In episode 2 of Always a Witch, Carmen settles into the 21st century as she makes an arrangement with Adelaida to stay at the hostel while working there. She also gets acquainted with a new group of friends, while searching for clues about Ninibe’s disappearance and trying to stay one step ahead of Lucien. Carmen audits biology classes as part of her modern cover story, which brings her into contact with many of the people she needs to meet and increases her knowledge about the 21st century and witchcraft.
It’s so refreshing to watch a show about a witch who fends for herself, without an older male handler acting as a father figure to “guide” her actions and education. Carmen has various friends, advisors and mentors in her life, as any normal person does. But there’s no one in her story whose opinion she allows to take precedence over her own, such as a vampire slayer’s watcher, the Charmed witches’ whitelighter, or the male partner of virtually any fictional woman. In both time periods, Carmen listens to the opinions of others, then makes her own decisions. Not even Cristobal can sway her opinions or decisions for long.
Since I hate the trope that a powerful/magical woman always needs a male handler or she’ll become out of control (looking at you right now, Roswell, New Mexico), I’m thrilled to see Carmen able to think for herself at 18. Once Cristobal teaches her to read and write, she adds those skills to her supernatural powers and begins to leave the mindset of a slave behind. During her arrest and trial, it’s clear that existentially, her mind is already free. The Inquisidor even accuses her of seeing herself as equal to her master. It’s not an attitude she develops in the 21st century.
The 21st century gives her a place where her body is free and where women are closer to being treated as equals. She learns about the possibilities for living in a more just society. But there are also problems in this century, and Carmen is exposed to them as soon as she leaves the water. Whoever takes her to the hospital dumps her and runs, then the nurses assume she’s been sexually and physically assaulted, and then she comes under police suspicion herself. No one listens to her.
Modern culture has its own alienation, violence, prejudice and misogyny to deal with. it’s not the utopia some seem to think it is when they insist Carmen should choose to stay in the 21st century. Outlander’s Claire, who is from the 20th century, voluntarily chooses to stay in the 18th century with her 2nd husband, despite the extreme hardships and risks involved, because it’s become her emotional home. Carmen has strong reasons for going back to her own time, which I won’t spoil, but rest assured they are as complex, heroic and brave as she is.
In season 1, the makers of Siempre Bruja focus as much on Carmen’s life as a woman as they do on her struggles as a person of color. Carmen has a wide variety of relationships with many types of people of different ages, sexualities, ethnicities and backgrounds. She’s exposed to a variety of physical environments and schools of thought. Yet through all of this, she remains herself and retains her agency, even when imprisoned, bewitched or otherwise under pressure to conform.
Carmen Eguiluz is the undisputed star of her life and her show.
How many female characters in film and TV can say the same?
The episode begins with Carmen in the ladies room, after evading questioning by the police and Esteban. She sees herself clearly in a mirror for the first time and tries out different facial expressions. The voiceover in this episode is in the form of a letter Carmen writes to Cristobal. She tells him about all of her new experiences.
When she can’t put it off any longer, Carmen is questioned by Detective Corcel, from the hospital, who remembers her face. He’s immediately suspicious of her, since she’s been at the site of two disappearances- her own and Ninibe’s. Carmen denies that she was at the hospital and proves it by showing the detective her feet, which are fine and don’t appear to have been injured lately. Corcel lets Carmen go, but first he tells her that he knows a woman who’s up to something when he sees one, and he’ll be watching her.
Lovely fellow. He questions Alicia next, and begins the same way he did with Carmen. He has no evidence, and is trying to intimidate the witnesses into talking, hoping that by chance one was involved.
Carmen goes back to the hostel and knocks on Johnny Ki’s door. She asks him to help her talk to his grandmother, Adelaida. He notices she’s borrowed his T-shirt and decides to let her keep it.
Carmen makes a meal to prove her cooking skills to Adelaida. She’s auditioning for a job as a cook and housekeeper at the hostel, in exchange for room and board. Her old room is now a storage room, so Adelaida lets Carmen stay there and tells her she can keep whatever she finds when she cleans it up. Johnny Ki finds Carmen suspect, especially since she doesn’t have any luggage.
The first thing Carmen “finds” in her old room is her witch’s chest, which she kept hidden under the floorboards. She pulls out her magical tools and sets up a ritual to contact Aldemar, but he doesn’t answer her.
She eventually dozes off and levitates several feet off the bed. Johnny Ki is walking by her room and notices. He films her on his cell phone, then runs away, not wanting to get caught by the witch.
The next day, Carmen goes back to the university, her only connection to Ninibe and finding a way home. Alicia seems to be the other witch that Ninibe was working with , but they argued just before Ninibe disappeared. Carmen isn’t sure if she can trust Alicia, so she decides to determine which side the other woman is on.
She follows Alicia into her biology class and is about to sit next to her, when a boy rushes in and tells Carmen that the seat is already taken- by him. He directs her to some open seats in the back of the room. The couple who Carmen interrupted in Ninibe’s office, Mayte and Leon, are also in the class. Esteban enters and tells the students that this class is supposed to be taught by Ninibe, but he’s taking over until she returns.
Leon asks if there’s any news about Ninibe. Esteban hesitates, then tells him “no”. He begins to go over the course material, then stops when he notices Carmen. He’s surprised to see her there and asks her name. She’s not on the class list, obviously, so he tells her to go to the admissions office to register after class. He asks her to introduce herself and
share her life story with him tell the class something about herself.
Carmen introduces herself by saying she comes from very far away, she wants to study biology because she has a strong connection to living things, and she hopes Ninibe turns up soon. Esteban mentions that her last name, Eguiluz, is uncommon. He says they all want Ninibe to come back.
After class, Leon and Mayte talk about whether they should go to the university welcome reception. Mayte wants to go, and says that since her father is on the university board, he’d cancel the reception if there were reason to worry.
Once Leon and Mayte walk away, Daniel, the boy who sat with Alicia, asks Carmen if she wants to go to the reception with him. Carmen hesitates, until Alicia hurries Daniel along. When Carmen realizes that she’ll be riding in the same car as Alicia, she’s all in.
Daniel’s car is a jeep, so Carmen’s first car ride is in its open back. She holds on tight and looks sick the whole time. She can’t say anything about it being her first time, or ask questions, because that would give her away, so she has to suffer in silence.
Angely Gaviria really does look like she’s trying hard not to vomit, but I don’t think you’d notice if you don’t get motion sickness yourself, because it’s a subtle performance. She clenches her jaw tighter, she takes a deep breath without opening her mouth much, she tries to look around but also keep her eyes and head steady. Kudos to her for her acting in the whole series, but this is the type of thing most people won’t even care about, and she still put all kinds of effort into it, even though nothing is said.
As they drive to the party, Dani tells Carmen that he’s a party boy who can teach her all about beach life. He used to date Alicia’s brother, and her parents don’t like him. Alicia is a straight A student who can help her with anything school related. But right now she’s extra tense, which Dani assumes is because she was questioned by the police. Alicia says that the police are useless and she could be the next victim. All of them are in danger.
The party is at the same spot where Carmen’s execution was held. It looks much the same, but the modern world has grown up around it. Alicia’s bored as soon as she sees the crowd. I suspect she’s almost always bored, or at least that’s what she wants everyone to think. She shows a bit of interest when she notices that Esteban is there.
Dani has the gang gather for a group selfie. Carmen is blurred out in the photo. Some of the others want him to take another photo, but he doesn’t want to bother. He speaks in #hashtags to tell them to lay off him.
While the others go for a drink, Carmen grabs Alicia and tries speaking to her in #jashtags about Ninibe. Alicia can’t understand her through the jashtag confusion, then Dani calls them over to drink his contraband anise liquor. They quickly drink enough shots to get drunk. It’s Carmen’s first time drinking and her first time being drunk.
Leon and Mayte slow Dani down so that he doesn’t give Carmen too many drinks. When he gives her water instead, she touches his wrist and sees images from the night she arrived in the present day. Dani was the masked guy who greeted her on the beach. After she passed out, he and his dance partner dropped her off on the sidewalk in front of the emergency room and left, so they wouldn’t be questioned by the police.
Not exactly a Prince Charming.
Carmen asks Dani, “Was that you?” He doesn’t answer. Instead, he leads everyone to the dance floor. Carmen stays where she was, still processing. Leon comes back for her. When he touches her arm, she sees him sitting at a table with his parents, while the police arrest his father. Leon was angry with his faher.
Esteban addresses the crowd, welcoming them to school and mentioning Ninibe. Then he pulls Alicia aside to address concerns Ninibe shared with him. Alicia says that it was a mistake for her to go to Ninibe. She doesn’t need anyone’s help. Carmen touches Alicia’s arm and sees Alicia arguing with Ninibe. Ninibe wanted to force her to do something with a man, and Alicia didn’t want to go through with it.
Alicia pulls her arm out of Carmen’s grasp and gets into a cab. Carmen chases her, stealing a tourist horse and carriage to follow in. When she reaches her destination, she thanks the horse, and leaves it on the street.
In my headcanon, the horse knows its way home. If it didn’t, Carmen magically told it how to get home safely.
Alicia sneaks into Ninibe’s house, with Carmen right behind her, unbeknownst to Alicia. Alicia uploads a large file from Ninibe’s laptop onto a flashdrive while Carmen looks around the house. She finds a shrine with many lit candles and puts on the pink scarf that was left nearby.
The scarf gives Carmen visions of Ninibe, at a spot in the forest which she recognizes. Ninibe is standing alone, dirty, and holding her hands, up near her chest. She might be performing a spell or ritual. Carmen’s mark lights up when the vision ends.
She finds Alicia in Ninibe’s bedroom and asks if she’s on Lucien’s side. Alicia claims that she doesn’t know who Lucien is, but she’s on her own side, above all. “The last thing I need is another stalker in my life.”
Alicia is still waiting for the Denuncia Acoso file to download. The two argue over whether they should try to find Ninibe themselves or leave it to the police. Carmen tells her that she knows about her argument with Ninibe. Alicia is confused about how Carmen could know about it, but before they can say anything else, another woman comes into the house.
Alicia has to take out the flashdrive before the file is done downloading, then they run. Once they’re safely out, Carmen continues to grill Alicia until she breaks down in tears. Alicia has her own problems that have nothing to do with Ninibe, and doesn’t know anything about the witchcraft references Carmen drops into the conversation.
Alicia needed to get the entire file off of Ninibe’s computer because her ex-boyfriend says he’ll ruin her if she doesn’t drop the complaint. They made a sex tape together, which he’s threatening to publish all over social media. Angel got her drunk one night and coerced her into letting him record them. Now he’s using the recording to blackmail her. If he publishes the recording, her reputation will be ruined and her parents will kill her.
Alicia berates herself for being so stupid and getting herself into this mess, when she’s usually so careful. Beyond the guy clearly being a jerk who’s done this before, it sounds like maybe he drugged her. She’s describing herself as being willing to do things she wouldn’t normally do, and being more intoxicated than usual. For that to also coincidentally be the night her slimeball boyfriend recorded them is very suspicious.
Alicia has to explain the cultural context for the entire situation to Carmen. Once she understands what happened, Carmen asks why Alicia fought with Ninibe. Alicia says that she reported Angel when he first threatened her. But then she changed her mind, and decided it would be better to get back with him than to have the entire city mock her and think she’s stupid.
Which they would. Angel, who’s also in the video and who will have betrayed his girlfriend to post it, will be ignored or applauded. Alicia will be seen as a slut or a patsy, who allowed something valuable to be stolen from her. And she’s buying into the myth that her sexuality is something men or society can play games with. What Angel is stealing from her is her privacy and her freedom of choice. Ninibe was right to encourage her to go to the police to report the crime, rather than hide in the shadows like she’s the one who did something wrong. But Alicia is so embarrassed about this that she’s been dealing with it alone, and that makes it hard to stay strong.
Alicia tells Carmen that she ruined her own life for a loser who’s obsessed with her. “He won’t leave me alone. He follows me and pressures me. And I don’t know if you understand me.”
Carmen drily says that she knows a thing or two about persecution.
Alicia wishes that she could make Angel forget her and then she could get the video from him. Carmen has a remedy for that. She whips up the potion off camera, and gives it to Alicia.
But she insists it’s not witchcraft. Witchcraft gets you killed. This is a home remedy taught to her by her uncle, to help her escape the slavers. Nothing strange about that at all!!
Alicia is just a little freaked out that Carmen needed to escape slavers, and wants to know what, exactly, Carmen’s family business is? Carmen realizes her mistake, and says these are old stories, passes down through the generations.
She instructs Alicia to put exactly 5 drops into a glass of water and have Angel drink it. Then he’ll forget her. If it’s not exactly 5 drops, the effects will be unpredictable.
Alicia goes straight to Angel’s bar, where Johnny Ki’s band is playing. She tells him she wants to get back together, and insists they toast on it. Angel doesn’t believe her, so she kisses him. He takes her back, but threatens to kill himself and publish the video if she’s lying.
Alicia asks for drinks, again, so Angel orders them. They toast. He says again he doesn’t believe she’s sincere. Manipulation ensues, on both sides. They dance. Alicia puts a lot more than 5 drops in the drink. They continue working on their drinks, with suspenseful interruptions at opportune moments, until Angel’s is gone.
Angel gets a headache and almost passes out. Alicia assumes he’s in the process of forgetting her, steals his phone, and leaves the bar. He doesn’t pass out or forget her.
Johnny Ki tells a girl about Carmen levitating while she sleeps.
Carmen goes to the spot where she saw Ninibe in the vision. She recognized it because it’s the same place where she and Cristobal used to meet. Now the forest feels like it’s filled with evil and pain, as if it’s caught in the spell of an evil wizard. Carmen stands at the trunk of a large, old tree. Her witch’s mark glows. She sees something at the base of the tree that terrifies her.
Back at the beach, Mayte, Leon, and Dani are relaxing in hammocks. Dani is making out with a girl. They get a phone message. Angel has sent the video to Alicia’s closest friends. Dani thinks it’s hilarious that a hurtful video of one of his best friends is circulating, and quickly shows it to the nameless girl he’s with.
No wonder Alicia’s parents hate him.
Carmen goes back to the hostel and asks Johnny Ki for help with notifying the police about what she saw in the forest. He reluctantly calls in an anonymous tip. The next day on the news, they hear that several charred bodies have been found at the site, including two completely burnt bodies. They’re considering them victims of the Bonfire Killer. There’s fear that Ninibe may be among the dead, but no evidence yet.
When Alicia gets to school, Dani shows her the video that Angel sent them.
Carmen is frustrated about her lack of progress in her own life, and writes to Cristobal again. She tells him she’s lonely and surrounded by appliances that change facets of reality, but don’t actually help her. She can’t be excited about the future if Ninibe is dead, leaving her with no way to get back to Aldemar in the past. She needs to go back to save Cristobal, and she’s also in danger from Lucien in the present.
Carmen folds and kisses the letter, then places it in a crack above the window in the library. Her spell makes a breeze blow in 2019 and 1646. In the past, Cristobal notices the disturbance and comes into the room, but no one is there. He senses Carmen’s closeness, and her mark lights up. But Carmen leaves the library and Hilda calls Cristobal back to bed so he can rest and recover.
Carmen finds Johnny Ki going through her room. He’s figured out that she’s a witch, but she denies it. He shows her the video of her levitating while she sleeps, then says that if she doesn’t do what he asks, he’s going to tell everyone what she is.
Are there any decent guys in the present day?
Denuncia Acoso= Harassment complaint
Kids, please don’t leave candles burning unattended, no matter how romantic it seems. Witches and normal people’s houses burn down because of forgotten candles, even in modern times.
Esteban asks Carmen more questions than the police did. He’s showing much more interest in her than is necessary, to the point where it’s suspicious.
It’s great that this show has a black, male bisexual character, but he’s also annoyingly selfish and shallow. Did they have to make him such a club culture stereotype?
I thought for a minute that Alicia might have more than one stalker, and that the second one was possibly Esteban, but I guess not. The whole conversation outside of Ninibe’s house was confusing. I’m not sure if it was caused by the original writing or the translation. Or is Lucien confused about her relationship with Ninibe, too, and messing with her mind?
It also seems that Alicia has nothing to do with magic or the witch community. That was a misdirect. So we don’t know who the other witch is.
Well, if you have sharp eyes you do. We’ve seen her three times. In a photo on Ninibe’s desk in episode 1, in the hall with the crowd who were worried about Ninibe at the end of episode 1, and she was the woman who came to Ninibe’s house in this episode. (These aren’t spoilers. The camera very specifically directed us to the photo. We’re supposed to be frustrated by the near misses.)
Images courtesy of Netflix.