There are very few writers who are able to incorporate the back story, the side plots and the sub-histories, all in one piece of art. An act by a single person or community, doesn’t just impact themselves, but humanity as a whole. On a smaller circle, their actions impact their family, relatives, friends and neighbors. It is, however, impossible to trace all the impacts, created by a singular event, but any story that dares to do that, should be applauded. A 2020 Spanish Historical Drama, Patria (TV Series) is among one of those narrative, that follows a widow’s life who comes back to her hometown to find out the truth about her husband’s murder.
Patria (TV Series) holds 8 episodes of one hour each, created by Aitor Gabilondo for HBO Europe. The TV Series is based on the novel of the same name written by Spanish writer, Fernando Aramburu. It involves a terrorist attack but it is not a violent American Drama with lots of police and actions. On the contrary, it showcases the impact of radicalism on the families of the people. Whether one supports a certain belief or not, if they live in a certain society, their lives ought to be impacted and that is what happens in Patria (TV Series).
It begins with a spine-chilling scene that is going to become the core subject matter of the whole series. An old man, Txato (José Ramón Soroiz) is shot dead in front of his house in a small town in Basque Country. Txato’s wife, Bittori (Elena Irureta) witnesses the scene from the window and comes running to escort her husband, but it’s too late.
Few years later, Bittori comes back to their hometown and sitting in front of the grave of her late husband, she expresses her urge to find out who really shot her husband. Everyone in town is pretty distressed with Bittori’s arrival, however, the most affected is her own best friend, Miren (Ane Gabarain).
Miren and Bittori, were once close friends but due to spread of radical ideologies by a Basque separatist group ETA, their relationship was screwed up. Bittori and her husband, Txato were considered outsiders/traitors in the Basque country, just like Jews were to the Germans. However, that is not an end to the friction between the two ladies. Miren’s eldest son, Joxe Mari (Jon Olivares) was a prominent member of ETA, and was suspected of killing Bittori’s husband.
The narrative recounts the events of past and present, as it connects the thread between the major characters, and how a single killing impacted all the lives. Bittori in the center, tries to find the real truth about her husband’s murder, before she can finally rest.
Many Drama Films or Series that underlines the cause and effects of a terror/radical attack majorly explores the tragic life of either the police or the attackers. Patria (TV Series) stands out because it uncovers the effect on the life of it’s two main protagonists, Miren and Bittori. How these two ladies handle their families and everyone around after the aftermath of the attack is explored throughout. Thus, there aren’t any violent action sequences or run and chase, but a slow drama that unveils the life of these two friends turned foe women.
Ironically, neither Miren and Bittori caused any action that leads to a tragedy nor they could have done anything to stop it, yet their lives are impacted the most, because one is the wife of the victim and the other is the mother of the accused.
In a world, obsessed with teeny drama and TV soaps, Patria (TV Series) sets an outstanding standard.
Mother Against a Wife
A single point of view narrative, following a single protagonist might end up creating an opinion for the other one. However, Patria (TV Series) has two main characters, and it equally exhibits the life of both. Even if you try, you won’t be able to judge, who is right or wrong, because each of them is the victim and each of them is the accused. Writing such a balanced narrative is an impossible task, but screenwriter Aitor Gabilondo, and the novel Fernando Aramburu have done it with utmost perfection.
Miren and Bittori, both have their reasons to defend their families, and accuse each other. However, Bittori could be said to have an upper platform as she hasn’t come back to avenge the murder of her husband. She seeks forgiveness from the accused, which is the only thing that is going to provide peace to her distressed soul.
Anything extreme is disastrous. Whether you follow capitalism or radicalism, it is your own ideology. When you try to impose that on the people and disturb harmony, it becomes inhumane. Patria (TV Series) explores this theme. It makes political comments without taking sides. It is the mark of a genius writing which gives you thoughts to explore, but doesn’t impose it on you. Any great piece of literature or film, teaches peace and harmony, and requests us to be neutral which is our natural state. Patria sure ticks all those checkboxes brilliantly. It narrates the wrongdoings of ETA, and the Spanish Government equally, where one fights the other, violently. Hence, it remarks that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind, and there won’t be any peace left.
The actions of the Government and Separatist Group cause turmoil in the lives of people of Basque Country, who haven’t done anything to deserve it.
Brother – Sister Relationship
In most good writings, there is always a character who signifies the writer itself. In Patria (TV Series), it is Miren’s middle daughter Arantxa whose story arc supports both sides of the story yet doesn’t constrain herself to any. In the beginning of the series, Arantxa is on a wheelchair, paralyzed. Thus, it might be a symbolism that people who want to preach are always muted first, by god, nature or people. Arantxa’s character serves as the bridge between all the conflicted characters, especially to Miren and Bittori. Even though she is paralyzed, she stands as a high stature or God figure, who can’t do anything directly, but is observing everything around. When she finally uses the power vested in her hands, she makes the correct decision that brings back harmony in each one’s life.
Arantxa’s character resonates with Bittori, as they both are the victims of the circumstances. Like Bittori, Arantxa hasn’t done anything wrong to deserve paralysis. In one of the most emotional scenes, Arantxa even communicates to her prisoned brother,
“You have your prison and I have mine. My body is mine, I got sentenced for life. There is another difference between you and me, you’re there because of what you did, but what I have done to deserve this?”
Arantxa voices the conflict of the whole series, which the creators want to highlight. What normal peaceful people have done to deserve loss and tragedy, while two extremists (Government and Protesters) fight. Plotting a character like Arantxa is difficult to execute as it is very poetic in nature, though the creators of Patria (TV Series) have done a marvelous job with it.
A Full Circle
If each story signifies a separate universe, then in the beginning there is peace, which is disrupted. The hero, thus, tries to bring back peace,and it is a journey thereon. Patria (TV Series), have two heroes and both have their own definition of peace and tragedy. Each argues that they are more at a loss than another, and thus denying to put each other in another one’s shoes. This is what happens in real life, which is why our lives are so messy. No one wants to accept that there is anything much more tragic than their own.
The narrative of Patria (TV Series) is so masterly weaved that even if both its protagonists are rebelling against each other, the world around them, conspires to bring them together. It isn’t done by something big like a climax, but a very minute gesture called acceptance. When Miren and Bittori embrace each other’s loss, their world comes together, creating a full circle of peace again.
The incidents of the series aren’t in chronological order. It makes to and fro visits to past and present, in a nonlinear narrative. If not approached precisely on paper, the narrative could become incredibly messy and the story arc might look like an imperfect circle. However, the full circle or story arc or narrative arc of Patria (TV Series) is so clean in the end, that any viewers can draw it in the back of their heads, by recollecting the important events and connecting the dots. That’s a benchmark of memorable writing and characters.
Patria (TV Series) could be analysed more deeply but I feel it’s long anyway. The ripple impact on each character’s life is different yet the root cause is similar. The cause and effect graph could be trailed thoroughly, but it would be better if you inspect that on your end, if any queries, feel free to comment.
Concluding, the series is very well written with outstanding character sketches. It gives equal backstory and screen time to each character in the series, that includes the families of both Miren and Bittori. Each character is approached in order to trace the impact of Txato’s muder on their respective lives. While it might get slow for a bit due to this treatment, it also justifies its subject matter, which was to explore the impact of a single event.
It is an epitome of gripping dramatic writing but the content is so heavy that many might not be able to grasp it in one go. In case of binge watching, it might get a little boring. It slowly gives away the flaws and emotional arc of each character and thus takes it’s viewers on a slow ride. It is an important series because it comments on a lot of political events that happened in Basque Country. Anyone who has been a fan of historical limited series like Chernobyl and wishes to engross themselves with slow yet substantial television drama, then Patria (TV Series) should be checked out.
Patria (TV Series) is a limited series in Spanish Language. All the eight seasons are streaming on HBO Max.
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