episode 10 "The Final Trip" [Season Finale]||As the show has been lackluster, so is its ending which sets up a second season which could begin with some hijinks.|
|Season 1, Episode 9 "The Time Portal"||As Lucien waits in a cell, Johnny and everyone contemplates how to speak, even physically get to Carmen. Someone who is in a world of trouble.|
|Season 1, Episode 8 "1646"||With a taste of what the future holds, it seems Carmen returning to the past is bittersweet and makes things with Cristobal complicated.|
|Season 1, Episode 7 "Lucien"||Carmen finally faces off against Lucien and both who he is, and who Aldemar is, you probably have guessed already.|
|Season 1, Episode 6 "The Ritual of Forgetting"||Leon’s secrets come out as Cristobal tries to make a deal with Aldemar and, in return, Aldemar does something sinister.|
|Season 1, Episode 5 "The Festival of Candela"||We get to learn about Carmen’s parents this episode, Alicia’s brother, and get a vibe there might be a new sense of urgency.|
|Season 1, Episode 4 “Stolen Shadow, Witch Forgotten”||Siempre Bruja (Always A Witch) may finally be building up steam after Johnny does something stupid and Esteban begins seeming rather suspicious.|
|Season 1, Episode 3 “Ouija”||The ghost of Lucien finally appears, and we check in on Aldemar, who gets a surprise visitor.|
|Season 1, Episode 2 “A University Witch”||While Lucien remains to be seen, and Ninibé is still AWOL, Carmen stalks Alicia and someone discovers her truth.|
|Season 1, Episode 1 “A Leap In Time”||Siempre Bruja (Always A Witch) gives us that long desired focus on a Black witch but complicates things with her loving her master and a war between warlocks.|