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HBO’s scariest show, 30 Coins, is perfect Halloween viewing

Where else can you see a spider monster in a church, I ask you?

Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández) looking holy with a warm, glowing light coming in to the side of him Image: HBO
Zosha Millman (she/her) manages TV coverage at Polygon as TV editor, but will happily write about movies, too. She’s been working as a journalist for more than 10 years.

My pitch to you is simple: There is only one show with a boxing ex-convict priest performing exorcisms, and you should be watching it.

30 Coins’ premise is straightforward enough. The HBO Europe mystery series follows Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández), who recently relocated to the small Spanish town of Pedraza as he tries to move on from an exorcism gone wrong. Before too long, weird paranormal shit starts happening — like a human baby born from a cow — and try as he might to avoid it all, Vergara is pulled into figuring out just what the hell is going on. And though he is more keen to play the skeptic, it all seems to relate back to a mysterious silver coin he owns, making it impossible for him to ignore what’s happening.

If you’re thinking to yourself, Wow — the title and a mysterious silver coin make me think that maybe this is a Judas connection, you’re in luck. 30 Coins’ captivating opening credits sequence minces no words and pulls no punches in clarifying the stakes of this supernatural mystery.

This all paints a picture of a show that could skew too hokey or too big, or even simply rest on its laurels — but I will reiterate that we’re dealing with a boxing, ex-convict priest who is fighting demonic forces through monster-of-the-week setups. From the jump, 30 Coins proves its bona fides: The cold open shows a gunman nonchalantly shrugging off bullets as he robs a bank, only to retire to the safety of the back of a luxury car, nestled next to a mysterious priest. The sequence is taut and intriguing, not out of pace with some of the best action thrillers out there. And 30 Coins continues from that point, always feeling smarter than it has to be, and always ready to move on to the next beguiling mystery (and honestly, bless it for that).

Like The X-Files before it and Evil more recently, 30 Coins makes good use of the skeptic/believer dynamic. But this show double-Dutches with it, letting the boundaries of belief flex and vary, even as they always stay grounded in each character. Though other exorcists — like Polygon’s 2023 Exorcist of the Year Father Gabriele Amorth (Russell Crowe) — are typically the ones talking people into it, Vergara is eager to explain away the show’s impossible incidents as natural events, or coincidences. As the town’s veterinarian Elena (Megan Montaner) and mayor (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) see more and more inexplicable phenomena, Vergara is the one encouraging a faith in logic, and nothing more.

Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández) standing in a gray sleeveless shirt with boxing gloves in a ring, while men celebrate and cheer around him Photo: Manolo Pavon/HBO Europe

In other shows, this could feel limited, but 30 Coins is never content to settle. The series covers more in its first four episodes than some shows cover in whole seasons, and every change feels fully rooted in Fernández’s troubled solitude as Vergara. It’s the kind of performance that belies so much that the character always feels fully drawn, allowing the show to spin out all sorts of lore and backstory that might otherwise seem trite or neat. In a show that goes to as many wild places as 30 Coins does across its first season, that’s vital. And yet, the show never loses its balance; 30 Coins deftly navigates its episodic demons while building a remarkably well-sketched world and conspiracy, which allow for a larger serialized story that’s always upping the ante.

With season 2 premiering Monday — listen, go with God and all, but it is my most fervent belief that you should be watching this show. It’s got action, mystery, horror, monsters, and gore, and that’s just before we get to the Vatican. And with the way Vergara fights, I wouldn’t be surprised if he knocks out his other exorcist competition.

30 Coins season 1 is now streaming on Max. Season 2 premieres on Oct. 23, with new episodes every Monday.

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