“Shame, guilt, shyness and fear.” With these words, after an explicit flashback in which he teaches Ares inside, the universe of the first Dutch series to be distributed through the Netflix giant, a psychological horror thriller consisting of a season, eight short episodes of about a half hour each.
The values that are mentioned in one of the first scenes of the series are precisely those that are discarded in the lodge that the fiction presents. A select secret society to which, traditionally, only children from good families and the aforementioned capital sentiments have access they are “erased” through the tentacles of the supernatural force that hides in the foundations from the lodge itself.
While a prestigious neurosurgeon proclaims a “normal life for everyone thanks to brain stimulation”, a very expensive technical treatment to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease, among other diseases, Rosa (Jade Olieberg), the protagonist of the series, brings out the question that encompasses the whole plot of it: it is about a possibility “only for the rich”, in the words of the character himself.
Although ‘Ares’ (created by Pieter Kuijpers, Iris Otten and Sander van Meurs) moves between two worlds, in the end they are both cut by the same force, far removed from the philosophy of meritocracy that seems to have gained some adherents in the 21st century.
In the heart of a modern society like any other today, specifically in Amsterdam (Netherlands), the greatest elitism and ostentation of a powerful brotherhood is “hidden” in broad daylight, which captures Rosa’s attention, a university student who hates her life having had to take on responsibilities that slow her ambition and being forced to take care of her mother, a woman with a fragile mental health who spends a lot of time alone locked within four walls.
Away from her best friend, Jacob (Tobias Kersloot), the young woman bumps into Ares’s “recruiter”, Carmen (Lisa Smit), who with her enigmatic answers manages to spark curiosity in the young woman and that she finally crosses the threshold of the lodge to achieve what with all his efforts he has not yet achieved: to be on top of the pyramid and be someone important.
Without being the chosen one at first sight, Rosa catches our attention for being a kind of Messiah, belonging to the working class, which is willing to break the scheme of what is established by dynamiting the foundations of the institution from within, something that is glimpsed in those first tests that applicants have to pass to earn their place in the lodge.
Nothing could be further from reality, since the expectations that are cultivated in that second chapter are not fulfilled despite the fact that Rosa will be in trouble throughout her apprenticeship in ‘Ares’.
That’s when it begins, to the disappointment of those who are not enthusiastic about the cryptic webs in a series, the chaotic imaginary in which the philosophy of that secret society is recreated. A somewhat empty world that revolves around that dark well in which the emphasis is placed at the head of the series.
In this sense, although far removed from the video game aesthetics of ‘Stranger Things’, the “monster” that lives in the depths of Ares and that revolts at every step taken by the antagonist, Jacob, who hangs his scythe on his fiction to do justice and skewing the cardinal sins of the members of the lodge, may come to remember precisely the by how he “empties” his victims. However, the scheme of evil in ‘Ares’ is much more primitive and clings to our most basic instincts, the currency of the lodge.
Love vs. capitals sins
“Give your soul to Beal”, that is the premise that haunts the protagonist throughout the series, of which it is surprising that she hardly questions what is living in the Ares networks and that she succumbs so quickly to a scheme that affects the question, a bit stale, that to be the best you have to be relentless and leave no room for emotion. Although it does so by resorting to the intrigue of hiding some pieces of the puzzle at first.
The most interesting thing about this approach is that the “biblical” balance of things takes a 360 degree turn and suffers when Ares’ well of ambition overflows, while the roles of heroine and antagonist are also interchanged.
“Every day he gets more restless,” says Maurits (Hans Kesting), the person in charge of appointing the president of the secret society, in one of the chapters, where a kind of twisted environmental message is made explicit, in which love, which for many can be considered one of the main engines of the world, is forgotten.
Despite how promising the fiction may seem at first, ‘Ares’ incurs during its development in repetitions that can become too predictable, due to how expected some of the events are. Even so, the outcome does not disappoint and, predictably, gives viewers who have reached the final chapter what they were looking for, so it is worth the journey.