Now and Then recap: Scheming friends get desperate in Apple TV+ series

Now and Then’s scheming friends descend into desperation [Apple TV+ recap]

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Now and Then recap: Rosie Perez gets to strut herself as the young version of Detective Flora Neruda this week.★★★★
Rosie Perez gets to strut herself as the young version of Detective Flora Neruda this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

Now and Then, the delightfully trashy Apple TV+ series about guilty friends committing new crimes to cover up old ones, heads straight into the gutter of desperation this week.

Sofia’s loan is due. Marcos’ wife is leaving him. Pedro’s lover is in jail, and he wants to throw the campaign. Ana is watching her future slip away. Hugo’s still in a coma. And Flora is off the case.

No one’s coming to these poor sinners’ rescue.

Now and Then recap: ‘A Good Day to Give Thanks’

Season 1, episode 6: In this week’s episode, titled “A Good Day to Give Thanks,” it’s Thanksgiving 20 years ago. Pedro (played by Dario Yazbek Bernal) is watching his mother, the maid, prepare dinner for Alejandro’s (Jorge López) large, rich family, while Ana (Alicia Jaziz) looks on uncomfortably at the head of the table.

Sofia (Alicia Sanz) and Daniela (Miranda de la Serna) are together in one of their little bedrooms with Chinese food, calling Marcos (Jack Duarte) as his father, Arturo (Victor Mallarino), scolds him for being on the phone.

In the present, Pedro (José María Yazpik) is visiting his boyfriend/campaign manager Ernesto (Eduardo Noriega) in jail. The feds booked him when Pedro’s wife, Ana (Marina de Tavira), turned him in. His name was on the accounts — it’s pretty open and shut. Pedro promises to make it right, but he’s got no cards to play.

Ana, for her part, completely lacks remorse. She knows that if she hadn’t acted, Pedro would be the one behind bars. Would this change if she knew Pedro and Ernesto are in love? Pedro’s campaign manager, Francis (Jimmy Shaw), tells him to distance himself from Ernesto as swiftly and decisively as possible, which breaks his heart. He doesn’t comply, flying into a self-destructive spiral, canceling events and yelling at his family. Pedro is clearly losing his grip.

Sofia (Maribel Verdú) is at Hugo’s (Matt Mitchell) bedside, reminiscing about her part in the blackmailing scheme that seems to have killed Hugo’s stepmother, Daniela (Soledad Villamil). So that makes Sofia responsible not just for Hugo’s mother’s death, but also his stepmother’s, and now his near-death car crash.

Everyone’s got problems

She has a lot to answer for, but she’s hardly alone. When Flora (Rosie Perez) stops by to check on Hugo, she sees Sofia there and takes the opportunity to intimidate her. For her hubris, she’s taken off the case and suspended. Her chief finds out that she bugged Marcos’ (Manolo Cardona) house without a warrant.

Meanwhile, Marcos is still in hot water with Isabel (Juana Acosta). Before the wire was shut down, it recorded him and Sofia sleeping together, which Flora happily shared with Isabel. Now Marcos is eyeing a bottle of pills with interest when he isn’t at work at his father’s clinic.

It was Arturo who told the police about the illegal wiretap, so he thinks he and his son might get on better footing, but Marcos is still distraught about Isabel. Sofia is still trying to help him, but she’s got problems of her own. Bernie (Joaquim de Almeida), her loan shark, shows up in her motel room demanding the money she owes him.

Flora has plenty of time to reminisce about the past, specifically some crucial history with her one-time partner, detective John Sullivan (Zeljko Ivanek) and his wife, Lisa (Miriam Cooke), who died of cancer while they were investigating the case the first time around. John, in the present, finds out that Flora was suspended and comes over to visit. He still cares about her enough to worry about her throwing her career away. If she does that, she’s got nothing else.

Rosie Perez brings it

Rosie Perez does such a great job playing the younger version of Flora Neruda. She’s so sprightly and eager compared to the more closed-off person in the present who’s still clinging to the hope of investigating her foundational case.

Present-day Flora is lonely and losing her vision. John has kids and grandkids; Flora has nothing but a dog.

Now and Then hasn’t gone too in-depth into Flora as a character because the showrunners know we know basically what we need to. She’s a hard-bitten, dogged cop who won’t let that one case go. We’ve all seen enough TV and movies to know what we need to. However, it’s still nice to get a window into her, if only because it means spending more time with Perez.

Bad times mean great TV

This episode has everyone in free fall, from Marcos getting hammered and calling Sofia to rescue him, to Pedro taking out his frustration on his family and campaign staff. It’s clearly getting to the point where the lives they built are falling apart because they were constructed on a fault line of lies and deceit.

This brings out the best in the cast, who, when doing real-time damage control, are mostly sweaty and slick. They get to really dig into the essence of their characters this week, to find that their inner children, who hardened and calcified the day Alejandro died, are still waiting for them.

They’re aided by regular series director Carlos Sedes. He blocks the faces and bodies of his cast with real dynamics, from the shot of Marcos and his father conversing in a mirror — with a dozen images of Marcos spread across the screen, hinting at his duplicity — to the shot of Pedro and Ana making up in close-up after Thanksgiving dinner, trapped as ever by their shared secrets.

I also am really starting to love that, without fail, every episode ends with a revelation in the final 10 minutes. Probably not unique (I don’t watch enough soaps to be sure), but great fun. This week’s version was excellent. A solid effort all around.

★★★★

Watch Now and Then on Apple TV+

New episodes of Now and Then arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.