Review: Comedy · Review: Romance · Review: Teen Fiction

TV Show Review: Violetta Season 1

I have a soft spot for music-themed stories. No matter how cringe-worthy the general public deems a movie or a show, if it’s music based, I will probably watch it. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that in addition to the traditional musical fare, I’ve seen not only the likes of Once and Begin Again, but also the Disney varieties of High School Musical and Camp Rock and Let It Shine…and Violetta.

But Ciela, you might say if you’ve read certain reviews on this blog, You hate love triangles! You’ve said that you have trouble with love triangles, and the worst kind of love triangle is the intersecting love triangle! And this has nothing but intersecting love triangles!

And, yes, it’s true: ordinarily, love triangles are a problem for me. But this has so many of those that it’s more of a love dodecahedron, really, and at that point the entertainment value overrides any-

But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to start at the beginning. This review will contain spoilers. (But who cares? I feel that if you’re watching this for the outcome, you won’t make it through anyway.)

Summary

Violetta is a teenager who’s just moved back to Buenos Aires from Madrid with her very rich, very overprotective father, German. Damaged by the death of his wife Maria, German is determined to shield his daughter from the world at any cost: this has extended to keeping her from Maria’s sister and mother, because the reminder is too painful for him to handle. Unbeknownst to him, Angie, Maria’s little sister, has got wind of his return and is ready to storm into his home and demand to be permitted to see her niece.

Incidentally, German does not recognize the woman Angie has become as the girl he remembers from 15 years prior. Mistaken for a potential tutor for Violetta, Angie decides to go with the flow if it will give her access to her niece. Angie intends to only meet Violetta and let them know who she is at the earliest opportunity. However, she finds that German has gone so far as to ban Violetta from learning any music but classical piano, lest he be reminded of her pop singer mother. Realizing that Violetta needs an ally and a friend, Angie decides that it would be best not to reveal her true identity for awhile, after all. Instead, she helps Violetta gain admission to a music school where she teaches, and helps her hide this from her father.

Thus, Violetta begins her journey toward her destiny of being a singer.

The Cast (and the Love Dodecahedron)

At the music school, Violetta makes friends, and also meets Ludmilla, the vindictive, conniving queen bee of the school, and her boyfriend Leon. Violetta also meets Tomas, a talented, charming boy working as a delivery boy for a local restaurant who doesn’t have the money to attend the music school with Violetta and her friends. But Violetta isn’t the only one charmed by Tomas: Ludmilla has her sights set on him as well. Ludmilla finds ways to evade Leon’s eye to flirt with Tomas, but Leon quickly sees through her ruse. Believing Violetta to be Tomas’s girlfriend, he decides to exact his “revenge” by similarly flirting with her. But Leon quickly develops genuine feelings for Violetta. (If you’re counting, yes, that is already no less than three intersecting love triangles—and there are more that continue to overlap.)

I just want to mention that this show is aggressively G-rated. There’s hardly even any kissing.

Meanwhile, there is a teacher at the school, Pablo, who seems to have feelings for Angie, but the more time she spends with Violetta and German, the more she and German find themselves attracted to each other. They are held back by Angie’s secret identity, and the fact that German is engaged to marry Jade, who has genuine affection for him, yes, but also desperately needs his money because her family has gone bankrupt.

And yes, that’s another 2 intersecting love triangles.

So how can I, after having proclaimed my distaste for love triangles, say that I like this show? I’m so glad you asked. It’s because when you pile this many love triangles on top of each other, it becomes more of a love dodecahedron. At that point, it’s less about the will-they-won’t-they and more about the comedy and the utter ridiculousness, which I can absolutely get behind.

The Ridiculousness

This show is extremely ridiculous. The premise, the situations, the obstacles, the characters’ “solutions” to said obstacles… It’s all absurd. If the characters got together in episode 1 and talked about their issues like normal people, we would have maybe 2 episodes. Maybe. If a single character ever used their words to facilitate communication rather than to make things more convoluted and deceptive, each instance would probably shorten the season by a solid 5-10 episodes.

Instead, we have an 80-episode season. Of 1 hour per episode. No, I am not kidding. 80 hours of miscommunication and sneaking around.

If it had just been your typical fare of love triangles and will-they-won’t-they and swaying back and forth between potential partners, this would be tedious. But it isn’t. Because there are genuine friendships and loves that formed along the way through the craziness, and I found them compelling. But none of this would work if the craziness weren’t hilariously funny, and it is, mostly because of Jade and her family.

Okay, so I’m gonna say upfront that I have to believe that some kind of insanity gene runs in Jade’s family because…wow. They’re all pretty far removed from reality. But even among them, Jade stands out. I suspect she was dropped on the head as a child. Repeatedly.

Of Jade’s family, we get the most time with Mati, her brother. Mati is significantly smarter than Jade—by which I mean that if faced with an obvious scene before his eyes, he can reach the obvious conclusion. Jade, on the other hand, seems to create the weirdest, most convoluted explanations for no apparent reason, as if she’s determined to construct an alternate reality. (I prefer to believe that she was dropped on the head, because the alternative is that everyone in her life lied to her and gaslit her endlessly, resulting in her habitually constructing non-intuitive explanations to try to make sense of her sad, likely horrifying life so far.)

So as you might imagine, some of the best parts of the show are just Jade and Mati interacting. Mati usually sets Jade straight when her mind goes to weird places, but on occasion, he goes with it and exacerbates things. At times, he even makes use of her gullibility to his own advantage. One of my favorite highlights of the season was a storyline in which Mati, while living secretly in German’s house (which is inhabited by 6 other people), decides to don Maria’s clothes and pretend to be her ghost to try to get Jade to be nice to him. This works for awhile, until Jade decides to interrogate Maria’s ghost for tips on how to improve her relationship with German.

Technically, Jade and Mati are the villains of the season. But they were a delight to watch.

Music

One of the greatest strengths of this show, I feel, is that it isn’t repetitive. On some level it is: Violetta swaying back and forth between Tomas and Leon and the flashbacks and the recaps… But outside of these, we don’t see characters making the same mistakes over and over, or having the same conversations again and again.

Low bar, I know.

But the lack of repetition holds true in the music as well, which I find extremely impressive for a show about music. We do see multiple versions of the same song, but there’s always variations: arrangements, performers, style.

The music itself is undeniably pop. So if that’s not your thing, this won’t hold anything for you. I tend to be a pushover for music of all genres, so you won’t be hearing any complaints from me. I especially love it when they communicate story elements through song—and all the more when they use two different versions of the same song to communicate two different things on two separate occasions…

Pop though it may be, soap opera though it may be, this show owned its medium. It knows what it is and maximized the use of the tools it had.

Final Thoughts

If you couldn’t figure this out already, I genuinely enjoyed this. Yes, it ate up 80 hours of my life, and I can’t say I regret that. Will I be watching the next two seasons? Given that that would require another 160 hours’ commitment on my part, and Jade seems to be out of the story now, it’s rather unlikely.

I’m not sure how this would hold up without Jade and Mati’s antics to make everyone else seem sane by comparison.

But for what it’s worth, I very much enjoyed this season. I loved the music and the ridiculousness, and the whole ride.

I’ll leave you with the note that my favorite piece was Podemos, a duet between Leon and Violetta. You can find it on YouTube, if you’re curious. (But bear in mind that I don’t speak Spanish so the lyrics are probably lost on me, since the subtitles are…questionable where lyrics are concerned.)

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