‘The Inmate’ follows the story of a man who is sent to a Mexican prison to rescue the daughter of an American judge. In thirteen episodes, we see the protagonist making allies in the prison, unaware of the enemies outside. For those who love shows like ‘Prison Break’, this series is a must-watch. It is thrilling and fast-paced and succeeds in carving a place for itself in a genre that can get repetitive. If you haven’t seen the show, you should head over to Netflix. Without wasting any more time, I will jump right into what this series is about and the questions that need answering.
Summary of the Plot
La Rotunda is a maximum-security prison in Mexico where Dante Pardo is sent after he is found guilty of killing the son of a politician. Of course, Pardo is just a cover story for Lazaro Mendoza, who is actually an ex-Marine. He served as the bodyguard for a judge, named John Morris. Mendoza’s job is to locate Linda, Morris’ daughter, and bring her back home. Owing to his service in the army, he has been to a lot of places and seen all kinds of things, which is why Morris thought he would be a good fit for the job. However, Mendoza has never really been inside a prison, and hence, like any other normal person, doesn’t know what to expect of it.
Life in La Rotunda
When he is thrown inside the place, he asks, “where is my cell?” As the audience, we too expect La Rotunda to have separate cells for separate prisoners, and the first thing we expect Mendoza to do is to get in the good books of his prison mate. But, like the protagonist, we, too, are shocked when a completely different world is shown to us. There is no such thing as a cell here. It had been, once, and the memory of it is now somewhere far back in the minds of the veterans of the place. We expect to see rows and rows of cells with bunk beds and a toilet in a corner.
What we see instead is a slum. There are huts made of cardboard and old clothes. The environment of the place is much worse than what Mendoza, as well as the viewers, had expected. As happens in other prison shows, we know that there would be different gangs trying to establish their supremacy or drawing lines when it comes to their territories. We had expected someone inside the prison to have a “friendship” with a guard or the warden. But despite whatever influence these prisoners had inside, or outside, the prison, we knew that, at the end of the day, the people guarding the place had more sway. They can enter an alliance, but they have the power to double-cross you. They have the power to make the prisoners’ life much worse. In La Rotunda, we see nothing like that.
There are different gangs and they have marked their territories, but their way of living doesn’t come close to anything we have ever seen in a prison show or movie. There is too much chaos to see any semblance of order and the guards are not interested in what riot is happening inside. Their job is to throw people in and keep anyone from getting out, and that is the only thing they do. They stand outside the cage-like boundary between them and the prisoners. And as long as no one crosses their line, they are good.
The warden and his team operate in a place that gives the vibe of normal office space. Looking at it, no one can say that this group of people is working at a prison. The mediating factor between them and the prisoners are the guards. When they leave the office space, walk through the dark halls that link it to the actual prison, we receive a transition that allows us to digest this sharp contrast between the two settings of the story.
The Hierarchy of the Prison
Dante’s initiation into prison life is just like every other character that we have seen in such a predicament before. He gets into a fight over a bed, he is beaten to a pulp in the shower, following which he begins to consider his options. It doesn’t take much time for him to discover that Mariano Tavares is the one who calls the shots here. There is a gang, called La Union, that occupies the slums of the prison.
Tavares, on the other hand, lives rather lavishly. He has taken over the area that is the remnant of the time when this prison used to have normal cells. He has television, pinball machines, proper beds, and all the things that most people outside prison can’t even afford. More than that, his reputation outside the prison keeps the warden on his toes. He is scared of Tavares and would think twice before taking an action against him.
Other inmates, too, can talk freely with the warden, but with them, he has a sense of authority. He can show them who is in charge here. But with Tavares, he knows he can’t do much. Had he been an honest person, he wouldn’t have been so scared of the gangster in his prison. Rather, he is a corrupt man who has been involved in some problematic situations before. He is a bad guy, which is why he has a better idea of why crossing Tavares would not be in his favour. In an ideal situation, when discovered the presence of Linda in his prison, he could have used it to get rid of Tavares and set things straight there. Instead, he jumps on the opportunity to get in on whatever Tavares is getting out of this situation. The idea of receiving a part of six million dollars sounds better than taking out his nemesis.
Second in the chain of command is Santito, Tavares’ godson. He is a drug addict and a psychotic character who is fiercely loyal to his godfather. He is also very volatile, so to make him mad would only end in the blood of whoever he decides to take it out on. He intimidates one of the psychologists to get him out on parole but is only stopped due to Frida’s interference. He tries to get to her too but doesn’t succeed in making a lasting impact. Another thing about his character is his childishness. He pulls pranks and makes jokes, but despite his playfulness, there is an acute sense of cruelty there. He is also highly neurotic and doesn’t trust anyone easily, which is what makes him even more dangerous.
There are a couple of other gangs in the prison, but they stay away from Tavares and his goons. Briefly, they try to make an alliance and bring him down, but it doesn’t end so well for them. While Tavares’ people enjoy goodwill with the guards, these prisoners are often at the receiving end of their frustration. If one of Tavares’ men dies, the whole prison is thrown into an upheaval until they get their revenge. But in case of the others, there is no bothering to give any answers. They can easily disappear from the face of the Earth, and none would be the wiser. Even if someone comes looking for them, they wouldn’t find anything. To justify this, the warden uses the tiring procedure of the judicial system.
Why did Tavares Kidnap Linda?
A lot happens before Dante Pardo gets to be Lazaro Mendoza again. He succeeds in locating Linda and gets her out of La Rotunda. This is where he discovers that Morris had been considering other options and already had a backup plan in place, in case things didn’t work out with him. His brother, who had been trying to get out of a financial blunder by getting the money from Morris in exchange for their service, is killed.
Lazaro gets one day off and confronts the judge about his brother’s death and to find out what happened to his son. He had had his doubts about the judge’s involvement with Tavares but had chosen to not get into it. Now, he discovers that money was not the only reason why Linda was kidnapped. She was specifically targeted. It comes as a shock to her too when she receives a video call on her father’s laptop and finds Tavares waving back at her.
John Morris and Mariano Tavares had been business partners. They had been a part of some shady deals and had enjoyed a profitable relationship. However, as Morris’s status rose in the law, he became greedier and wanted not just to break ties with Tavares, but also get all of the money that should have been split in half. He cheats Tavares and keeps all of it for himself, which results in a major setback for the criminal’s operations.
In order to exact revenge, he kidnaps Morris’s daughter, to get his money while emotionally torturing him. When Linda comes to know about it, she is shocked and disgusted. After her father’s death, who she doesn’t know was killed by Mendoza, she begins to look into his past and discovers that he was not the man she thought him to be. He was indulged in corrupt practices and it is quite possible that Tavares wasn’t the only criminal he was indulged with.
The Ending: Is Dante Really Free?
In the final episode, Tavares incites a riot to get back at La Union, to avenge the death of Santito’s father. They receive help from the guards, which is when he is told that Peniche is soon leaving the prison. It appears that he has taken advantage of the sudden death of the attorney general and will now serve as his replacement. Tavares wants to deal with him too, but his main focus is La Union. They succeed in creating a fire, but in the chaos, he mistakenly shoots Santito.
Wind back a little and Santito comes to know the truth about Dante. He is torn between the deception and the friendship. Despite having Dante in a fairly vulnerable position, he doesn’t go forward with it. Meanwhile, Peniche makes a deal with one of the guards to keep himself safe during the riot. He finds out Tavares’ secret stash of money and runs away with it as the fire brigade arrives at the prison. Mendoza takes advantage of the situation and slips out in the uniform of a fireman.
There are a number of questions that we have after the finale. First of all, even though he made it out of the prison, it is not the guarantee that he will make it out of Mexico. He is still Dante Pardo here, a man charged with a triple homicide. He will have to make it back to the US before he is caught by the cops. Further, what does it mean for his relationship with Frida? They have been through a lot together. She found his son and took care of him. Will they run off together, or will she want to keep working at the prison and help people? Also, what will the aftermath of the riot look like?
How many other prisoners would have done the same thing as Dante? Now that Peniche is gone, another person will be sent to take his place. What will this new warden be like and will he/she bring any change in the environment of the prison? Outside of it, we have concerns about Linda. She now knows that Mendoza killed her father. Will she want revenge or will she let it go because he had saved her life? Will she continue to dig up the skeletons of her father’s past, or will she move on with her life?
The most pressing question of all is, is Santito alive? He was shot thrice and looked in pretty bad shape. But he was still breathing and on his way to the hospital when we last saw him. If he survives, which we are pretty sure he will, how long will it take for him to come after Mendoza? I look forward to the answer to these questions in The Inmate season 2.