The Department of Time: Tiempo de magia (Time of magic)   First Watch 
June 1, 2018 7:20 AM - Season 2, Episode 6 - Subscribe

The team travels to 1920s New York into the world of magic and Houdini, as the Ministry's own existence is placed in peril.

Notes (contain spoilers)

* Salvador is reinstated in this episode.
* The portraits of former undersecretaries are depictions of creators Javier and Pablo Olivares, and one of the show's most frequent directors, Marc Vigil.
* This is the first episode of the show directed by a 'guest director' (Paco Plaza). The newspaper includes an image of the Medeiros Girl from his 2007 film "[REC]".
* Several people seen in this episode existed in real life:
- Joaquín María Argamasilla de la Cerda y Elío claimed to have had the ability to see through opaque objects.
- Harry Houdini
- Santiago Ramón y Cajal was a Spanish neuroscientist and pathologist, specializing in neuroanatomy, particularly the histology of the central nervous system. He and Camillo Golgi received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906 -- the first person of Spanish origin who won a scientific Nobel Prize. His original investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain made him a pioneer of modern neuroscience. Hundreds of his drawings illustrating the delicate arborizations of brain cells are still in use for educational and training purposes.
- Ramón María del Valle-Inclán y de la Peña was a Spanish dramatist, novelist and member of the Spanish Generation of 98. He is considered perhaps the most noteworthy and certainly the most radical dramatist working to subvert the traditionalism of the Spanish theatrical establishment in the early part of the 20th century.
- J. Edgar Hoover
posted by zarq (6 comments total)
I was a little confused by the team’s escape with Houdini from the Darrow gunman - I was assuming it would be done via some stage trick of Houdini’s, like a trap door/hidden passage. But were they saying that he actually jumped everyone back in time to their hotel room a few hours earlier? There’s something sad/ironic about the tendency of shows/movies which ascribe actual magical powers to Houdini, when he fought so hard in life to expose fraudsters.

Not sure what to make of the ‘man with the X-ray eyes’. I don’t know why introducing superpowers to the show’s mythology seems like such a huge jump from the established premise of time doors & Darriw’s time travel tech, but, it does seem more fantastical somehow.

Visually, this was an impressive episode, makes sense that it was a new-to-the-show director.

Yay for Salvador getting his job back. But I don’t wish 11th Century prison on anyone, hope they find some more humane punishment for Torres, maybe make her turn double agent on Darrow? (And, speaking of Darrow, I loved all the American characters’ terrible Spanish accents. For all that I still struggle to understand the individual words people are saying in Spanish-Spanish, those horribly Anerican accents made me giggle.)
posted by oh yeah! at 9:11 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was actually the first episode of the show I didn't like. As you say, oh yeah!, Houdini spent years trying to expose con artists and frauds, and did in fact expose Joaquín Argamasilla as a fraud in 1924 in real life. But this episode ascribed magical powers to him and treated Argamasilla as someone with actual "x-ray eyes."

It felt wrong. Against Houdini's legacy.

This is the 1st episode out of 14 so far that made me feel that way, though. Which (at least to me,) says a lot about the quality of the series.

About the accents -- Amelia does a pretty good British English here.
posted by zarq at 9:35 AM on June 1, 2018

Houdini spent years trying to expose con artists and frauds, and did in fact expose Joaquín Argamasilla as a fraud in 1924 in real life. But this episode ascribed magical powers to him and treated Argamasilla as someone with actual "x-ray eyes."

Oh, that makes it even worse. It's equivalent to Creationist fanfic about Darwin turning born-again Christian and rejecting evolutionary theory. (Or, in the reverse, I remember thinking that the John Adams HBO mini-series did a lousy job of portraying Adams' religiosity as compared to the book, having him angrily railing at God after Abigail died when according to the book it was his faith that sustained him through his widowerhood, as he fully believed he would see her in heaven.) Give mystical fictional powers to Arthur Conan Doyle all you want, he'd have loved it, but doing it to Houdini is just disrespectful of his actual prowess. Ah well. Hopefully this is just another experiment in tone, like the difference between the farce of the 'Convent of the Ministry' episode as compared to the seriousness of the Spanish flu episode, and not a total shift to X-Men-level sci-fi.
posted by oh yeah! at 12:56 PM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Here is Amelia wearing a beautiful cut work blouse, which we will see several more times in the series. The costumes are so lovely, and with so much detail. I'm guessing some of them are vintage just from their texture and wear. That handwoven scarf of Amelia's in the last scene. Anyone catch sight of the pleated lining of Pacino's cape? (The cape he despises.)

Here is Amelia, chica lista, so intelligent with nerves of steel, playing with paranormal toys. That seemed out of character. The paranormal craze of the 20s is explained in the episode, and Houdini's involvement. Amelia's loss is of course Julian. All the same, that scene felt more like thematic pattern-making than character development as far as Amelia is concerned.

I don't mind the way they've presented Houdini, they mention that he exposed frauds and incorporate the real-life unmasking of Argamasilla into the plot. It's not as if a Ministry of Time with magic doors is that much of a realistic proposition to start with. There is generally a more frivolous attitude to fantasy in this episode, the next assignment Ernesto mentions is saving the Belmez Faces which doesn't seem at all the same sort of thing as any of the assignments we've seen so far. I wouldn't say this whimsy is typical of the whole series. The episodes I have a hard time with are the ones where it's a bit too real and painful, because they're shown as messed up and complicated and unfair and that's a bit too much like real life.

The accents. I find Amelia's accent to be just wrong enough (and to consist of several different sorts of English accent) to properly be in uncanny valley. I hope it's not too spoilery to say the accents are a complete mess in this series, and after a while, for me that just adds to its charm. Also, soon enough, they stop even trying.

Oh my god, I've just understood why they get a message from the 1924 ministry! They can go back in time while that ministry can't go forward.

"Incompetence is the same as intelligence, kindness, greed and stupidity. It has no gender." You tell 'em, Ernesto.

All the women are fabulous. How come all the women are fabulous? Amelia, Irene, Lola, Angoustia. Mind you, if I knew Irene or anyone like her, I would be ever so careful never to piss her off.
posted by glasseyes at 3:47 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

applique, not cut work, that was wrongness.
posted by glasseyes at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I enjoy the anglophone characters’ horribly-accented Spanish here and in future episodes (having had my ears open during my time in the French classrooms of Britain), and it made sense for Amelia to be the best English speaker of the Spanish characters (though the amount of estuary I heard was strange given her character’s class background). But I could not wrap my head around her speaking more native-sounding English than the anglophone characters. It’s not like the studio in Spain would have to look far to find actors with convincing accents (and IIRC they did, for select characters in future episodes).

According to Wikipedia, Amelia’s actor (Aura Garrido) "speaks English thanks to having an English-speaking best friend growing up."

Her reaction to the debunked psychic’s pronouncements about her aura is of course the best line in the episode.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 2:26 PM on April 13, 2020

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