I have been sitting on this piece for a while, trying to decide what I have to say about Part 2 of Netflix’s Selena: The Series.
The first part was a mixed bag. It was enjoyable, but it was also lacking in the one perspective it advertised. Part 2 rectifies this somewhat, placing Selena front and center as it chronicles the last three years of her life. It even integrates the fact that her story in the show has been headlined by her family.
The acting was good. Christian Serratos gets a chance to show her acting chops now that she’s been given more to work with, and the cast around her play their parts well. Costuming and setting were also standouts the whole way through, correcting the 90s wig snafu of last season.
Even though the story moves more slowly now, the show manages the pacing well. It’s an easy binge in terms of the flow – though the final episode is a tough one. Speaking of which, the show does deliver the emotional gut punch that can be expected.
I struggle to decide if I think Selena: The Series, is a good show, ultimately. Or even if it was a necessary one.
I feel like I need to mention this for my own sake, so bear with me: In this article, I will be referring to Selena and the characters around her as just that, characters. Any comments or opinions on any of the people mentioned refer not to the real-life persons, but to their fictional counterparts, strictly as depicted in Selena: The Series.
Selena, Front and Center
As mentioned, Part 2 does focus much more on Selena’s perspective. She has the drive of the season, and much of it she spends trying to claim her own agency. This adds a metatextual level to the story, as it enters a sort of dialogue with Part 1. The show itself confirms she has not had the starring role in her own story up until this point.
The tipping point for Selena is the policing of her relationship with Chris, who her father kicked out of the band after discovering they’d been dating. Though Selena seems to start out resigned to her fate, she soon starts seeing Chris behind her family’s back.
The Quintanillas echo the “family is the most important” philosophy a lot. It’s this logic that leads Selena to the conclusion that the only way to keep seeing Chris without having to hide is to make him family, and what makes you family? Marriage.
They elope, and later she faces her family’s disappointment. But she was right, as their marriage corners her father into a reluctant acceptance of Chris.
This kicks off the tone of the entire rest of the season, which sees Selena trying to figure out what she wants and facing inner conflict and outer resistance every step of the way.
She pursues her dream of opening the boutique and clothing line she’s always aspired to have. She disobeys her father’s orders by revealing to her fans that she’s married. She also pursues her English signing career when the opportunity presents itself.
Still, she feels the effects of having had decisions made for her all this time. She struggles with guilt over her elopement. She struggles to decide on songs for her English album, procrastinates on decision-making, and even asks for A.B.’s (Gabriel Chavarria) help to search and decide.
When her father finally concedes to let her have the boutique, she also has trouble handling all the responsibilities it implies. She eventually delegates to Yolanda Saldívar (played by Natasha Perez), the president of her fan club, and the woman who’ll end up killing her.
Serratos gets to vindicate herself, bringing an enthusiasm and heart to Selena that is hard not to empathize with. She shines most in the small moments, in which she lends a believability to Selena’s inner conflicts that is a significant improvement from being relegated to the background.
The Supporting Cast
The supporting cast takes a little bit more of a back seat this season. Noemi Gonzalez (Suzette) takes a step back, and the other band members take two. Jesse Posey’s Chris Perez plays a rather passive role in the story, so much so that when he suddenly opens up conflict with Selena it jars a bit. He’s a fine enough character, though he doesn’t end up making as much of an impact as had been teased by the cast.
Chavira’s Abraham takes a less active role this time around, but Chavarria’s A.B. seems to compete at times for the main character with Selena. A.B. does end up feeling like the ultimate protagonist, as his story has an arc through both seasons, and Selena’s only starts in Part 2. All in all, they’re good performances by everyone.
A very unfortunate side effect of Part 2 is that it made me very annoyed at every single character apart from Selena. In fairness, it may be a testament to the show’s emotional quality.
Selena’s lack of experience isn’t by choice. People have made decisions for her all her life, sometimes against her will, as shown by Part 1. So it’s only logical that she’ll have doubts when she’s finally taking charge. The rest of her family is not quick to sympathize. Suzette (Noemi Gonzalez) and A.B. complain that she doesn’t understand all they have to do, and Abraham (Ricardo Chavira) condescends to her when she reveals she wants to open the boutique.
From her siblings, I get it. From their perspective, Selena has been coddled and has enjoyed being the center of attention, as she’s the face of Selena y los Dinos. It’s hard for them to see the pressure that puts on her when they’re dealing with the pressures put on them. Suzette never wanted to be in a band or play the drums, after all, and A.B. has the weight of the failure or success of the music on his shoulders, as put there by Abraham.
It resonates as very true to life, how sometimes younger children are coddled and then struggle to cope. And as much as it may be the family’s doing, the right move is to let them fly solo and stumble a little. It’s why it elicits such strong emotions once you empathize with Selena. It’s also proof that it managed to get me invested, which is a good sign.
Eventually, Selena comes into her own in a way that is simultaneously satisfying and a little heartbreaking knowing how her story ends.
Ultimately, the Quintanilla’s are depicted as a family who love each other very much, and they show it the best way they know how.
Selena: The Series makes a pointed decision to include Saldivar in its narrative, as played by Natasha Perez. Though from what one reads about Saldivar, her role in Selena’s life was understandably downplayed.
The show depicts very few but damning moments from Yolanda’s perspective. She gets close-ups of her face that reveal her as jealous of Selena’s relationships with others. We see her on her own only twice in Part 2: alone at home, where the walls are covered in pictures of the Tejano singer, and then at a gun shop, shortly before the murder.
Selena adds a layer of metatext in Yolanda as well. The way it frames certain scenes, it relies on a preexisting knowledge of who Yolanda is. Even the music on her first appearance in Part 1 announces a big reveal that would certainly feel confusing to anyone who doesn’t know the story.
The writing of the character and the role she plays in scenes translate into a combination of dangerous killer and pathetic villain. It’s Natasha Perez who brings a balance to this with her performance. It’s not that she’s depicted sympathetically, but rather afforded her humanity despite irrevocably condemning her. Kudos to her, as this is not an easy role to take on.
We Knew Where It Was Going. It Still Hurt.
As reactions to the finale have trickled on social media, the sentiment seems to be unanimous: we knew what was coming, and it was still crushing.
In its final episode, we follow Selena and Yolanda all the way to the motel where Selena is expecting her to surrender the documents from the boutique Yolanda has withheld. As they enter the room, they pan away, and we only get to hear the gunshot.
We get glimpses of the ambulance ride, but very brief. We see Abraham and A.B. rushing to the hospital. We see a few fan reactions, but we don’t follow the family into the hospital, or get any of their initial reactions. Here, I appreciate that their pain and probably their wishes were respected.
The immediate impact of her death in the family is depicted beautifully as they listen to “Dreaming of You”. After declaring his dislike for it, A.B. breaks down as he hears the recording. The rest of the family listen to it together, sharing their heartbreak. Chris lies alone in bed with his headphones.
I have to commend this choice, as it hits home like several punches in the gut, while still being tasteful and sensitive to them and to Selena herself. I’m getting choked up just remembering these scenes, jeez.
While the real-life tragedy for sure had an effect on my reaction, I do think it was very well-executed. It’s effective because, as it turns out, the show does get you attached to the characters. I maintain that this is not a show about Selena, but about the family. Still, through the rose-tinted feel of the story, a beating heart peeks through, one that loves Selena Quintanilla-Perez, misses her dearly, and is still dealing with the utter injustice of losing her.
A series of time jumps show us how Selena inspired her siblings and has stayed in their minds as they move forward with their lives. In the end, a radio host puts on a Selena vinyl and as the music plays, we flash back to a concert scene.
Backstage, Suzette calls after Selena, camera in hand, and snaps a picture of her. The symbolism is clear. This is how we remember her. She is forever frozen in time as she was; young, lively, and full of promise that will forever go unfulfilled.
In the end, I don’t think I’m qualified to make an unbiased judgement on the show. It’s very flawed, but in the end I enjoyed the ride. And while I wouldn’t insist you watch it, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from getting into it either.
Something I appreciated is that even though the show does give us this sense of finality in the last episodes – that Astrodome show being an end all be all for the band, her finally reaching a clarity on what she wanted – and hints that her life touched others’ for the better, it does not try to assign a meaning to her death. Because it was senseless.
Was the show necessary? Probably not. It didn’t really give us much more insight into Selena the person than the 1997 movie did, and it probably won’t have as long a life. Still, it did affect me emotionally, and isn’t that what we want from stories sometimes? Some cheesiness and a good cry?
It also reminded me of that inescapable reality that we will always want more, but we have to grapple with the fact that we don’t get more Selena. And it sucks. I suppose that if I wanted to assign a deeper meaning to the show, it would be something to do with tragedy, and that very human thing of yearning for what could have been.
The show did end up having another positive effect. Selena’s music saw a rise in streams on YouTube, and while one can imagine a lot of these were longtime fans, it’s fair to assume others got to discover Selena through the show, like my generation did through the movie.
More Selena fans is never a bad thing.
Image courtesy of Netflix
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