Bilingual Apple TV+ comedy series Acapulco returns this week for a second season of bright colors and frothy hijinx narrated by Eugenio Derbez. The Mexican resort is an ’80s uproar, young Maximo’s life is crumbling (though he won’t admit it), and his family is at a crossroads. And everyone, as usual, needs a favor.
The second season so far seems exactly like the first, which is to be expected, so if you like the softest possible jokes, you’re in luck. The show is fleetingly charming and expertly designed — the art direction remains Acapulco‘s greatest virtue — and little by little, it’s relaxing into a funnier groove.
Acapulco season 2 recap
Season 2, episodes 1-3: Maximo Gallardo (played by Derbez) has more to tell his nephew Hugo (Raphael Alejandro) as they venture out on their newest adventure in the present, a return to the resort he worked at as a teen, with his bodyguard Joe (Will Sasso) at their side.
Maximo left his own story on quite the cliffhanger last season. His past self had a fight with his boss at the resort, Don Pablo (Damián Alcázar). The girl he loves, Julia (Camila Perez), was proposed to by gringo staff member Chad (Chord Overstreet), and they’re both unsure whether she’ll say yes, even when she does say yes.
He’s trying to get his friend Memo (Fernando Carsa) a job at the pool before Don Pablo fires him, but Hector (Rafael Cebrián), the pool boss, is a tough nut to crack. Meanwhile, Maximo’s sister Sara (Regina Reynoso) is secretly dating Roberta (Samantha Orozco). And they’ve told their mother, Nora (Vanessa Bauche), that Roberta is dating Maximo to cover up their lie. Nora does not want her daughter to be gay.
Maximo owes money to the doctors who fixed Nora’s cataracts, and he’s losing money to Hector. And then there’s Isabelle (Gabriella Milla), the delivery girl who charms him out of calling security when she reveals she’s stealing from the resort. He wants to date her but he still has feelings for Julia he’s hiding.
Tying up lose ends, one at a time
The mess that works out first is his Don Pablo situation. Turns out he’s not mad — he’s actually proud of Maximo. His outburst at the New Year’s party at the end of last season made things better for the old man.
So, Don Pablo wants to help Maximo advance at the resort. First step: Become indispensable to Diane (Jessica Collins), the real head of the resort. She’s Chad’s mother, and she doesn’t approve of her son getting married to Julia. Part of helping Diane means doing side quests for her, like helping two tennis pros (Tanner Stine and Gjermund Gjesme) at once without the other knowing, a la the end of Mrs. Doubtfire.
Acapulco season two: Blend in some jokes
I did laugh a few times during episode two and quite a bit during episode three, which is an improvement over the first season of Acapulco, in which all 10 episodes transpired without a single laugh. I confess that a show this eager to please (’80s milieu, Mexican-language karaoke of English-language hits, comedy aerobics, Eugenio Derbez mugging all over the place — god that man is tiresome) is very easy to resist, or try to resist, want to resist.
But hey, what can I say? This season’s winning me over. I stopped actively grimacing and started smiling, and that’s a much nicer feeling. Becoming about something other than Maximo’s quest to make money and be a good capitalist helps. The showrunners humanized young Maximo in a way they can’t do with old Maximo, and part of that is realizing money isn’t everything.
Hey, it took a season, and frankly, the show has to end with him being rich (and being played by Eugenio Derbez), so it’s not like there’s a real happy ending here, but whatever. Minute to minute, the show is working much better in season two.
… and mix things up with some spicy acting and directing
The subplot about Sara and Roberta is deeply affecting, from their courtship to their breakup. Regina Raynoso and Samantha Orozco are both really good in their roles, selling on the one hand a kind of dour, repressed individuality, and on the other a frantic search for space to be herself in private. It’s good stuff — much more affecting than I expected.
Director Jay Karas handles all that with sensitivity, which is good because the show is so ebullient otherwise — frequently to a fault. It’s nice to know he can slow down a little. In one great, carefully choreographed sequence in the first episode, Karas captures a conversation between Memo, Hector and Maximo that’s full of extremely specific motion and fast-paced chatter, and he loops back around to the focal point of the opening of the shot.
It’s perhaps not Goodfellas or anything, but the effort is appreciated. And along with the beautiful design of the hotel (those colors!!!), the show exhibits an appealing minute-to-minute vibe. A tiny bit of help could turn Acapulco into a classic instead of a handsome trifle.
The downsides (other than Derbez) are that the Memo stuff still isn’t funny, and neither are Hector, Chad or Diane. The show’s writing still falls back on a lot of hacky tropes and dog-eared joke construction. Bbut when it’s good, it’s quite good. I’m impressed with the progress this creative staff is making, and I’m liking each episode a little more. Let’s see where this season of Acapulco goes.
Watch Acapulco on Apple TV+
Season two of Acapulco premieres October 21 on Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping on the following Fridays.
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.