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Matador S01E04: "Code Red Card"


Well it was Game Day down in Matador country, with Tony Bravo finally making the roster against the Riot’s alleged rivals, the Austin Terror. He'd had a scary dream about his father the night before, and that's how we learned that soccer means something to him. Unfortunately, it also coincided with a major meeting of Andres Galan's that promised to shed light on just what the hell he’s up to with his villain club. Luckily, by this point Matador seems to know how to juggle all of its moving parts. Sometimes Bravo’s a spy, sometimes he’s a family man; other times he’s just a pro soccer player with daddy issues. Meanwhile, Galan wears his own set of hats: He's a telecommunications mogul, the father of an errant, spoiled daughter, and a wannabe member of a shadow government bent on world domination. Honestly, the show's entire premise never seemed like it would work in the first place, so the fact that it has in any capacity is a huge plus. 

So here’s what went down in "Code Red Card": Noah and Annie needed Bravo to plant a bug in Galan’s office because the businessman was meeting Maktar Zola, a leader of a private and brutal African army. Thank god this show is smart enough to know its strengths: Like, of course Zola has an eye scar, and of course he wants "the coordinates." To what? Your guess is as good as mine. There’s a fine balance of information withholding going on here—not too much, not too little. Last week the object of desire was a priceless Olmec artifact, this week Galan had his sights set on something equally mysterious, something that required an army of mercenaries. Yes, there was technology with blue-blinking lights.

But Matador isn’t all spy stuff. Minor though it may be, there’s a refreshing amount of family drama in this wish-fulfillment universe. Javi and the gang check in at least once an episode (yeah no duh they'll have to be rescued at some point), and this week's story featured big bad Andres Galan having father-daughter troubles just as she was kidnapped by a double-crossing Congolese warlord. (Side note: Galan had a tracking device implanted in his daughter’s tooth.) That's just the kind of show this is, where family matters as much as secret shadow governments. It's interesting that two other recent spy shows, The Americans and Burn Notice, both count family as a major element; perhaps the secrecy of espionage just begs to be contrasted with the intimacy of family life?  


A show like Matador doesn’t need to get too serious, and I don’t mean that as an insult. In today’s ocean of entertainment options, the best compliment you can bestow upon any given work is that it knows itself. "Code Red Card" pulled its various threads ever closer in the third act, as proof it could make all the cartoony stuff work. Bravo’s first shot at some playing time came just as he received the news that Galan’s daughter was being held captive. So what does the kid do? He charms the crowd with some impressive brute-play, doing just enough to build his brand and get tossed out and save the day. It wasn't by the book, but neither is Bravo.

I just hope Matador continues to move in the direction of bleach-blonde martial-artist henchmen and golden guns and well-spoken, finely dressed bad guys having tense conversations over the finest of stadium foods. Getting to see Alfred Molina in this type of role is a huge treat in and of itself; he is a Tony Award-nominated actor and former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he doesn’t need to slum it as a low-rent villain, and revealing that Galan is at the mercy of unseen forces provides for greater range in his acting. This show is worth it just to see Molina act! And beyond that, while it's definitely a plus that Galan feels fuller than a stock bad guy—which isn't even necessary in a series that essentially amounts to a Burn Notice plus soccer—it's Matador's clever plot turns that hint at something juicier ahead (bad guy with TWO eye scars?). 

I will say this, though: One character who could be a bit more fun is Tony Bravo himself. It's a common plight among tough-as-nails action heroes, and I don’t blame Bravo for barely cracking a smile considering the pressure he’s under, but sometimes I can’t tell whether the characters around him are super charming, or just appear that way next to his taciturn exterior.

Either way, we're four episodes in: It’s time to rule on the future of Matador. I mean, the show will go on without us whether we choose to watch it or not. So, too, will the world. But for my money, Matador has been a fun way to spend four hours, with each episode expanding the show's universe in satisfying directions. I'm always wary of arguments for art where people are like, "It's not trying to be anything great!"—that is reductive to those who've invested their time, money, and energy, and also it implies that there's one set of standards that applies to all sorts of genres. What I'm trying to say here is that Matador may wear several different cheap disguises, but it's fully aware of the face underneath. And that face looks gooood.


What do you think of Matador so far? Does the series pass your 4-Episode Test?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 10/7/2014

Season 1 : Episode 13

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I still love this show--muy bueno! I loved how the annoying CIA dude had his hands deep-frozen and broken off. I thought that would lead to him being even more annoying, yet with cyber hands that can do great things. I won't spoil it further (though, if you're here...). Also, I believe we learned for the first that Bravo's stepdad is a Sandoval!
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Definitely will keep watching. The show is just silly fun and a great way to have a laugh mixed in with some serious action. I think Tony Bravo carries the show well and Annie and Noah are great support characters. I also think Holester, the dude that captains the soccer team is a real gem. You sort of love him and hate him at the same time.
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I gave up half way through 2nd ep. Too slow!
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I've only seen two episodes thus far. Have they ever addressed the DEA losing their guy to the CIA? He's kidnapped by them then more or less made to work for them, but I don't remember the DEA ever being mentioned as wondering what happened to him or being upset the CIA took him, etc. Bravo had to have a DEA boss, right?

I also didn't get why the CIA guy wanted to shoot him at end of the first episode.

It's a seemingly fun show though.
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in the pilot they say it was cleared with his supervisor at the DEA
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Thanks. I guess I missed it, but considering how our agencies often get in each others way and claim jurisdiction and such, it might have been nice to see a DEA / CIA confrontation over Bravo, if for no other reason but to make that clear.
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It is a decent show. It is a bit slow starting out but I think it is going to be a fun show. It isn't trying to be anything more than it is and what it is is a fun show with a lot of attractive female actors and you can't really get mad at that.
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I'm enjoying this show. I feel it is a good way to pass an hour of my time while i'm cooking or during the afternoon. I don't invest a lot of energy into it so i am not dissapointed. I love his brother. He is very funny.
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I'm liking this show too. Agree with all of you. It's totally fun. I think Tony's fun in his own way. Running through the hotel lobby naked, lol. His back and forth with Noah. Noah is such a pain in the butt but he's funny. I'm sticking with Matador. Olé!
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I have the same attitude as you. It's a fun way to spend an hour a week if that's all you want. If you want a show that doesn't take itself too seriously, then keep watching. But if you want some highbrow spy drama, then of course Matador is not for you.

I'm surprised they got Molina on to the show, he is one reason for me to keep watching. The Samuel character is the best one on the show, and I'm looking forward to what will happen to Nicky Whelan's Annie Mason. She seems to have the hots for Tony.
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Exactly. This is not "The Americans" in terms of serious spy/family drama, and it doesn't want to be. The creators and execs are also behind "Sleepy Hollow" that turned a ridiculous premise into a really fun hit show.

Oh, you know Annie and Tony are headed for romantic things (can she take her eyes off him ever?). Whether it's a multi-year celibate tease (as in every TV show ever) or soon, who knows? I hope sooner.
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Matador definitely passes my 4-episode test, especially after this rollicking ep. It fills that hole in my TV soul that was left when Burn Notice ended. It's a really fun spy show with some intriguing plots unfolding, and Alfred Molina is perfect. Ryan, I have to disagree about Bravo not being a fun character. He's certainly charming (character and actor), plus he ran naked through a hotel lobby, and breaks legs and heads of soccer opponents--that's not fun? Of course all that's in the name of the mission. Well, I never thought of Michael Westen as "fun" either. My big concern is that they're positioning his ex-con brother as an important sidekick/comedy relief character. So far I'm not liking that.
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