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TV Review: El Rey Network’s Entertaining Spy Drama “Matador” Mixes Tequila, Violence, and Soccer

It’s official – I’ve sold my heart and soul to the El Rey Network. Matador is the second original series on director Robert Rodriguez’s network, and much like his first – From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, which I will also eventually flail about – I fell in love from the get-go.

Starring Gabriel Luna as DEA Agent Tony Bravo, Matador is a spy/sports drama in which Tony goes undercover as a player for soccer team L.A. Riot. Besides juggling his duties as a C.I.A. operative, Tony also has to navigate dynamics within his team (after hospitalizing an antagonistic team member with serious anger issues, that’s probably gonna be difficult), deal with crazed soccer fanatics, and then go home to his loving and supportive family… along with a troublemaker brother that just got out of prison and is bound to get wrapped up in something or another.

Luna’s easy charisma as Tony Bravo is one of the main draws of the pilot, managing to balance just the right amount of sarcasm, heroism, and magnetism to pull off the master spy type. Annie Mason (Nicky Whelan) and Noah Peacott (Neil Hopkins) round out the Supa Spy team as his C.I.A. handlers, naturally affecting a Good Cop/Bad Cop vibe.

And of course you can’t have a spy show without a ridiculously wealthy villain. Tony’s undercover boss and L.A. Riot owner Andrés Galan (Alfred Molina) has unknown nefarious intentions (as well as vials full of his team’s blood, gross).

“Quid Pro Go” is remarkably fast-paced for a pilot, throwing us right into the action. Fresh off a relatively successful case, Tony gets black-bagged and recruited into the C.I.A, where he is made to infiltrate a kickoff party for the L.A. Riot and steal some security codes from a diabetic. Typical spy shit, right?

Matador is no “Bond, James Bond,” however; rather than be a tense, theatrical spy series with increasingly ridiculous gadgets, Matador doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, it’s downright hilarious, full of snippy one-liners and the kind of gloriously sarcastic people that I, unfortunately, am not surrounded with in real life.

There are still high stakes, and a good amount of violence (the sound effect during the kneecapping scene made me squirm, though the meat cleaver bit was over-the-top and thus both funny and awesome), but above all else Matador seeks to entertain. And entertain it does.

You can watch Matador on the El Rey Network on Tuesdays at 9pm EST.