“The Horror of Dolores Roach” boasts a great cast ready to bite into the show’s bloody premise, but its tone shifts into systemic problems and landing a second season ruin a potentially good single season.

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Plot Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers.


“The Horror of Dolores Roach” is a clever, ambitious, and possibly even gorier reimagining of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” But instead of a barber slitting throats, we have Dolores breaking necks. Instead of juicy mincemeat pies, we have mouth-watering empanadas. The series’ diverse cast makes the dark comedy and drama spring to life, and the Washington Heights setting adds a layer of charm and claustrophobia to the story. Unfortunately for Dolores, the show’s tonal shifts into telling a contemporary message and landing a second season ruin a potentially good single season.


Dolores is searching for a new life after spending 16 years in prison for selling weed. She returns to her old Washington Heights neighborhood, but it’s become gentrified to the point of non-recognition. One thing that has stayed the same is Empanada Loca, an empanada restaurant that she used to frequent. The restaurant is run by Luis, one of the few remaining locals in the neighborhood. He’s so kind to Dolores that he allows her to stay in the restaurant’s basement to start her massage business.

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Dolores Roach (Justina Machado) after her first kill.

Just as Dolores starts making money for massages, Luis’ landlord comes and demands thousands of dollars, or he’ll evict everyone. In a moment of rage, Dolores murders the landlord on top of her massage chair. She’s initially stunned by her own actions and doesn’t know what to do with the body. But when Dolores returns to the empanada restaurant, there is strangely a new empanada being served, and the body is missing.

A horrified Dolores realizes that Luis is serving human meat as the new empanada.

While Luis sees a new business opportunity, Dolores sees her pathway to change slowly dwindling. As Empanada Loca gains more business and popularity, Dolores gains more enemies who grow increasingly suspicious of changes at the restaurant. As the suspicions grow, so do the bodies.

“The Horror of Dolores Roach” is a fantastic title that conjures up dramatic images of the macabre. The story comes to life when it explores death and leans into its black humor and gory premise. But the series is also intent on connecting its dark premise to current events and a critique of our justice system, so the emotion feels shoehorned in, and the social commentary seems shallow. Like “Sweeney Todd,” the tension in the show builds to operatic and gory heights, but the series is weighed down by trying to explore the possibility that Dolores is a victim of circumstance.

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Luis (Alejandro Hernandez) arguing with his landlord (Marc Maron).


Our Rating: Mixed (Stick Around)

Who Is This For?

People seeking more Latin representation in media will enjoy the mainly Black and Latin cast of “The Horror of Dolores Roach.” The show will especially appeal to fans of the original Broadway show, podcast, and anyone who has followed Justina Machado’s career.

Notable Performances, Moments, or Episodes

Justina Machado and Alejandro Hernandez, as Dolores and Luis, pack each scene with plenty of flavor. As the two characters’ lives and schemes become more entwined, the actor’s playful power dynamics rise and fall between dark comedy and raw pathos for the traps they built for themselves. There’s sexual tension, screwball comedy, gore, and clear care for one another within each scene they share. The two of them together make the show feel as if it’s a Broadway production taking place in your living room.

Episodes to Anticipate:

1.3: “Like a Stoned-Ass Baby”- The show’s murder and mayhem kick the series into a more frantic and fun gear.
1.6: “Blink Twice”- A guest appearance by Cyndi Lauper always provides color, but this episode also features the best and most violent slapstick comedy.
1.7 “Bye, Felicia”- The walls start closing in on all of our characters.


The Chemistry Between the Main Cast

Since the story was adapted from a Broadway production, the blocking and staging of these sets allow for constant new and delightful combinations and scenes of actors. Many of these fresh-faced actors (like Kita Updike and Ilan Eskenazi) handle each scene like veterans, and the veterans (like K. Todd Freeman and Alejandro Hernandez) get a chance to shine. The ensemble props each other up to provide laughs and risks throughout the season.

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The cast (especially Justina Machado and Alejandro Hernandez) flex their comedic and dramatic chops.

Low Points

The Meta Ending 

Just as “The Horror of Dolores Roach” is about to end, the last five minutes take a jarring and frustrating shift to the framing of the Broadway production of “The Horror of Dolores Roach.” While the premiere shows that Dolores is telling her own story, the show winks and makes jokes about its own production. Without explaining how Dolores escaped from death or prison, Dolores takes the show creator hostage to find her ex-lover who sent her to prison (another strange subplot that never fully pays off). The last 5 minutes pack in a lot without explaining much and provide no closure to the story the viewer witnessed for the last seven episodes.

On The Fence

Social Issues Create Clunky Tone Shifts and Pacing Issues

A woman goes on a murder spree, and the bodies get turned into empanadas. The synopsis for “The Horror of Dolores Roach” show takes three episodes to tell that sentence and spends time exploring empathy for Dolores and her situation. She’s a victim of outdated and unjust drug laws and is isolated by the gentrification in her city. How this leads to multiple murders and cannibalism is a stretch that the show continues to try to work into each episode. “Dolores” would work better as a satire than a heartfelt glance of Dolores feeling horrible about killing people. The empathy rings false when there are jokes about death and cutting up bodies within each episode, and providing no insightful or in-depth glance at the systemic problems hurting Dolores is neglectful and, at worst, makes a mockery of those issues when telling a story about people being chopped up and eaten.

What I Hope To See

“The Horror of Dolores Roach” kills off most of its cast by the end but leaves the door open to more mayhem. The show currently attempts a difficult balance of giving brief attention to systemic problems as a reason why Dolores started to kill, but it should embrace its theatrical flourishes and set its sights on targeting actual people in power rather than small-time crooks and wrongdoers on the streets of Washington Heights.

General Information

Network Prime Video
Genre(s) Comedy




Noted Characters
Dolores Roach Justina Machado
Luis Batista Alejandro Hernandez
Nellie Kita Updike
Jeremiah K. Todd Freeman
Jonah Ilan Eskenazi


What is “The Horror of Dolores Roach” rated?

“The Horror of Dolores Roach” is rated TV-MA for graphic gore, violence, drug use, strong profanity, and sex. If you can handle seeing dismembered body parts and a guy eating his own semen, look no further than “The Horror of Dolores Roach.”

How does “The Horror of Dolores Roach” end? 

The first season ends in a bloody battle as Dolores has no choice but to kill Jonah. As Nellie, Jeremiah, and the rest of the neighborhood start to demand answers to all the missing people, Luis frames Nellie for the murders and kills Jeremiah. Dolores is sickened by Luis’ actions and kills him in return. While she escapes using Jeremiah’s food delivery truck, she somehow finds her way to the theater production of her life. Dolores then demands the production’s creator to take her to her ex-lover’s house and kill him. 

Has “The Horror of Dolores Roach” Been Renewed?

While the show has not been renewed yet, creator Aaron Mark is hopeful that the show will continue and has a second season drafted. 

Where can I find more information about the cast and characters?

Check out “The Horror of Dolores Roach” Cast and Character Guide here.

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The Horror of Dolores Roach (2023): Season 1 – Summary and Review (with Spoilers)
The tension in "The Horror of Dolores Roach" builds to operatic and gory heights, but the series is weighed down by trying to score a second and season and saying that Dolores is a victim of circumstance.
Community Rating0 Votes
The Chemistry Between the Main Cast
Social Issues Create Clunky Tone Shifts and Pacing Issues
The Meta Ending Focuses on Jokes and Future Storylines Instead of Providing Closure

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