Today is the one-year anniversary of "El Candidato" (Amazon Prime Original), a 10-episode series created by Peter Blake. It's a gritty, edgy, narco-crime thriller. It takes place in Mexico City.
Without knowing about the likelihood of seeing a second season, I first thought about how it could resume from where it left off after the last episode of the first season. However, as much as I really love it as an international drama, I enjoy imagining how the show could break with the format or genre, even just for one episode.
Usually, Amazon's original series have never allowed a standalone episode, at least not that I've seen. Other shows have dared to do it and have done it well. In season 3, for example, of “Breaking Bad” with "The Fly," or Season 5 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the musical “Once More with Feeling.” “Stranger Things” in its second season made an unpopular standalone episode mainly because it focused on new characters that didn't appear ever again.
A change from the format also means the writers can stray from the genre, as in, introduce comedy to a drama or play with fantasy outside of the show's typical realistic style. Sometimes it works well when it explores deeper the psyche of a character especially if it can be a standalone episode to take their personality quirks to another level.
As usual, my imagination kind of runs wild, so here are some fun predicaments, some plausible and some not so much:
• Referencing how they tried to cover for something happening off the books in episode one, what if Isabel Alfaro (Eréndira Ibarra) and Wayne Addison (James Purefoy) really did go to a karaoke bar? Could it really be Wayne, in tribute to Elvis, singing "Heartbreak Hotel"? Does Isa secretly film it? Yes, indeed, she does, and she posts it online for all his enemies to see. And then comes the wrath the day after. (I confess, Latino pop songs are my weakness so I imagine Isa would be culturally appropriate in picking a song for her own karaoke spotlight.)
• Isabel, aka Isa, is talked into training a rookie CIA agent, who was part of a gang of Chola girls from Echo Park in Los Angeles. Isa clashes with the rookie because she recognizes herself from 15 years ago. After Isa loses a bet, the rookie gives Isa a makeover for one day. It's definitely against the standard image of a CIA agent. (Isa talks about her dark past a couple of times in season one, so her being asked to train this girl is plausible).
• Lalo (José María de Tavira), currently mayor of Mexico City, is campaigning to become President of Mexico. The campaign office's computer servers are subject to a ransomware attack in which if he doesn’t do what they say, they’ll reveal information about drug cartels who are funding his campaign. They can regain access to the servers if Lalo finds a boy who was separated from his adoptive parents at the border. The boy was fathered by narco leader Rafael Bautista, and the mother gave up the boy for adoption. He finds the boy, but the child is against being reunited with his adoptive parents and wants Lalo to be his father. (Lalo was not hip on the idea he could be a father in season one).
• 30-second scene #1, in monochrome. Music scores the scene like in a 1970s spaghetti western-style of “Final Duel” and “Death Rattle” by Ennio Morricone from Once Upon a Time in the West. An owl flies down to land on a Santa Muerte display. Rafael Bautista's (Joaquín Cosio) voice is calling "Wayne," from inside the skeleton. Wayne Addison walks by and hears it. Stops in disbelief. It's midnight and no one else is around. He looks at the statue and Bautista's face flashes for a second. And then Wayne, startled by the vivid dream, wakes up, and the screen switches to color and the sun is beaming into the room. He's looking for something. The camera passes over the gun on the nightstand by the bed, the empty liquor bottle, and then pauses on the honey BBQ corn chips. Wayne grins with satisfaction while reaching for the bag.
Go back to when Wayne tells Isa in the first episode to keep her hands off his honey BBQ Fritos or he'd kill her. Bautista prays to Santa Muerte aka "The White Lady" in several episodes. (NOTE: Eva Aridjis is one of the staff writers for "El Candidato" and made her own documentary about Santa Muerte that was released in 2007.)
• 30-second scene #2. Wayne, while recovering from his leg injury from the shoot-out at his place, receives a present, and when he unwraps it, he notices the card is signed by Nestor, thanking him for getting him a bed at a decent rehab facility near the ocean. Wayne picks up a cane from the box and pulls on the handle, revealing it is a custom-made sword cane. Why? There are not enough opportunities in TV and film for characters to use sword canes in fight scenes anymore. Once presented, it definitely has to be used later.
o SPOILER NOTE:Nestor is the character who was coerced to be the fake secret operative, "Penumbra." Isa has to be a badass on top of her already badass-ness to acquire Nestor's drugs so he can stop having withdrawals and suddenly he's unreliable. The eighth episode, "Fireside Chat," is so exciting and, in my opinion, exhibits superior acting, writing, and directing. It is distinctively apparent with "Fireside Chat" that James Purefoy had much more freedom to stretch in this show. It's thrilling to watch him go for it in depicting Wayne's desperation when he's in the hotel's bathroom.
I'm also a fan of the 7th episode "En la ciudad de la furia" (In the city of fury) because the history fills in why something transpired in the third episode with Ted Malek (David Fridman).
• Finally, it would be amazing to pull off a crossover episode using mistaken identity between two characters working a case separately for different purposes. I've never seen it done before in which an actor has starred on two different shows years apart from each other would play two characters in merging the two shows into a crossover. The premise is that you have Hap Collins crossing into "El Candidato" territory from "Hap and Leonard" with his buddy Leonard Pine (Michael Kenneth Williams), and unbeknownst to each other Wayne Addison is working the same case as theirs, but not necessarily sharing scenes together. James Purefoy gets to portray two of our favorite crime-fighting characters!
Imagine a scene in which Hap and Wayne almost cross paths, missing each other by two seconds. They both stop like they sensed something weird, and then shake it off and keep going forward to wherever it was they were going.When Leonard mistakes Wayne for Hap out in public and then freaks out when Wayne says, "I've never seen you before in my life. I'm not your buddy, but I hope you find him." Hap returns from somewhere else and Leonard freaks out again. Hap suggests humorously that Leonard could have been hallucinating from something else in his pipe, and they bicker back and forth trying to make their point.Or if Hap meets someone from the agency who mistakes him as Wayne. He has no idea of Wayne's secrets when they ask questions. It backfires so Wayne has to double back and fix it to keep people off his back.
Of course, this is most implausible, but it's really fun to write it. I admit that this is my most self-indulgent, ambitious, and risky choice. Keep it simple and focus on the comedy.
I love the "puzzles" made by David Lynch and Stephen King, yet, they tend to leave the viewer with so many unanswerable questions. There's also a tendency to over-complicate the story when involving twins, Gemini mythology, and alter-ego themes. When limited by a fixed amount of time, one can get into deep water with the overwritten psychoanalytical dialogue.
Share in the comments if you have other fun ideas for "El Candidato" or other shows you follow.