Panic is the name of the game on this week’s sexy and tragic installment of Now and Then on Apple TV.
Flora’s losing her grip on the investigation — and her own moral authority. Hugo’s in a coma, Marcos is being bugged, Pedro and Ana are looking down the barrel of an audit and jail time (and that’s not even for the killing).
The show’s balance of murder, mayhem, bedroom-hopping and politics has been at a low boil all season, and it looks like it may be ready to blow its top and spill all over the kitchen floor.
Now and Then recap: ‘Face to Face’
Season 1, episode 5: In this week’s episode of Now and Then, titled “Face to Face,” Hugo (played by Matt Mitchell) has just crashed his car. He did this, we now learn, because his stepmother, Daniela (Soledad Villamil), finally admitted that she killed his real mom (Ella Galt) 20 years ago.
That crash also claimed the life of Daniela’s friend Alejandro (Jorge López), and gave her fodder to successfully blackmail her friends and accomplices, Pedro (José María Yazpik), Ana (Marina de Tavira), Sofia (Maribel Verdú) and Marcos (Manolo) Cardona). Hugo called detective Flora Neruda (Rosie Perez) to confess something but crashed before he could.
A rough patch for Pedro
At the same time, Pedro the politician has his own headaches beyond just blackmail and theft. He’s rehearsing with his new press liaison, Francis Marwen (Jimmy Shaw). But Pedro can’t concentrate. He stole money from friends — and his own campaign.
Debate prep is going to have to wait, because Pedro’s under an inordinate amount of pressure. His secret boyfriend and campaign manager Ernesto (Eduardo Noriega) feels like he’s being pushed out. Ernesto never liked that Ana played such an active role in the campaign. But now that he’s being challenged by Francis, he’s getting it from both sides. Plus, Pedro is shrinking from his responsibilities to everybody.
Add the fact that the feds know his campaign books are cooked, and Pedro’s in full-on panic attack mode.
.. and some underhanded spying
Marcos is also sweating. His dad, Arturo (Victor Mallarino), is trying to sell the clinic where Marcos works. But since hiring Sofia as his lawyer, Marcos has found a little spine to actually stand up to the old man.
Their little victory is cut short because Flora’s listening in on the wire, and Sofia finds the wire. Now they know they’re being spied on, and soon they’re going to know that they’re being spied on without a warrant, and they’re going to find out that Marcos’ fiancé, Isabel (Juana Acosta), let them in. Everybody’s going down and it’s going to be messy.
Flora calls in Pedro, Ana, Sofia and Marcos to tell them that Hugo blackmailed them. None of them confesses. So Flora decides she’s going to play hardball, because if she doesn’t she’s going to lose her job.
She tells Isabel about Marcos and Sofia’s affair, and the scorned woman goes home, cleans out her closet, and leaves. The four conspirators meet up after their solo interrogations, and Marcos and Sofia tell Ana and Pedro about the bugs.
As Ana comforts her husband, she flashes back to when she was a teen, still sleeping with Alejandro. She and Pedro both know that their union only happened because Alejandro died. But she’s made her choice and she’s sticking with Pedro no matter what. So when she gives the FBI Ernesto’s ledgers and they cart him off to jail, Pedro isn’t surprised. However, he is crestfallen. Not even winning his mayoral debate elevates his mood.
But there’s still one last reveal up Now and Then’s sleeve. There’s another conspirator in the blackmail scheme.
Great acting from the younger characters
A brief word about the game work from Jorge López and the actors playing Young Pedro (Dario Yazbek Bernal) and Young Ana (Alicia Jaziz). The younger cast are all great on this show, even if they don’t get quite as many opportunities to shine as their older counterparts.
I was particularly taken with Jaziz, who navigates a million conflicting emotions in about five minutes of screen time. The grief-stricken teens finding romantic and emotional comfort in each other as they’re committing to a lifetime of lies is a pretty resonant scene.
Everyone’s had small doses of doing the right thing at the wrong time. One of this show’s virtues is that it’s earnestly interested in exploring what happens when your life has to be defined by moments like this.
The big lie makes for a shaky foundation
Even discounting the ways in which Ana, Pedro, Sofia and Marcos are ruining each other’s lives now that they’re back near each other, their whole foundation was built on the biggest lie of their lives. So yes, it’s natural that they’ve learned to cover up big lies with white lies. But it also means that every emotional high — every bit of clarity, no matter how hard-won — is undercut at every turn by the fact that nothing of substance in their lives is on solid ground.
Pedro can’t complain about Ernesto going to jail because his wife did it for his campaign and their family. He can’t tell anyone he was sleeping with Ernesto, he can’t tell anyone his wife set up his campaign manager, he can’t tell anyone he stole money from two different sources, he can’t tell anyone he’s having panic attacks .
Now and Then does a marvelous job at once offering sympathy for these characters (who remain human thanks to the performances and direction – they did a great job focusing in on Pedro with the editing and blocking this week) while also allowing us to enjoy a world with no moral order. Pretty sharp.
Watch Now and Then on Apple TV+
New episodes of Now and Then Fridays arrive on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.