One of the underrated marks of a good story is when the details are used to push the narrative. To elaborate on this point, we have often heard it said that the “devil is in the details,” meaning that the tiny, seemingly inconsequential things are what end up supporting or unraveling the narrative. However, this means that they are usually acting from the background, but what if they were at the forefront of the narrative, where it is these details that cause entire plots to unfold? This is what we get from The Horror of Dolores Roach, and it makes sense to us. Not a single one of the two main characters, Luis and Dolores, has an upstanding conscience or a socially acceptable set of values. But they live amidst people who do, and if they want to avoid going to jail or hope to be around other people, they have to pretend and push past it. While one of them, Luis has already accepted his authentic self, no matter how twisted, Dolores has to go through an entire journey to come to terms with who she is, and we believe that it was well depicted.
We would have compared The Horror of Dolores Roach to the Santa Clarita Diet if we had watched the latter show. However, we have seen The Demon Barber of Sweeney Todd, which seems to be the underlying inspiration behind this series. There is a similar theme of a person coming back to their roots after many years after being wrongfully framed for a crime they did not commit. There is also the lover whose business is unsuccessful because their food is not that great. But while in Sweeney Todd, Nellie Lovett only wanted to use the human meat in the pies as a way of getting rid of the bodies, Luis Batista was an actual cannibal. At the end of both stories, the primary protagonists, Sweeney Todd and Dolores Roach, end up killing their lovers after declaring that they were never in love to begin with, and were just using them for their needs. So yes, a lot of this series’ narrative aligns with Sweeney Todd’s, and it has been very well done. But the one thing that sets The Horror of Dolores Roach apart from the rest is the manifestation of female rage and grief.
In men’s stories of revenge, the injustice done to them is often inextricably tied to the crimes inflicted on the women they love. Be it Sweeney Todd in The Demon Barber of Fleet Street or Edmond Dantes in the story that probably started it all in modern literature, The Count of Monte Cristo, these men are sent to jail only for the women they leave behind to suffer or because the villain coveted these ladies. That is how it all starts. In all of these revenge sagas, we get the distinct sense that these men are not as angry for their wives as they were for what their loss meant to them. It was the grief for the other person in the relationship that they absorbed and executed as revenge. But the feelings of the woman themselves take a backseat. Maybe all Sweeney Todd’s wife wanted was to forget everything and live with him. Probably all Mercedes wanted was a peaceful life where she was not bound by the love and expectations of the men around her. But what could Dolores Roach want? She was not wronged by a lover, but instead, he was the one who threw her into hellfire. When she came back, the only person she needed to live for or think about was herself, and that is what makes her rage unique because she is avenging herself. Sadly, she has not found the real target of her anger, and in the meantime, her circumstances make her a person who finds nothing wrong in making the rest of the world suffer for what she is going through.
We like that this idea was conveyed through comic packaging. We cannot say that The Horror of Dolores Roach was laugh-out-loud funny or even had us chuckling, but it was certainly light-footed. There may be times when you start feeling that maybe things are going a little too far, but in that case, we advise you to remember the bit about female rage, and it will make sense.
Basically, as we continue watching The Horror of Dolores Roach, we end up rooting for her despite seeing the criminal she turns into. This strangely reminds us of Joe Goldberg in You, who had the hero syndrome and his eloquence had us convinced that he should never be caught, no matter what he does. On the other hand, Dolores is nowhere near as smooth with her words, and she actually accepts that she has descended into being the villain. She doesn’t make an excuse for her actions, and she is clear about the validity of the rage driving her. It has been a while since we saw a female villain as the lead of a story without her being an outright sociopath (Villanelle in Killing Eve), a victim of her own delusions (Cassie in Euphoria), or someone who only traverses into the gray areas as a reaction to the schemes against her instead of being in actual charge of the narrative (Seo A Ri in Celebrity). There is a lot to Dolores, and Season 1 of The Horror of Dolores Roach has only scratched the surface. There is so much more to uncover, from her makeover to what has made her so ruthless to what she even wants to do going forward. The entire series has been pushed by Dolores’ actions, and everyone and everything has been another step that has defined her as the woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, no matter how frivolous it might be.
As for the series itself, despite each episode being only half an hour long, it packs in a lot of story and is proof of how far good writing can go. We can tell that the writers have really immersed themselves in the world of Dolores Roach, and that is why we have a near-perfect story on our hands. Let this be one of the shows you don’t skip this year.