The women are shaving their heads out of solidarity before they travel from Madrid to Cadiz on vacation. Sara (Itsaso Arana), Alma (Sara
Mónica Miranda), Carol (María Rodríguez Soto), Leo (Mariona Terés) and Olga (Godeliv Van den Brandt) have been friends since they sat in the back of their sixth-grade classroom 25 years ago. One of them has been diagnosed with cancer and is about to start chemo, which is why the group all decided to shave their heads.
We don’t know which woman has cancer, and the five friends have vowed to not discuss cancer or tell anyone they encounter which friend is sick. They go to the beach resort town and get a luxurious villa on Airbnb in order to forget about reality. But they also want to do things that they may have been reluctant to do before. Prior to the trip, the women put slips of paper in a box that would contain “bucket list” items; when they pull the first slip out at a highway rest stop, what’s on it causes quite the debate: It says “have a lesbian experience.”
Everyone except Alma is straight, and some — like Olga — seem to be ready to do it and others — like Leo — don’t even want to try. Everyone thinks Alma has it easy, except for the fact that Alma is in a long-term relationship and wants to stay monogamous. When they go to the market, Olga sees a handsome guy whom she seems to vibe with, but for some reason she tells Leo that he didn’t want her to go first so he could look at her. They run into the man, John (Javier Rey), both at the restaurant he owns and the club they go to afterwards (which he suggests). To alleviate Olga’s desire to hook up with him and honor the task, he suggests a threesome.
Meanwhile, Carol connects with a bachelorette and they go up to the bachelorette’s room for seemingly platonic reasons — until both realize that the woman’s friends dosed her drink with ecstasy and both had sips from it. Leo connects with a “double bagger” over both of their lack of self-esteem. And Alma and Sara recount when Sara helped Alma figure out that she likes women instead of men, including a stubble-free kiss.
Our Take: The Girls At The Back (Original title: Las de la última fila), created by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, is supposed to be about female friendships and how your true friends rally instead of run when you’re going through a rough phase of life. What we enjoyed about the first episode is that we could see the chemistry among the five friends, with Arévalo writing their discussions and tiffs with a freeness that you would see with people who have been friends for so long. They love each other, but call each other out for their foibles, they talk over each other, they just look like a group that has a relationship most people would envy.
But what’s the most powerful aspect of the show, at least in the first episode, is that we don’t know who is sick, and the chance is that we won’t know until the end of the first season, if at all. Arévalo doesn’t do this to create a gimmick or generate a mystery; we never found ourselves watching the first episode to find clues about who might be the one who’s sick. We were just appreciating the solidarity the women showed to each other and their attempts to adhere to the “rules” of this trip, as difficult as they may find it.
It’s because the show isn’t about the person with cancer, it’s about these five friends seizing the day and maybe finding a change in their viewpoint now that they’re in their 30s. And that’s where we hope the show stays for as long as possible.
Sex and Skin: There’s some quick, matter-of-fact toplessness in a couple of scenes.
Parting Shot: Carol wakes up naked, leaves a voice text for her husband, then sees the bachelorette come out of the bathroom, lamenting how the ecstasy she took “loosens the bowels.”
Sleeper Star: We like Mariona Terés as Leo, because she seems to be realizing that she doesn’t have to be stick skinny like her friends to be attractive to people… she just needs to like herself more.