Real Madrid: Until the End shoots and misses [Apple TV+ review]


The new three-part documentary debuts March on Apple TV+.★★☆☆
How do you tell an exciting sports story when there's not much going on?
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ Review New Apple TV+ sports documentary Real Madrid: Until the End chronicles one of the world’s most popular football clubs during a treacherous 2021 and 2022 comeback season.

Missing their star striker, reuniting with an old coach, dealing with their best player’s injuries … there are many hurdles for the team to overcome. This three-part series won’t play particularly well for people who aren’t already invested in the fortunes of Real Madrid. But it proves fairly informative and entertaining even to the layman.

Real Madrid: Until the End review

Season 1: The last time we saw Florentino Pérez, billionaire president of ACS Group and owner of the Real Madrid football club, he was cutting a rather shabby figure as the villain of another Apple TV+ docuseries, Super League: The War for Football.

He and a few other very wealthy club owners had tried to foist the idea of a super league on the rest of the European football leagues. If successful, the plan would have eliminated the chance for smaller teams to ever get as big as Real Madrid, which was, naturally, no skin off Pérez’s back.

So when the new docuseries opens with him waxing rhapsodic about seeing football with his dad, and how important the game was to him, and the romance of football, etc., etc., etc., it’s a little much to take seriously. Regardless, when Real Madrid: Until the End picks up the story, the year is 2020 — and Pérez’s football club is in trouble.

The struggles of a formerly great football club

The once-mighty Real Madrid is not the powerhouse it used to be. Cristiano Ronaldo, the team’s star player, left Real Madrid.(This happened just before a very serious sexual assault allegation emerged against Ronaldo. So perhaps the club was better rid of him anyway.)

Carlo Ancelotti, the coach who used to lead Real Madrid to victory not even a decade ago, had left the club. He came back for the 2021 season, hoping to turn around the team’s luck. With some of the club’s best players aging out of their peak years, management brought in new, untested players. But they hadn’t yet had a chance to build chemistry on the field.

The team’s performance in Spanish league LaLiga wasn’t impressive until a highly scrutinized match with Barcelona. Real Madrid came out on top in time for the European Champions League matches to start. However, the team’s first match is against Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain. And the French squad boasts some of the best players in football, including Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi.

Just when they’re getting going, Real Madrid’s own star player, Karim Benzema, the man who emerged as the heart of the team after Ronaldo ditched ’em, suffers a bad injury with not much time to recover. The team puts up a good fight, but a last-minute Mbappé goal scuttles their chances in the first game. However, they finish strong. Of course … nothing’s over till it’s over.

Gooooooooooal … sort of

Apple TV+’s sports doc strategy seems kind of shortsighted and unproductive. As with surfing series Make or Break and the upcoming pro wrestling doc Monster Factory, the producers of Real Madrid seem to have decided that they wanted to make a show about Real Madrid as a way to open the door to collaboration with the club.

And so … ready or not, entertaining or not, supportable narrative or not, they needed to find some way to spin thousands of hours of footage of the team into a coherent story (instead of just the everyday fortunes of a football club exactly like every other football club in the league).

Real Madrid: Until the End never once feels like the comeback kid story the show wants us to believe is actually happening. It truly just feels like an unremarkable season of football. It’s dramatic minute to minute, and the addition of charging electronic music makes it seem like it’s even more important.

The very silly downside is having to pretend that a lot of triviality, like the moment when left-back David Alaba lifts a chair over his head and it goes viral for 10 seconds, is as important as everything else. There’s just not a lot of meat on the bones here.

A sports doc with zero visual innovation … and David Beckham

The filmmaking craft doesn’t exhibit anything special, either. We get the usual mix of game coverage from sports TV cameras, drone-shot B roll, archival footage and talking heads. I confess I have a hard time buying the underdog narrative for one of the most well-funded and frequently victorious football clubs in the world. However, it’s easier to get on board with things like the Benzema narrative, wherein a guy who was in Ronaldo’s shadow finally emerges to become the player he always had the potential to be.

Quite hysterically, the show is “presented” or “introduced” by retired football star David Beckham, which takes roughly the same form as The Amazing Criswell introducing Plan 9 From Outer Space. Beckham being hired is so funny to me because it’s the crassest producer logic. They grabbed the one guy in football whose name people might know because he’s had the most tabloid-style life of any footballer of the last 25 years, back when tabloid-style headlines about athletes still broke through. (Who was our last breakthrough sports celeb? Devin Booker and Tristan Thompson dated a Kardashian each, but I don’t think that turned them into household names. Floyd Mayweather feels like a lifetime ago.)

Bend it like who?

But here’s the thing: I’m reasonably sure at this point that John Q. TikTok knows Beckham primarily as just a famous guy. The average person might be dimly aware that maybe Beckham’s a sports star from way back. But he’s not LeBron James or Michael Jordan. Not in America, anyway. Which is, I’m assuming, the audience the creative team brought Beckham in to appeal to.

Even if he was, having him stare blankly at a camera and say, “Real Madrid are the greatest team in the league, I’m just sayin’, you take care” … what does that buy you exactly? Very silly stuff.


Watch Real Madrid: Until the End on Apple TV+

You can watch all three episodes of Real Madrid: Until the End 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 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


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