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Is 'El Cid' Amazon's Answer To 'Game Of Thrones' Greatness?

El Cid Jaime Lorente Rodrigo Ruy Díaz de Vivar Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Studios

Wait, is that Denver (Jaime Lorente) from “Money Heist,” starring in “El Cid” on Prime Video? Yes, that is him. Do not worry, though. The casting of one of the thriller’s main stars will not take you out of the medieval reality of “El Cid.” Now to the big question. Is it Amazon’s worthiest answer to “Game of Thrones” (notwithstanding the final episodes of “Vikings”)?

To be brief, yes. The high-quality series debuted on the streamer late last month. “El Cid” was a surprise to this avid fan of the costume drama genre. Hence, a nice Christmas bonus. “El Cid” tells the origin story of the man, made all-the-more famous by the 1961 Charlton Heston starrer of the same name.

This series on Amazon Prime Video tells the origin story of Rodrigo “Ruy” Díaz de Vivar (Jaime Lorente), later known as “El Cid,” in five fantastic episodes. Ruy has been raised by his grandfather due to the death of his father. He is a hero trying his best while chafing under his station in life. Ruy also longs for a woman promised to another man.

If this sounds a tad familiar (“Gran Hotel”), the good news is it is not a retread of familiar tropes. “El Cid” offers up an equally compelling character in Urraca (Alicia Sanz), the ambitious eldest child of the king. At first glance, she is an all-out villain. However, Sanz’s nuanced performance and the writing give way to a complex construct.

To its credit, you will have a tough time finding someone pure as the driven “Jon Snow.” That said, the Sid comes awfully close. He registers as a hero worth rooting for. Ruy is pretty upstanding and like Jon, Ruy longs to do the right thing. In playing him, Jaime Lorente impresses by how much sheds the skin of Denver (“Money Heist”) to take on the role.

There is only one drawback to note regarding the series. Could this viewer have gone without the graphic depictions of life’s cruder aspects? Yes. In fact, the inclusion of those facets was so off-putting, it initially cost “El Cid” some ground. Thankfully, the series has enough going for it that it is worth continuing to pursue.

“El Cid” has it all, breathtaking production values and rich history. Interestingly, “Vikings” featured its main characters heading to Moorish Spain in an earlier season. For those who watched, they will be hard-pressed to forget that context when they take in Season 1 of “El Cid.” Speaking of which, let’s face it. There is no way this show is planned as a one-season-wonder.

Season 2 needs to be in the cards. It is to speculator not to follow-up on, and its ending leaves little doubt it plans to come back. Amazon has every reason to invest in its future. It is the streamer’s greatest hope at having a stake in the genre “Game of Thrones” helped supercharge in revitalizing. “El Cid” is terrific in its own right. 

How well it stacks up with “Game of Thrones” in its early days makes it all the more marvelous. The battle scenes are on-par with anything you saw in “Game of Thrones” and “Vikings,” and that is saying something. They set the bar high, and “El Cid” manages to land on it with a masterful sense of style. Season 1 is currently streaming on Prime Video.

Rating: 8/10

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