Netflix’s new Spanish crime drama series Muted, or Silencio in its native language, is apparently the story of a young man who has not spoken a word since the day he murdered his parents some six years ago. This sort of character, i.e., a protagonist in a crime thriller who is silent, is a rather exciting premise. However, my use of the word “apparently” in stating the series’ official description is because of a terribly anti-climactic fact—the protagonist, Sergio, does not stay silent for even a single episode. As Sergio keeps talking with whichever character he wants to, the premise of Muted starts falling like a feeble house of cards, and it only gets worse from there.
The basic plot that the 6-episode-long series begins with is still arguably quite interesting. It begins one evening, when a woman cycling down a road is met with a horrific scene as two individuals fall from the balcony of a high-rise building within a short interval of time. These two, the first being a woman, followed by her husband, were the parents of our protagonist, Sergio Ciscar. As we are taken inside Sergio’s apartment, where the young man is frantically searching for his younger sister Noa, it is quite evident that it was the son who had pushed his parents to death. But the reason behind this horrific crime remains a mystery even to the authorities, who are unable to get any information out of the young man. As the prosecution comes up with a theory and presents it at the court hearing, Sergio does not make any attempt to question it or defend himself, and he is sent to prison. Having been a minor when he committed the crime, Sergio is released from prison on parole after six years, and the man has still not revealed anything about the reason behind his murder. It is in this regard that Sergio is considered to have been mute, as he had not said anything to the authorities and spoke only with some selective people.
Six years later, at present, as Sergio is released, a psychiatrist named Ana Dussuel prepares a team of her own to start an extensive covert operation. Having been interested in Sergio’s unique case, Ana got permission from the court to hold a psychological study and analysis of the young man in order to understand why he killed his own parents. As part of this study, Ana and her team set up cameras and recording devices all over the apartment where Sergio is supposed to return from the juvenile detention center. The team is also given access to every security camera in the building and even in the entire city, so that they can always keep an eye on Sergio Ciscar and his activities. Along with this, the ankle monitor stuck to the young man’s foot is also fitted with a heartbeat recorder, which is used together with the cameras to keep track of him at all times.
This is the basic premise with which Muted begins, and the first episode presents all this with a very interesting execution style. The series often shows scenes and matters through the security camera feeds, and such content is not like typical presentations in some other films and shows. Using security camera footage to keep track of a target is not always easy and convenient, as there are specific angles and distances that the cameras are restricted to. Muted successfully gives this feeling, as Ana and her team have to work extra hard to catch the details of meetings and interactions that Sergio has. The overall visual style, with realistic lighting and grainy filters on the videos that we see playing on some screens, is also quite gripping.
However, the tension and intrigue start to fall off because of the plot and the characters that are developed over the course of the episodes in this series. Even though the beginning has the enormous question of who and why would be paying for this elaborate covert operation looming large over itself, it still does not immediately mar the experience. A character named Marta is introduced soon. She had been attracted to Sergio when he was in prison, and now, even at present, she is uncontrollably captivated by him, even though it largely affects her life and world. As Ana intends to make Marta her contact, who would help infiltrate Sergio’s convoluted mind, she refers to this attraction in its formal term—hybristophilia. When we then start seeing Ana almost trying to prove that Sergio was not really a psychopath, it is not too difficult to guess what is going on.
The mystery element is delivered through the character of Noa, Sergio’s younger sister, who is mostly absent in the first few episodes. As there is no news of where Noa is and as the protagonist is focused only on finding and reuniting with his sister, the initial question is about what has happened to the girl and where she is now. Muted presents a twist in this regard, but this is not of much effect, quite like the multiple other twists in the show, which were either predictable or just made situations unnecessarily complicated.
Other characters, like Natanael, who is an evangelist priest taking on the responsibility of safely reintroducing Sergio to society, and Cabrera, a police officer who clearly wants to sabotage Ana’s psychological experiment, are introduced to make the narrative more complex. But the biggest problem with Muted is this very tendency to forcefully complicate matters and create a web of mystery even where there is none. At times, it is just too self-indulgent and oversells its attempt to be a very serious and grim affair. The ending, arguably, is a prime example of this and is much more disappointing than shocking, unlike what the series wants to be. Being a story that could have been told in a much shorter film format, one can seriously question whether they have been cheated of their time by Muted, and it is a series easy to stay away from.