Maya and the Three : Season 1
Might contain spoilers.
The show starts well, with high quality animation, an apparently solid cast, an interesting premise, a fascinating Latin American–influenced æsthetic mixed with glowing technological flourishes, a surprising penchant for dark humour, and a first episode that hooked me with its ending. However, it struggles with tone and pacing, even unintentionally veering into hyperactivity; some might put that down to it being a ‘kids’ show’, as if children don’t merit the same attention to detail and careful consideration.
The biggest problem is Zoe Saldaña, who tries and tries but fails as Maya: her limited vocal range is ill suited to the expressive character design and her squeaking and hoarseness undermine the emotion. On a more general note, though, the camera movements lack the symmetry and smoothness that would elevate the visuals. Breaking the frame is a nice touch when used sparingly, but not when it’s used this often.
‘Chapter 7: The Divine Gate’ is the zenith of the season, affecting and with an unexpectedly tender ending. Alfred Molina delivers an excellent performance as the unsettling Lord Mictlan, but that was only to be expected; Kate Del Castillo renders Lady Micte curiously engaging in spite of having little to do. I feel for the traumatized and much-abused Chiapa.
Obviously, this is not a work that averts its eyes from death. Picchu’s backstory is a sad one. Lord Mictan brutally transforms Acat into gold and eats her heart. Maya’s brothers are killed in the second episode; a shame, since I enjoyed Gael García Bernal’s performance as all three of them.
The gods are the heart of the show. I like their designs and powers, the highlights being Cabrakan and Cipactli, Hura and Can, and especially Vucub, god of jungle animals. Sadly, action is not the show’s strong suit, and there is a lot of it. It’s tiresome to see supposedly sharp blades continually being used like clubs, or to see power equated directly with size.
This particularly hurts the emotional but mediocre finale. Its structure is already repetitive: Maya
deciding to fight Lord Mictlan as if they weren’t already in the middle of a pitched battle; the
many goodbyes; Mictlan killing other gods and devouring their hearts, over and over;
if it is
to be, it is up to me; the four kingdoms uniting and declaring their unity not once but several
times; the friends coming to Maya’s aid again and again; the Gran Bruja acknowledging that Rico is
the greatest wizard of all time, then repeating the process for good measure…
It’s like an unsatisfying short story playing on repeat, and in the end, one can only wonder what all the death accomplished. At least the music behind Maya’s victory is different, and all the better for it. The brief moments before that as she remembers the love she’s received are good ones, too.