It’s been a very good few months for Netflix, hasn’t it? First, we had Tiger King, the streaming platform’s wildly popular documentary about Joe Exotic – a gun-toting polygamist who presided over an Oklahoma animal park – and the murder-for-hire plot that led to his arrest. Next, we had Unorthodox, the powerful sleeper-hit about young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman Esther Shapiro (Shira Haas), who flees her arranged marriage that sours as she struggles to consummate the relationship and produce a baby.
And now? Well, now it’s time for something completely different, yet still every bit as compelling.
“Something’s going on with the dogs.”
Understatement of the century. Because, in Netflix’s new must-watch show, that something isn’t Fido chasing a rogue cat, or barking at the postman, or sitting shiftily next to a puddle of something evil-smelling on the kitchen floor. Oh no. In this show, it’s a designer cockapoo lapping up a handful or so of spilled cocaine and… well, and succumbing to the after-effects.
Welcome to the deliciously debauched world of White Lines, which boasts all the chaotic energy of Skins, albeit with a much bigger budget. As such, it flits between the illegal ecstasy-fuelled raves of 90s ‘Madchester’ to the impossibly beautiful world of the Balearic Islands. Seriously, this show’s version of Ibiza looks like something straight out of a travel catalogue: golden sunshine, blue skies, sparkling oceans, luxurious villas… the lot.
All of that glossy goodness, though, belies the darkness simmering underneath. There’s the drugs, obviously. The orgies, where everyone is beautiful, everyone wears a mask, and everyone gives off serious Eyes Wide Shut vibes. The high-speed car chases. And the murder, of course. Let’s not forget the murder.
Created by Álex Pina, oh he of global smash hit Money Heist, the 10-part series is split into two timelines, both of which overlap and interject without warning throughout the show (trust me when I say you won’t be able to watch this half-heartedly, so put your phone down and prepare to concentrate).
The first focuses on a group of teens, who – after doing everything in their power to make their mark on Manchester via a smattering of illegal drug-fuelled raves – head to Ibiza, each with big dreams of becoming a superstar DJ. When the most talented of the group, Axel (Tom Rhys Harries), is killed, his body is hidden away, the crime covered up. And, for a while, everyone involved assumes that they’ve gotten away with it.
20 years later, though, new evidence about Axel’s fate is unearthed, prompting his little sister, Zoe (Laura Haddock), to visit the beautiful Spanish island to find out what happened to the most important man in her life.
And, naturally, it isn’t long before she finds herself well over her head: indeed, the very first episode sees her train a gun on a man’s crotch and give him to the count of three before she… well, before she pulls the trigger. Gulp.
You may take all of the above to mean that this is a serious, gritty, violent show. And you know what? Yeah, you’re right. But White Lines isn’t a surefire route to gloom-induced anxiety: it’s also absurdly funny. The actors, too, feel relatable: Haddock, Harries, Daniel Mays, and Angela Griffin act like the hobbits in The Lord Of The Rings, offering us a tether to normality amidst all the high-octane madness going on around them.
And it truly is madness. That nightmarish non-linear narrative keeps you on your toes, plunging you, without warning, into a sterile hospital room as Marcus (Mays) frets over a threat against his daughters. The next moment, you’re listening to rare records with Axel at Conchita Calufat (Belen Lopez)’s glittering Ibizan mansion. Then, just as suddenly, you’re watching Kika (Marta Milans) trail kisses over her lover’s body in a bid to drive her father mad. Then you’re trying to dismantle the raw chemistry between Zoe and Boxer (Nuno Lopes). And, all the while, disturbing images from Anna (Angela Griffin)’s exclusive sex parties bleed into the show’s reality, making you question… well, everything.
Like I say, this isn’t a show to watch while scrolling through Instagram. If you look away, even for one moment, you’ll miss one of the many, many, many plot twists and wind up as lost as Zoe is.
One final note: White Lines is shot with all the ambition and aesthetic of the music video, so it should come as little surprise to learn that it boasts a fiercely eclectic soundtrack. Think acid house and modern-day covers of 90s classics, the kind that hurtles you backward in time, without warning, and headlong into memories of awkward first kisses.
It’s intriguing, it’s compelling, and it’s overwhelmingly silly. And, before you even think of asking, it’s as incomparable to Tiger King and Unorthodox as apples are to papayas and mangoes.
And yet… well, those are some damned good apples. Go and eat them, stat.
You can find out more about Netflix’s White Lines, and watch the explosive trailer, here.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.