The failure of 'Ripley' is perhaps Netflix's greatest triumph

Critics were not exactly unanimous in admiring Ripley.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
17 April 2024 Wednesday 18:12
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The failure of 'Ripley' is perhaps Netflix's greatest triumph

Critics were not exactly unanimous in admiring Ripley. It was argued that his slowness is pretentious. Some of the supporting cast have performances without a hint of charisma. Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley is used as a throwing weapon with which to destroy her. The direction hides the fact that, in reality, it doesn't have much to say either.

But, even assuming these reproaches, there are few more beautiful series to watch in the Netflix catalog, where titles with a homogeneous and impersonal finish predominate. However, this look at the character of Patricia Highsmith by Steven Zaillian, both behind the scripts and the direction, does not interest Netflix customers.

In its first week, Ripley accumulated 2.3 million views (and 16.9 million hours watched) and was in eighth position among English-language television titles, led by The 3-Body Problem. The psychopath played by Andrew Scott was even surpassed by a series produced in 1998: Sex and the City, whose first season had been included in the catalogue.

Now that the data for the second week has been made public, when Netflix titles show whether they have legs thanks to word-of-mouth or the inertia of the algorithm, the eight-episode miniseries has not obtained a notable performance either: it is in sixth position with 2.5 million views (and 18.4 million hours). Even an unpromoted series like My Stuffed Reindeer has surpassed it with 2.6 million views (and 10.4 million hours, due to the shorter duration of the production).

Should it be any surprise that Ripley is clearly a failure? No, possibly not. Netflix, in the time it has been operating, has gone from wanting to emulate prestigious competitors such as HBO and Showtime with its first productions of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, to becoming a churrería where entertainment is the only mission, to often without complicating life with minimum quality.

It is almost a classic to see the platform's big bets like Wednesday, The Last Airbender or The Three-Body Problem and realize to what extent there is not even a hint of risk in the creative processes during development or from the direction. The mission is, so that we understand each other, to chew the audiovisual to the viewer: to reduce the artistic challenges and personal views to a minimum and, above all, to develop plots that are easy to follow.

So, if you suddenly introduce a series in black and white, with the cadence of a summer after-dinner meal, there is no direction of photography that will seduce the average viewer of the platform. Not even the shouts of “THIS IS PRESTIGE” that Ridley puts in the catalog help him get anyone to pay attention to him.

Perhaps it is Netflix's greatest achievement: having the viewer so educated about the kind of entertainment they can and should expect from the platform that, when they see a dissonant title, they reject it.