Prime Video’s newest offering, The Horror of Dolores Roach (Season 1), seems to be a modern-day retelling of ‘Sweeney Todd and the Demon Barber of Fleet Street’. It’s a rather chilling thought and quite surprising to see a story like this adapted to the modern day. What is different, though?
Well, there is no barber, the mince pies become empanadas, and the main character has a savage conscience that serves as a voice for sarcasm and the truth. This balances her innocent law abiding, grammar Nazi facade that she believes she has until she heads down below.
It is the merging of these two personas that drives ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ forward.
The Horror of Dolores Roach (Season 1) Recap:
Episode 1: They Called Me Magic Hands
The series begins with audiences queing up to catch a Broadway play called ‘Dolores Roach’. A round of applause later, the stage Dolores is in her green room and getting ready. When her companions exit, the real Dolores Roach appears. She promises to not kill the actor, but vows to do something way worse.
Her intention is to tell her story and prove that the actor has not gone into Dolores’s skin. Roach, who says that she is not a “blood hungry sociopath,” takes audiences to 2003. She was a dealer who stored cash behind a loose tile in the washroom. Later, she got a call for a sale that turned out to be a stint. Dolores got busted and had aggravated assault added to her crimes, resulting in a 16-year jail sentence at New York State Correctional. To her dismay, Dominic did not respond to her one phone call.
16 years later, she emerges into a whole new New York where someone else is in her flat and her money is gone. The only thing that has remained is Empanada Loca, where she meets someone from her past. Luis gets Dolores a meal and offers her a room for free for as long as she needs.
As she goes on this journey, a thought plagues her. Her money is gone and Dominic left her to rot.
Meanwhile, Luis’s landlord is harassing him, but he refuses Dolores’s help. He then has a panic attack and she gives him a massage, explaining that she picked that skill during her time in jail. She then states that she would love to become a legit masseuse before having a shower and retiring for the night.
Episode 2: This Building’s Gonna Be The Death Of Me
Dolores experiences flashbacks of her arrest. The next morning, Luis calls in a favor with Joy to get Dolores a job. Roach does well and actually gets hired until someone from her past (Marcie) comes in and speaks about how it must have been bad in prison. That causes Dolores’s employment to get terminated. Upset at costing Dolores her job, Marcie offers her an in with the drug business. She refuses and goes back to Empanada Loca, where Nellie (the cashier at Empanada Loca) helped her out. They make a vision board that Dolores would work towards every single day. Luis learns that Dolores does not have a job and helps out. He pastes a sign at the front of the restaurant that advertises Dolores’s services as a masseuse.
Caleb, her first client, tips her for her work and spread the word which results in a steady income. When Dolores tries to help Luis, he waves her money away. Nellie visits the basement massage room and suggests that Dolores invest in a table. The point that pushes her to agree is Nellie’s information about what had happened on that bed. Dolores is told to spend money to make money.
After the massage bed is set up, the landlord, Gideon Pearlman, arrives and asked for his rent. Luis keeps arguing but Dolores steps in and offers a massage. After her customary opening greeting, he gives every sign of believing that there will be more than a massage. Dolores begins having flashbacks of her past and tries to finish him off.
Episode 3: Like A Stoned Ass Baby
The episode begins with Dolores Roach labeling killing as ‘hard work’. Pearlman tries to fight back, but she succeeds in her goal. As the rush slows down, she wonders why she did that and covers his body. Dolores then goes shopping for materials to clean up. When she returns, the corpse has vanished. A note is left that informing her that it was taken care of.
Nellie’s voice, as she distributes free samples of something new, wakes Dolores in the morning. Dolores asks Luis where Gideon Pearlman is and then slowly understands that he was the meat. i.e. Muy Loco.
Luis appreciates Dolores for getting rid of a problem, but asks her to keep doing her thing. He even says that he took Pearlman’s phone to Soho and made calls to make it seem like he had gone somewhere after visiting the shop.
When Dolores asks Luis to stop, he speaks about how he has done this all his life and not succeeded. However, this new thing she has gotten him is special. It makes a greedy individual get fed and flushed by the very people he wanted to flush. When Joy comes to the store, Dolores prevents her from eating Muy Loco and gives her a massage. She does not kill Joy and vows to never murder again.
Dolores receives a licensed massage therapist certification as Jonah Pearlman appears in the search for his father. Two policemen are standing behind him.
Episode 4: Bitch, I’ve Already Been To Prison
The police were there for their own purposes and Jonah comes to find out Gideon’s whereabouts. Luis, however, feeds him the Gideon meat Muy Locos that disgusted Dolores. She calls Luis a “sick fuck” and her conscience tells her she will go to hell. Taking advantage of Luis’s absence, Dolores takes the remaining meat, and the empanadas from the back and sets it all ablaze. She goes to college and tries to get admission to secure an education and a respectable job. On the way back, she meets Marcie, who demands to know the truth about the drugs.
Dolores offers her a massage and she complies. She gets ready and even praised Dolores, but then begins her search for the drugs. When Marcie cuts up Dolores’s massage bed, a line is crossed. The two women engage in a brutal fight that ends with Dolores committing her second murder. She informs Luis about a new shipment of meat and then gets flustered once more.
The words of Marcie keep playing in her head. She suspects it, but then the realization hit her. Dominic had set her up to take the fall and suffer for him. Dolores wonders how much of her five years with him was a lie. She decides to meet Tabitha (her cellie and the one who taught her to fight and massage) to ask for a favor. Dolores gives a cryptic clue about Tabitha about wanting to put Dominic on the menu.
Episode 5: I Never Don’t Find ‘Em
Dolores goes to meet Ruthie, who admits who she was after a coded line was used. When Dolores presents the assignment, Ruthie backs out.
Ruthie backs out when she learns that she has to find a drug dealer. She then agrees and asks for two weeks to find Dominic. Meanwhile, Jeremiah has some suspicions about the meat.
Ruthie returns rather quickly, informing Dolores that Dominic has passed away. Without any case in hand, she offers her services to Jonah, who had come in to put up posters for Gideon. Dolores freaks and goes to the basement to tell Luis. She discovers that he stored the corpses in a freezer of his bedroom. His justification for not tossing the bodies into the Hudson is the harm it would cause to marine life.
Dolores’s concerns are put to rest when Luis sends Jonah a text from Gideon’s phone. This leads Jonah to abandon his quest to put up missing posters. After Dolores and Luis spend time together, Luis comes clean about not believing Ruthie. This is because Dominic’s abuela was still getting packages three years ago. Dolores then rediscovers her motivation to find Dominic. She realizes that she needs to focus on her future, which involves completely consuming the past. So, she decides to go and meet Dominic’s grandmother’s best friend, i.e. Nellie’s grandma, Sophia.
Episode 6: Blink Twice
Dolores marches up to the third floor to meet Sophia. She refuses to let her enter for “what she did to Dominic.” Dolores returns to the shop where Jonah recommends that Luis consider franchising. However, he calls himself an artist who does not cater to the masses and refuses the idea. Dolores receives a call from Hudson University about the status of her college application.
Hector shows up for a massage and Luis seems glad to send Dolores for the session. Hector says he only had time for a day time massage as Marcie was missing.
During the massage, Hector needs an EPI. He wants it in his left leg, but ends up jabbing the syringe in his chest.
Hector needs an EPI. He wants it to be his leg, but she stabs the EPI in his chest.
The health inspector is visiting when Dolores goes up to inform Luis. As she runs down, Ruthie comes in. She spots the cadence is off in Gideon’s text to Jonah. The PI also locates the pacemaker that was connected to Gideon’s phone. She finds it suspicious that Gideon was in Atlantic City, but his heart is in Washington Heights. Dolores panics and then Ruthie sees Hector lying on the table. She gets suspicious and Dolores attacks her. The stun gun comes out and Ruthie uses a broken glass bottle to get Dolores to stay away. She seems to let Dolores go as she does not want to kill her.
After 16 years in jail, Dolores is not taking chances. She upends the table, dropping Hector onto Ruthie. When Hector wakes up with a start, Dolores grabs Ruthie’s hand and stabs him. She then suffocates Ruthie.
Luis sees off the health inspector and seems pleased at Dolores’s work. She seems nauseous and goes out in need of air where Jeremiah intercepts her. He wonders how so many people are missing right after someone with a violent past returned.
Jeremiah speaks about how outlets like his are being put out of business and wants in. His aim is to get people in food service to disappear. Dolores goes back into the eatery and convinces Luis to take Jonah’s offer as people would come in search of her victims.
Episode 7: Bye, Felicia
Dolores seems to be eager to leave immediately, but is upset to learn that they would be there for a while. Luis says that he has to use up all the meat Dolores got him. He also dismisses the possibility of Jeremiah spilling the beans about what he knows.
Jonah cannot cash in until Gideon Pearlman shows up. Luis seems upset and seems reluctant to wait. He even makes it appear as though he is backing out of the deal. They find a solution to get the money quickly as it can be arranged. Luis shares the new identities they would use away from New York. He would be Hector Pector and she would be Felicia Rocha.
Sophia suffers a fall as blood turns up from her water pipes. She is then moved to the hospital where she broke the ice with Dolores. Sophia tells Dolores that an Australian girl will bring gifts.
Meanwhile, Luis learns where the blood was coming from and moves the bodies from his basement freezer to the restaurant cold storage.
Roach assumes that the Australian was Georgina (her batchmate), not the professor at the university. Dolores goes to the university to meet the woman who introduced Dominic to her. Georgina explains that she did not reach out while Dolores was in jail as she was uncomfortable. When she tries to continue, Dolores ruthlessly shuts her down. This is as she did not champion her friend, but made a name for herself doing just that for strangers. Georgina calls Dolores mean, prompting Dolores to ask Luis if he agreed.
Dolores then says that she wants Luis, but he is unable to. It is because he tries to punish himself for breaking apart his family which results in irreparable damage. Dolores assures him that it is fine to have scars and allows him to taste her.
The next morning Jonah is making breakfast in Empanada Loca’s kitchen as Nellie’s kitchen is not conducive for cooking. Dolores expresses her happiness for Jonah and stepps out to consume weed. When she goes back in, Jonah is in the freezer where he saw Gideon’s head.
Episode 8: Stop Me
Dolores broke Jonah’s neck. She and Luis then stalled Nellie, telling her Jonah was headed to his office. They even managed to explain why his phone was still at the restaurant.
A policeman tries to shakedown Luis, wondering how Marcie had vanished after trying to stake the competition. He airs his thoughts about something not being right.
Dolores tries to convince Luis that they need to go as a dirty cop is prowling. Luis, though, is reluctant as Empanada Loca is his legacy. Without Jonah to continue it, he would lose it all. Dolores decides to leave, but Luis convinces her that leaving immediately would look suspicious.
Joy shows up for a massage and is turned away. She snaps and blamed Dolores for ruining her relationship with her sister. Dolores consents and massages Joy, telling her to keep quiet. When she continues speaking, something awakes in Dolores that makes claim her sixth victim.
People come to search for Ruthie. Nellie assumes it was the mob as Gideon vanished, Jonah vanished and the person searching for Gideon vanished. Dolores enters the cold storage and finds it clean. She checks the dumpster but there is not anything there either.
Dolores says that she is leaving with or without him. Cops arrive and Nellie is taken away. Luis plans to frame someone by placing the bodies in an apartment.
The Horror of Dolores Roach (Season 1), Ending Explained:
Who took the fall for Dolores?
Nellie took the fall for Dolores Roach and Luis’s crimes. This happened as Luis moved the corpses from the freezer and placed them in Sophia’s apartment, framing the granddaughter who was there and associated with the last known location of all the missing people.
Was Dolores happy with what Luis did?
Dolores was not happy as she knew the police would search every inch of the building. She even accused him of just making things worse.
What did Dolores want after getting out of prison?
After losing 16 years of her life, Dolores Roach just wanted to lead a normal, simple life as an ordinary person.
Who killed Jeremiah?
Luis killed Jeremiah in their scuffle in the basement freezer of Empanada Loca.
What did Dolores do with Luis?
Luis went mad in love with Dolores and tried to keep her with him. When he prevented her from leaving, she kicked him down the stairs and then sent his face first into the oil. This resulted in her arm getting burnt and the restaurant’s kitchen catching fire.
How did Dolores escape?
Dolores exits Empanada Loca quickly and uses Jeremiah’s meat delivery truck to make a quick getaway.
Who helped Dolores find Dominic?
When Dolores returned, she told her story to the actress playing her. Roach promised that she was not a victim of circumstances and would deal with people if they were in her way or in the wrong place at the wrong time. She then found Caleb and shoved his mic down his throat, asking for her cut of the podcast. He offered to show her Dominic. After Caleb drove Dolores to a house, she warned him to stay in the car until she got back.
Who opened the door for Dolores?
This will remain a mystery with only speculation possible. Whoever it was, though, became Dolores’s eighth victim. Based on the way she laughed, it had to have been someone from her past. People it could that come to mind are Georgina, the actress from the play, or even Dominic.
The Horror of Dolores Roach (Season 1) Review:
I like that the Sweeney Todd references are rather frequent in the start. This is because there will not be any room to accuse this as being a cheap remake or even divert attention to the source material. After getting this out, the presentation of it as a story is what captures attention. A video offering can stand the test if the music aids in telling the story. Siddharth Khosla’s score works well here with the beats aiding the storytelling with aplomb.
Method acting sees a critique here with the key question coming forward – do performers really get into the skin of the ones they play? Or is it only getting into what they think the character is? Dolores Roach’s appearance used the classic jump scare with the beat of a musical instrument. Given the few visuals, she was established as a macabre individual. Justina Machado presented that calm craziness as she promised to not kill the Broadway actor, but do something much worse. This worked well, as it is important to present the killer as someone quite terrifying right from the outset. Had this not been nailed, audiences may not have been invested in the ‘Horror’ aspect of it. This may have proved detrimental as it does take a few episodes for the horrors to kick in. It is the initial presentation of the character through which Justina Machado allows the audience to feel that sense of trepidation as anyone descended to the basement, ‘undressed to the level of their comfort’, and lay on the table at the mercy of the ‘Magic Hands.’
The manner in which Aaron Mark infused elements to showcase the culture shock and inflation were small things. These really enhanced the feeling of Dolores having lost a huge portion of her life. I also liked the disorienting feeling taken from Dolores’s POV that showed the audience her confusion. These were experienced in the scenes right after she committed murder and when she saw the change in New York.
The series’s pacing is quite good with eight half sized episodes making for a quick evening watch. One small recommendation would be to avoid eating meat whilst watching Prime Video’s ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach.’
Something like this series has the potential to turn people vegetarian as it is quite revolting to imagine consuming what Luis fills in his empanadas. The manner in which the camera captured the small bits such as the expression on a customer’s face, the saliva as the take a small bite of the meat, and just the sight of the meat on the plate. A safe thing to say is that ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ is not for the queasy or faint-hearted.