Review of Season 2 of Netflix's Mexican Thriller: Dark Desire

By Irina Sandoval

Art by Maanasi Shyno

[Warning: Spoilers]

I started Dark Desire when the first season came out in 2020. It follows the affair between Alma, a married college professor, and Darío, a younger man who is also one of her students. Subscribing to some of the criteria and tropes of a Mexican telenovela, the thriller drama has many storylines and twists but for the purpose of this review, I try to focus exclusively on Alma and Darío’s relationship. In the first season, we learn that Darío had an underlying motive to get close to Alma in order to get revenge on Alma’s husband. In this process, he stalks Alma, appearing everywhere including her classroom and even dates her daughter. A hesitant Alma, initially unaware of his true intentions, cannot completely forget or ‘resist’ Darío; their encounters always turn into passionate, intimate moments. In essence, they both develop an intense passion — an obsession — that costs Alma her marriage, career, and even hurts her relationship with her own daughter. For a complete summary of the events of Season 1 of the Mexican Netflix series, visit this website.[1]

Season 1 was certainly binge-worthy for me, so when I was searching for something new to watch this past February, I was happy to see that a new season of Dark Desire had been released. Darío and Alma’s affair had ended after some confrontations in the finale of Season 1. At the start of the new season, we enter Alma’s life as she recovers and struggles with the PTSD from her relationship with Darío. Darío, on the other hand, has moved on and is engaged to someone new. The start of season 2 takes a turn when Darío’s fiancé, Julieta, is murdered and the killer is unknown. Prior to Julieta’s murder, Alma learned that Darío was engaged and becomes determined to warn his fiancé about Darío, which is the right thing to do, but as I watched this unfold I questioned Alma’s true motives. I felt as though some part of her wanted to see Darío again. Alma corners Julieta in an elevator the night of her bachelorette party and aggressively confronts her with a warning: if you marry Darío you will regret it. It was an important warning — it could have saved Julieta’s life, granted that she was about to enter a marriage with a dangerous man. Still, I felt overwhelmed by Alma’s chosen mode of confrontation. I could rationalize where she was coming from and her sense of urgency due to the rapidly approaching wedding date, but this confrontation felt so intentional on Alma’s end since Darío was also at this venue — like she wanted to cause a scene. My feelings became more conflicted when Darío found Alma and Julieta together in the elevator. Julieta, flustered and unsure of what to do with Alma’s ominous warning, wrote Alma off as “la pinche loca del elevador” — she’s crazy. Julieta exits the scene, Darío confronts Alma, and this confrontation quickly escalates and somehow turns into a passionate sexual encoundter. It doesn’t make sense; how could Alma sleep with a man only seconds after warning his fiancé about how dangerous he is? Then I ask myself a follow-up question: throughout this entire episode, why have I extended Alma more criticism than I have Darío? He is the cheater, manipulator, and stalker; not Alma, right?

That’s the way these shows work. Although I’ve never had a stalker like Darío, as a Mexican woman I know all about machismo, manipulation, and violence from Mexican men; I know Darío pretty well. Yet this show made me doubt my instincts. Shows like this are all about making you doubt what you know in your soul — because you’ve lived it — and they help you create excuses for men that kill. Is this not reminiscent of the discourse that surrounded the popular U.S. Netflix show, You?

Following the elevator scene and Alma’s sexual encounter with Darío, the rest of the night has a tremendous number of blank spots that the rest of the season fills in as we wonder: who is the killer? After Alma parted ways with Darío, she received a call from Julieta inviting her up to a balcony on the 11th floor to talk. Alma runs up only to find that Julieta had fallen to her death and Darío was passed out on the floor. When he wakes up he claims to not know anything. He has a deep scratch on his arm but can’t explain it. I thought to myself, Wow, he killed his fiancé. Alma believes him, though, and again, I am frustrated with her. The police incompetently try to solve what happened, and Darío is a prime suspect.[2] Darío, being a skilled manipulator, has invented a story that someone is impersonating him. This story sounds ridiculous — We all know it was you, Darío. But as the season progressed, somehow, I began to buy into this theory. Darío was manipulating us all, fictional characters and viewers alike. At some point, I was convinced that Alma had killed Julieta — a crime of passion. A couple episodes later, I was convinced that Darío’s adoptive mother, Lys, (who is a gross predator as well, but that’s another, loaded conversation) had killed Julieta. Again, a crime of passion. I began to believe that anyone and everyone could be the killer — just not Darío.

I found myself holding a double-standard for Alma. With Darío, I couldn’t really blame him at times because I expect men to be…men. But Alma? Shouldn’t she know better? She is a woman, socialized to know better and to see the red flags. Yet she can’t help but look past Dario’s red flags and give in to her “dark desire.” Her inability to “control” her passion became a greater crime than anything else on this show — a greater crime than Darío murdering his fiancé. In season 1, when Darío entered Alma’s classroom for the first time, she was actually lecturing on femicides — a carefully constructed moment of foreshadowing in the show. At this point, I found myself perpetuating rape culture. It does not matter what a woman knows or does not know — he is the one who should know better. Alma could be an expert of femicidios and of domestic and gender-based violence and still be a victim of this same violence. Alma does not need to ascribe to our imaginations of a perfect victim — she owes it to nobody. But we do owe her the kindness and understanding to make what we may deem poor decisions.

I will add that there are so many nuances to the dynamics of Darío and Alma’s relationship, specifically the age gap that may be rooted in Darío’s inappropriate relationship with his adoptive mother as a teenager. His trauma is part of what made me empathize with his character, much like I did with Joe’s character in You. The popular Netflix series You follows a serial killer named Joe that fixates on and stalks women, enters relationships with them, and even kills people who might stand in the way of his “happiness” in these relationships (such as men who might be interested in Joe’s love interests). Eventually, the show reveals that Joe experienced abuse in his childhood and developed what you may call mommy issues that permeate his romantic relationships and inform his murderous tendencies.[3] Darío is a bit more mysterious. You is narrated by Joe, but Dark Desire doesn’t have a narrator. It's hard to really get to know Darío based on what is presented in the show. In fact, this mystery is part of his appeal — Alma needs to know who Darío is. But despite this mystery, it may be safe to assume that Darío’s inappropriate relationship with Lys during his formative years is a source of trauma for Darío. This manifests in his present-day relationships; today, he fixates on and abuses an older woman — the mother figure that is Alma.

These shows add these traumatic background stories that evoke sympathy from the viewer. It makes us think, That’s why he is how he is. It’s almost like we forgive them and we accept that boys will be boys. But the conversation should never end there. Yes, the way many boys are raised is not okay. The way they treat and murder women in their adult lives is also not okay. Both can be true, and instead of accepting things for how they are, this presents us with an opportunity to rethink how we treat our children, women, and other gender-marginalized individuals. I have been raised in a culture and world that coddles men and taught me and many others to coddle men too. I try so hard not to do this, to unlearn this, but as I watched this show, it happened kind of subconsciously. Alma was not worthy of the benefit of the doubt that I, and so many others, offered Darío time and time again. So now I need to consciously unpack how I, as a viewer, played a role in the violence against Alma and other women on this show by rationalizing and even excusing Darío’s behavior — by letting him get away with murder.

These shows are entertaining. I love murder mysteries, as do many other women even when we are the ones being killed on these shows. We can joke about Joe-behavior and enjoy Darío’s mystery and the steamy sex appeal of a show.[4] But what happens when Joe is real, when Darío is real? These men are not figments of the imaginations of the people that write these shows. They’re based on real men and the real violence that they enact on women and people of marginalized gender identities every day. We live with them, go to school with them, date them, marry them, and sometimes we are killed by them. We can sympathize with Darío and Joe because they’ve been taught how to manipulate us, and some of us may have been taught to let them. As viewers, how we interact with and feel about abusive men and their victims on popular shows are not unrelated or disconnected to how we treat survivors of gender-based violence in real life. I write this as we witness the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial in real time. As people consume this trial as if it were media, a show for their entertainment, people are treating Heard, a survivor of domestic violence, with little humanity. The way we consume media matters and translates to how we treat people in real life; this is evident through what we witness on a daily basis via coverage of this televised trial. I suggest that when we watch shows like Dark Desire or You, we are mindful and critical of our viewing experiences and the biases our own reactions reveal, as these biases can cause real harm to others.


[1] Link to Season 1 recap website:

[2] The heavy presence of Mexican police in this show offers a lot to unpack. We witness corruption in the police department, but overall the show has a lot of cop-propaganda. A question that has been asked by many: even if the police did put Julieta’s killer behind bars, how does this help prevent another death of a woman by their partner? The police do not prevent death and this is an opportunity to imagine alternative modes of safety.

[3] The article “Netflix’s YOU: Why Joe Goldberg Could Never Fall For Love Quinn” by Andrea Duran explains and unpacks some of Joe’s childhood trauma and how this led to mommy issues, a savior complex, murderous tendencies, and more.

[4] On social media, sometimes people refer to creepy behavior from men as “Joe-behavior.”