One of the biggest fears in today’s connected world is that someone can get hold of personal information and use it against you, whether it’s to drain your bank account or humiliate you with intimate photos or videos. The thing is, this isn’t something that only happens to celebrities or people in power. A new series from Spain points that out, and shows victims that are fighting back instead of slinking into the darkness.
INTIMACY: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Scenes of waves splashing on rocks. Then we zoom in and see a woman’s body floating just off shore. “Don’t look at me like that,” says a voice over. “I didn’t expect this to be the end of me, either.”
The Gist: We then go to city hall in Bilbao, a coastal city in Northern Spain. Deputy Mayor Malen Zubiri (Itziar Ituño) is an up-and-coming politician, and her party’s choice to run for mayor in the next election. Then, as she leaves the office, she sees a leaked video of herself having sex on a beach with a man who is not her husband.
While humiliating, Malen doesn’t think that this should cost her her job or the campaign. She and her husband Alfredo have been living separate lives for awhile, though they’ve kept that from their daughter Leire (Yune Nogueiras). This is despite the fact that she‘s the victim, her privacy violated by Cesar (Eduardo Lloveras), an old flame whom she was with in that video on a holiday in France, or someone using him to bring her down.
In the meantime, pressure mounts on her, her family and her party. Reporters and cameras get in Leire’s face, prompting Malen to grab her before she assaults a photographer. And in meetings with her party, everyone, including Miren (Emma Suárez), the party leader, want her to resign and drop out of the race.
We also see a teacher named Bego (Patricia López Arnaiz) called to the morgue to identify the body of her younger sister Ane (Verónica Echegui). Ane was found floating in the bay, with no signs of foul play and her shoes on the beach. She’s the woman that was floating in the water, and she didn’t even tell Bego, who is not only her sister but roommate and best friend, that she was having suicidal thoughts.
Inspector Alicia Vazquez (Ana Wagener), who is in charge of the Bilabo police’s IT crimes division, is interested in pursuing Malen’s case, but Malen just wants it to go away. Alicia also calls in Bego, who crosses paths with Malen at the police station; one of the coworkers at the factory where Ane worked said that there were intimate photos of Ane passed around the factory, which led her to become distraught in recent months.
The next day, with Malen about to read her resignation speech to the press, Bego intercepts her at city hall and asks her to help figure out who leaked the intimate photos of her sister, sending Malen on a completely new path in her political career.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? In a lot of ways, Intimacy reminds us of the early years of The Good Wife, mainly because Marlen is like Alicia Florick: Not capitulating, and trying to keep her career going because she was a victim, not a perpetrator. The show is definitely a treatise on how we sometimes victim-blame when someone’s privacy is violated.
Our Take: Written by Veronica Fernandez and Laura Sarmiento, Intimacy makes a strong case that the status quo of how a victim of a privacy breach should just slink away in humiliation is not only old fashioned, but dangerous. Malen is the representative of those who have fought against such violations and emerged stronger, dating all the way back to when Vanessa Williams resigned her Miss America crown over leaked nude photos.
The storytelling method that Fernandez and Sarmiento use here might seem muddled at first, going back and forth between the present and the past for both Malen and Bego. But it’s worth exploring the root of Malen and Cesar’s holiday in France; it doesn’t seem like just a fling, which would make Malen’s bewilderment at how this went down have more emotional punch. And seeing how Ane’s life was made a living hell after her photos leaked will also have an impact.
It’s also illustrative to show that this problem can happen to anyone, whether it’s a high-profile politician or a factory worker. And the fact that Alicia is trying to investigate both cases with equal rigor shows that squashing privacy breaches like this are important on all levels.
Will things get more muddled as we go on? Perhaps. But once we see just how all of this plays out, in the present and the recent past, we’re thinking that it’ll coalesce into a tale of how we all need to intensely protect our privacy these days.
Sex and Skin: There’s some skin as we see Malen have sex with Cesar on the beach, but not much.
Parting Shot: Malen shocks everyone by not giving up her job or stopping her campaign. Miren nods slightly in approval.
Sleeper Star: Yune Nogueiras is a wild card as Leire. Right now, she’s angry over the behavior of both her parents. But at some point, she may get on her mother’s side once she realizes just how violating what happened to her actually is.
Most Pilot-y Line: Leire’s boyfriend wanted to give her space after her mother’s video was released. “You always tell me I’m a helicopter boyfriend, so…” he trails off as Leire makes a helicopter sound and both chuckle. It’s a weirdly light moment given the gravity of what happened.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Intimacy has smart writing and good lead performances, and a storytelling structure made to really point out how leaked videos and pictures can quickly ruin a life.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.