Call me Eeyore.
Earlier tonight La Madrastra sputtered to a foregone conclusion with the blistering pace of a runaway snail.
Televisa decided almost at the last minute to extend the telenovela by another ten episodes. Now the sudden increase or decrease in the number of telenovela installments depending on the ratings is nothing new. In this case, though, the late decision seems to have caught the writers off guard and out of gas. Two weeks have passed since we learned the identity of the telenovela's secret assassin. Since then the show has been deflated of much of its dramatic tension.
Of course, everyone expected La Madrastra to have a happy ending. That is well and good. But no one who saw a lightning-paced mid-season episode of La Madrastra could have foreseen such a sloooooooooow finale.
Before I go any further I should warn you the following paragraphs contain explicit details of the final episode. If you don't want to know how it ends, then stop reading right now. Before you go any further, ask yourself do you really want to know the ending. Well, do you?
Are you sure?
Okay, if you insist. The only tense moment takes place at the very beginning of the show. Demetrio (whose identity as the real murderer was revealed two weeks ago) lurks in the office with gun in hand waiting for María's arrival. Demetrio is dressed in drag and sporting some impressively long red fingernails. María enters the office and Demetrio jumps out from the shadows. He points a gun at her and then locks the door. María tells Demetrio **You are ill. You need help.** Cut to the hallway where Angel, Demetrio's son, just happens to be passing by and hears the commotion. Angel believes María is inside and knocks on the door. María screams and Demetrio yells at her to shut up. Angel instantly catches on. He pleads with his father to open the door. Others arrive. Dramatic tension increases. A shot is fired.
Break for commercials.
Thankfully, Esteban arrives just in time to break down the door, wrestle the gun away from Demetrio and punch his lights out. The police take Demetrio to jail, but not before he curses Esteban's entire family.
Shortly afterwards, the entire cast troops over for the obligatory visit to the Basilica of the Our Lady of Guadalupe. No problem. Your life was just saved so you and your family go thank the Virgin. Makes sense. But, it does not need to be so dreadfully drawn out. No less than eleven members of the cast proceed to say 'thank you, Virgin Mary' in every conceivable way. One after another after another after another. I don't mean to begrudge the Virgin her prayers of thanks, but a slightly more creative approach is definitely in order.
No other surprises until everyone starts popping the question. Greco, the agronomist, asks Estrella to marry him. She says yes. Leonel asks Lupita, Greco's sister, to marry him. She, too, says yes. Hector decides he wants a church wedding for him and his pregnant fiancee, Vivian. The young and timid Angel decides he wants to wed his soulmate Alma. So the show ends with a quintuple wedding (Esteban says what-the-heck and decides to exchange vows with María) in Xochimilco, a sort-of Mexican Venice with sort-of Mexican gondolas. But before we see Fin on the screen we are given a quick peek at Demetrio in jail. **I will have my revenge**, he says. **Someday I will be set free and have my revenge.**
Cut back to the wedding party, blah, blah, blah followed by aerial shots of the Mexican gondolas and then The End.
Except that tomorrow night, Televisa will air "La
Madrastra - Años Despues." A one-hour show set sometime in the future.
about milking a cash cow.
PS I use asterisks rather than quotation marks because the dialogue I cite is an approximation and not a literal transcription. Maybe Bob Woodward should consider a similar approach for his books.
PPS If you are interested in learning more about the marketing of telenovelas to the Latino audience in the States, then consider reading the cover story I wrote for the May issue of Marketing y Medios.