El Marginal

Argentine prison drama El Marginal is the best show on Netflix you've never heard of

Tv Review by Kirsty Leckie-Palmer | 06 Nov 2019
  • El Marginal
Title: El Marginal
Series Creator: Sebastián Ortega, Adrián Caetano
Starring: Juan Minujín, Gerardo Romano, Martina Gusmán, Claudio Rissi, Maite Lanata, Mariano Argento
Platform: Netflix

Chances are you haven’t heard of El Marginal. Despite the clever algorithms that tell us all what to watch and the tidal waves of critical coverage that follow, it’s somehow been completely missed. That's curious, given this Argentine drama – now entering its third season on Netflix – is seldom less than outstanding.

Buenos Aires prison San Onofre is a maze of crumbling concrete and iron bars encircling a feral slum courtyard. When its inmates aren’t bludgeoning each other to death in bare-knuckle brawls for the guards’ amusement, they wheedle, stab, steal, deal, rape and threaten their way up the desperate pecking order. The warden’s a sadist, the authorities wholly corrupt.

Not ideal, then, to be Miguel Palacios (Juan Minujin). He’s been royally stitched up and flung into jail on the orders of a crooked judge who wants him to find out who kidnapped his teenage daughter. Miguel’s only hope of getting out of San Onofre alive is to navigate this moral minefield, cosying up to unsavoury types while trying to keep it quiet that he’s the most hated kind of inmate – an ex-cop.

Granted, it all sounds a bit grim, but the nonstop drama is bound by twinkling threads of humour, which wind like barbed wire around every episode. However horrific or heart-stopping a scene, the next might make you guffaw, whether at an outrageous act of corruption or a moment of dopey violence.

El Marginal is dark, brutal and highly intelligent. It’s peopled with diabolical characters you will grow to love in the way you might have once loved Heisenberg or Tony Soprano. And it only gets better as the seasons progress. Binge all three as soon as you can – it would be criminal to miss out any longer.

Seasons 1-3 of El Marginal are now streaming on Netflix