After watching close to half of The Surrogacy, it is safe to say that we are very close to giving up. We don’t hate series with soapy qualities, and our tolerance for The Marked Heart and Fake Profile is proof of that. But we absolutely cannot accept that a series with 24 episodes has such little story and just a lot of running around by the characters, literally. As audiences, we deserve better.
For reasons we are going to take some time to explain, Mexican series remind us of Hindi TV serials, where simple plots are irritatingly complicated through convoluted narratives, and nobody just talks to each other. They are all just yelling, accusing, or running away due to circumstances. But we still watch them (sometimes) because of the costumes, music, and, on occasion, the romance. When you take that away and don’t compensate with a good story, the incentive to watch anything goes out the window. Hell must have frozen over because we are saying that Hindi TV serials are better than something.
At the heart of it, there are some similarities between them and the Mexican series. There is an extremely rich matriarch at the heart of things which is running the entire show but is stuck in time with her expectations for the women in her family. There is a woman who is the protagonist (Yeni) who is the ultimate victim, and we just don’t see what her personality is until very late in The Surrogacy. There is another woman (Julia) who is impulsive and comes close to being vampish, pitting her against Yeni when, in reality, the real culprit might just be the man (Carlos), whom we don’t understand why the others like. It’s the blueprint for a Hindi TV serial, which is at least occasionally engaging when it is not being annoying. But The Surrogacy does not manage to achieve that feat.
At one point, we had completely given up on knowing what would happen next and wondered whether if we just skipped a couple of episodes, it would really make a difference to the overall narrative. It is extremely annoying how all the characters are so one-dimensional, and seldom do they rise to the occasion to fight against the manipulation or protect themselves. We are talking about Julia, who was so badly confined to the trope of the “impulsive woman,” whereas Fernanda is the “angry but incompetent” woman. It is only Carlos, the charming and manipulative man, who is the clear winner in any scenario, as is his mother, but we know that she is ultimately going to be defeated. This is another thing that Indian TV serials have in common with Mexican series: despite the shows being run by women, the regressive narrative means that we always keep taking a step backward.
More than anything else, we are questioning the need for 24 episodes, which were released all at once. The story wasn’t even divided into parts to lend it some coherence. Gone are the days when each season of a series would be 20–24 episodes long. Content online cannot be stubborn about sticking to that format with such little payoff. But there is another side that we admit we might have failed to consider. There is something called the habit of a format. Someone who watches longer Colombian, Spanish or Mexican series regularly might not complain the way we did about their length. It is a given that there will be a bit of overindulgence and unnecessary stretching out of subplots. Additionally, we don’t think The Surrogacy set out to break new ground, despite its subject matter. It is true that surrogacy was illegal in Mexico till 2021, but at the end of the day, Yeni was not a surrogate anymore, and this discovery was made very early on. That literally negates the rest of the story. It would have made more sense for this to be revealed at the end of The Surrogacy than at the beginning. It would have kept us convinced that the stakes were high instead of simply testing our patience with the hullabaloo.
Getting back to our point, we believe that whether something is eight episodes long or eighty, it is fine as long as the makers are able to justify the length, and by that, we mean that it should be sufficiently entertaining. We are continuing with our explanation because it feels like many content creators are missing the point, but entertainment can be delivered either through great dialogue, decent progress, or solid character development. We would settle for even one of these if not all. When we are not even demanding that content adhere to high standards, why is it so difficult to make good series and movies these days? The advent of OTT was supposed to be the much-needed boost to quality, but it seems to have just worsened the situation with oversaturated mediocrity.
The fact is, The Surrogacy had potential. If only it had been sharper with its content, it could have delivered a message while being entertaining. Yeni need not have been the biological mother; Julia could have shown some more gumption and walked out of her marriage; Fernanda should have been sharper in her dealings with her mother; and Carlos should have carried some common sense. We have not even addressed the extremely weak plot of the clinical trials and how the characters acted with such poor intelligence in regards to that, which was one of the primary reasons for the ensuing havoc. There was no need for such a complicated plot, and if that had to remain, there needed to be a less haywire execution. It is not that we have not watched series where people are simply running around (Outer Banks), but there was a purpose to it all. The bottom line is that The Surrogacy is very hard to like. We would have had the stomach for it had it been shorter or if it had been released in two parts, over time, but this right now just doesn’t make the cut.