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Hotel Cocaine - The Orishas - Review: A Dangerous Balancing Act

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Following a powerful premiere that laid the groundwork for the series, the second episode delved deeper into the characters' backstories. Viewers learned about Janice's past traumatic involvement in the sex trade and gained insight into Roman's unwavering commitment to protecting his family. Amidst the intense drama, the iconic Mutiny Hotel provided a touch of glitz and glamour, adding a lighter feel to the episode. 

The episode featured two parallel narratives: Roman’s anxiety over Chucho’s awakening from a coma, and the legendary Rick James’ struggle with creative block. The juxtaposition was a bit jarring, almost as if watching two different shows. 

Roman was under pressure from DEA agent Zulio. He warned Roman to gain Nestor’s trust quickly or risk losing his daughter. Meanwhile, Chucho remained in the ICU, suffering from a bullet wound inflicted by Roman. 

In a tense moment, Nestor introduced Roman to Chucho’s wife as the man who helped save Chucho. Though Roman clearly felt guilty for what he had done, the moment was fleeting as he realized he had to work to keep Chucho quiet, especially because Chucho had woken up from his coma. At the Mutiny, Roman confided in Janice, asking if her friend at the hospital could update him on Chucho's condition. Battling his inner demons, Janice is clearly the only person that Roman can trust, and the reason why is revealed later in the episode. After some hesitation, he revealed his guilt over shooting Chucho. If Chucho survived and talked to the DEA, Roman faced jail; if Nestor learned the truth, Roman faced death.

“The Orishas” – HOTEL COCAINE, Pictured: Danny Pino as Roman Compte and Laura Gordon as Janice Nichols. Photo MGM ©2024 MGM Plus Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

A narrative featuring singer Rick James, made for an odd series of events that had nothing to do with the main action. James, struggling with writer's block, was accompanied by Burton Greenberg at the Mutiny, who promised to help James get out of his funk. Their interactions added a comedic element that felt out of place amid the darker subplots. Perhaps this was designed with intention to provide comedic relief or highlight the celebrities frequenting the Mutiny hotel. 

Another dark subplot delved into Janice’s troubled past. Phil Nolan, the man who once sold her into the sex trade, arrived at the Mutiny seeking forgiveness. Though skeptical, Janice momentarily found comfort in his apology. However, a waitress later informed her that Phil was exploiting another waitress. When Janice confronted him, it became evident that his apology was a ruse. Phil then accused Janice of similar deeds, but she asserted that the women at the Mutiny were there willingly and could leave at any time. Janice informed Roman about Phil’s presence, highlighting the depth of their bond. Roman's fierce protection of Janice became clear as he beat and threatened Phil, revealing that Roman had once rescued her from Phil's violent abuse. 

Underneath the darker narratives, was a softer layer of drama as Roman’s daughter, Valeria, prepared for her Catholic Confirmation. Roman was taken aback when Valeria expressed her disdain for Catholicism, questioning why she should believe in God when he allows people to suffer, including her mom. Roman, tearfully, tried to comfort her. Pino’s already stellar performance, truly shines in these emotional moments. 

Caught between the DEA and Nestor, Roman learned of a plan to move Chucho within the hospital. Despite Roman’s warnings, Nestor insisted on a risky kidnapping of Chucho. At the hospital, they were jarred when they discovered their scheme was foiled by the DEA’s ruse: Chucho was switched with a dead body. Chucho, now awake, faced DEA pressure to betray Nestor. Unable to speak, he wrote Roman’s name down on a notepad, leading Zulio to suspect Roman’s involvement in Chucho’s shooting. Roman, overwhelmed, considered confessing to the DEA after Valeria’s confirmation. Janice, with a devious glint, suggested Chucho’s death might solve his problems. 

“The Orishas” – HOTEL COCAINE, Pictured: Danny Pino as Roman Compte. Photo MGM ©2024 MGM Plus Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

Nestor and Roman's differences extend far beyond their moral beliefs. Nestor has faith in the Orishas, and while he sends Roman to pray to his own God, he himself engages in a traditional ritual prayer for Chucho. At the confirmation, Roman expressed heartfelt gratitude to his wife for being an incredible stepmom to his daughter. His deep love for her is evident, and the possibility of going to jail is tearing him apart. 

During the confirmation, the camera brilliantly cut between Valeria taking her vows at her confirmation, Nestor praying to the Orishas, and Janice in the hospital. Disguised as a nurse, Janice injected Chucho’s IV, killing him to protect Roman, obviously feeling indebted for her rescue. The tense atmosphere was alleviated by Rick James finding inspiration at the confirmation, having attended with Greenberg. As Burton spoke to James about being considered a freak in school, James quoted his infamous “you’re a super freak” line, insinuating that Burton inspired James’ famous song, “Super Freak.” 

“The Orishas” – HOTEL COCAINE, Pictured: Mark Feuerstein as Burton Greenberg. Photo MGM ©2024 MGM Plus Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

Back home, Roman was confronted by Nestor, who revealed Chucho’s death and asked Roman to become his new right-hand man, believing the events to be a sign from the Orishas. As Nestor anoints Roman as his new Chucho, Roman is drawn deeper into the dark underbelly alongside Nestor, risking everything he loves and potentially his life as he continues collaborating with the DEA to take Nestor down. 

This was another strong episode in the series. While some of the drama is a bit over-the-top and flashy, it still provides an enjoyable viewing experience. As Roman gets set to take over for Chucho as Nestor’s right-hand man, things are about to heat up tenfold. Your turn, Hotel Cocaine fans! What do you think of the series so far? Are you invested in the drama and rooting for Roman? What do you make of the side plot with Burton Greenberg? Share your thoughts in the comments below and you can find me on X at @middleofcanada.

Cristina manages the site and reviews several shows. She is an Elementary School Counsellor by day and avid TV buff by night. True Crime, thrillers, dramas and dramedy's are her favourite genres. When she is not at work or managing SpoilerTV, she loves spending time with her two dogs, a Chihuahua Pug mix named Holly and Terrier mix named Penny. She also loves Travelling to visit family.

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