ABC has another juicy, twisty, near-deceptively nuanced drama on its hands that will be interesting to follow as the season unfurls.
While Promised Land Season 1 Episode 1 faced the typical burdens of a pilot, attempting to introduce us to this family and these characters, drop nuggets of the storylines we can anticipate, and much more — it suffered a bit for it. But there’s also plenty that will prompt you to tune in and follow the Sandoval family.
The series has hints of Dallas and Dynasty, and it’s well-timed in an era where stories about wealthy families and their fight to uphold their legacy via a company like Succession or land such as Yellowstone appeal to audiences.
At its core, it’s a series about pursuing the American Dream and the quest to maintain it.
The premiere wasn’t without its faults. They packed everything but the kitchen sink into the first hour, twists on top of twists, and some of it worked, while other bits were ludicrous or uninspired.
Also, the immigration conflicts at the forefront of the series do veer toward stereotypical. It often feels that we cannot get out of this loop of exploring the undocumented narrative in Latine stories. It’s not the only story to tell!
I put my whole life into this company. I know you’ll do whatever it takes to protect it. To the new CEO of Heritage House Vineyards. Now, don’t screw it up.
Joe [to Veronica]
Added: January 24, 2022
Nevertheless, it’s serving as a bridge between the past and present within a series that manages to tie the ‘rags to riches’ trope that’s become a staple with the concept of the American Dream.
One of many fascinating things about the split between Joe and Lettie’s origins versus where they are now is that it’s a universal experience.
Setting the legality portion of it aside, as an American, most are either the Joes and Letties who started a new life in pursuit of something in one generation, or you’re among the children who reap the benefits of the struggles of those who came before, whether it was one generation ago or five.
And the series is set on exploring that a bit, as you see the marked differences among the parents and the generations after them.
But while immigration is an essential component of the series, it’s not all there is to it. And that’s what makes Promised Land promising. In addition to the focus, it’s probably one of the more realistic depictions of immigrant stories, as many can attest to loved ones working in fields and vineyards over almost any other job.
And we have a story of a man who worked himself up from the fields of a vineyard where he likely picked grapes to owning the third most successful vineyard in the country. It’s nothing to sniff at, and for that alone, Joe is an impressive figure.
However, as the hour progressed, we learned that he’s a man of many secrets, and he clawed his way to the top at other people’s expense.
He’s not quite the villain, more John Dutton than Logan Roy from the looks of things, but he stepped on a hell of a lot of toes to get where he is, and you could already understand how he has others rallying against him.
For starters, his reality was his brother’s dream.
It was quite the expected twist when we learned that two of the trio migrants we met at the top of the hour embarking on a treacherous journey before reaching Heritage House were Joe and Lettie. It gave us context on their story and roots and showcased how impressive it is what they managed to achieve in 30 years.
The Sandovals live a lavish life of luxury as the elite of Sonoma Valley, and it’s a far cry from their humble beginnings. But through their origins, we also got an idea of how everything changed when they got into the States, and Joe met Lettie.
He loved her instantly, but so did Billy, and the relationship that Lettie developed with Billy set things in motion for all of them from that point forward. It seems that Joe’s quest to acquire the vineyard and make it his own bore out of some form of revenge against Billy for taking Lettie away from him.
Between what we learn about Joe and Billy and the revelation with Margaret, we learn that Joe’s motivations to acquire this empire came at his brother’s expense and Margaret’s father, too.
Joe must be a ruthless man to rise to the top like this, and hopefully, we’ll continue to see those flashbacks as they fill in the blanks to how Carlos became Joe and Heritage House as a Sandoval-owned empire came to be.
Margaret: You stole the vineyard. Took away everything he ever had. So let’s cut to the chase. Am I thinking about buying those shares? I already bought them, and I am going to buy your company right out from under you, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Joe: It’s not my company, it’s my family’s. If you take us on, you will lose. Margaret: Tell Lettie Happy Anniversary for me. I can’t believe you didn’t invite me to your party. I’m only the mother of three of your kids.
Added: January 24, 2022
Joe in the present is a bit of a conundrum. One thing he takes pride in is Heritage House, but the downside is that it comes at the expense of his family. Even when he and Lettie engage in their argument, it’s the company he mentions first, not their family.
Everything he does is for that vineyard, and he has the drive of someone who doesn’t want to lose. If you start at the bottom, you don’t want to go back there, and he’ll do whatever it takes to guarantee he and his family never backtrack.
It explains why he’s so reluctant to turn over the reins of operation to any of his children, including Veronica. She seems the most passionate and equipped about running the company. You could tell she put her blood, sweat, and tears into earning her place as CEO, something that was a lifetime in the making for her.
Joe doesn’t hand over things at all. You could tell he makes his children work for every ounce of praise and achievement when it comes to the company. It’s respectable that Veronica requested she starts at the bottom and works her way up to the top before she demanded she gets that position as CEO.
Lettie: Is that what you see when you look at my son? You see Billie looking back at you. And that poor Daniela? Thirty years ago, that was me. Joe: I will always protect this company. Lettie: Yeah? What about your family? What about your family, Joe? I no longer know who you really are.
Added: January 24, 2022
No one could ever say she only got the job via nepotism. She has the work ethic of her father, which on paper makes her the best person to run the company, but from the sounds of things, she doesn’t share Joe’s ruthless nature, which will become a problem if she has to go up against her siblings, cousin, and mother.
You could tell that Veronica is the favored child, most like her father, and arguably the most “American” of the bunch, too, something that the series is already hinting at and will likely explore further.
And therein lies some of the compelling nuances of the show and the things that they can explore as a Latine-led series, with issues both universal to the masses and distinctive to the community.
Veronica is the one whom Joe seems to trust the most. In contrast, his relationships with the other children are different. Carmen seems the least-traditional of the siblings.
She’s full of ideas for the company, and they’re good ones, too, but no one seems to take her seriously. She’s right about targeting the 20-something demographic and how many people will purchase a wine bottle simply because of an appealing label.
And her drink mixing skills are on point, even if the rest of the family would shudder at her bastardization of their fine wine, but there’s a market for everything, dammit!
But it was as if her kickass art skills and natural marketing prowess fell on deaf ears when she made suggestions to Veronica. It’s something that will likely cause tension between the sisters, especially when you factor in the intriguing chemistry that is blossoming between Carmen and Veronica’s husband.
Junior is the typical troubled, spoiled, rich kid of the bunch. He’s someone who never knew the family before their lavish lifestyle and is most unfamiliar with that type of struggle. He’d rather spend his days blowing off school and getting high.
It’s something that Joe resents, a fascinating reflection of how we create our own issues, and a downside to what he endured to provide the most for his family is a child who takes their lifestyle for granted.
It’s not surprising that when he got most irate, it was Junior whom Joe directed his anger.
And then there’s Antonio, the prodigal son. They’ve led us to believe that there’s a history of issues between the father and son, but a significant aspect of it is that Antonio is queer, and Joe struggled to accept it. And if Joe doesn’t approve of something, then the rest of the family falls in line.
I am so proud of you, son. I’m just sorry it took me this long to tell you that.
Joe [to Antonio]
Added: January 24, 2022
Antonio’s arrival home in time for the Sandovals’ anniversary was the first time in years that they saw him. And just as quickly, Joe tried to wave it away, doling out his expression of pride in his son with apparent ease, but only because of his need for something else.
It was such a manipulative and telling gesture, Joe telling his estranged son that he loved him seconds before requesting his help with the company. Joe is getting his soldiers in line for a battle against his ex-wife for control of the company, and he knows that Antonio is a shark who can get the job done.
Only arrogance can explain why Joe didn’t assume his son would hold a grudge.
One of the most exciting developments of the hour was the revelation that Antonio is Margaret’s soldier behind enemy lines. Motivated by his father’s poor treatment, Antonio has no qualms about helping his mother with this hostile takeover of Heritage House.
He’s in the best and most powerful position out of everyone in the family right now. It’s a hell of a glow-up.
Joe even made the cardinal mistake of inserting Antonio right in Veronica’s path, which means it will take next to no time before he finds out that his sister is the one who hit Delgado.
Margaret: Oh, Antonio. They are going to regret the day they turned their back on you. Antonio: Us. It’s good to be home.
Added: January 24, 2022
Years of volleying for the CEO position, and on the same night as her father’s approval, she does something that could cost the Sandovals everything if the truth gets out.
But not only does Antonio have his finger on the pulse with Veronica, but he could probably form some allegiance with Mateo, too.
If Antonio is the prodigal son, then Mateo is the redheaded stepchild of the clan, and no amount of goodwill from his mother can change how Joe views Mateo.
It sounds as though Mateo has poured all of himself into this company as well, much like Veronica, but all Joe sees is his nephew, the spitting image, and a walking, talking reminder of his brother, Billy. For Joe, Mateo’s very existence is an affront.
Mateo is paying for his uncle and father’s past, and the worst part about it is how Joe and others gaslight him into thinking that isn’t the case.
Of all the elite Sandovals, Mateo seems the most grounded of the bunch. It’s apparent that he isn’t someone who has forgotten his roots or how their family came to be, and he’s not above reminding Joe of it either. It was so much tension between the two during that scene Mateo caused at the anniversary party.
It’s one of many relationships I look forward to the series delving into further. Again, the nuance in those bonds is intriguing and rich with possibilities.
It’s not lost that Mateo bears a more ethnic name compared to the other Sandovals who come across as more “American.” He’s also a bit browner compared to his more fair-skinned cousins, save recent outcast Antonio, and there’s no way this series isn’t about to delve into the complex issues with colorism and how that intersects with American idealism, etc.
They’ve subtly set it up too nicely not to do so.
Mateo: You son of a bitch! How could you do this? You climb up the ladder, and then you pull it up behind you, huh? Does that make you feel like a big powerful man? Like the American success story? I know who you really are Carlos Rincón. Your whole life is based on a lie, Joe! His whole life is based on a lie! My father told me everything before he left. Joe: Before her left, huh? So right before he stabbed me in the back? Right before he put your mother in the hospital. Before he left your family for whores?
Added: January 24, 2022
Daniela is a sticking point with this. As the Sandovals new undocumented worker with darker skin and Indigenous features, it was notable that Joe zeroed in on her and immediately asked her about her papers. If Mateo didn’t step in, Joe would’ve pressed the issue and fired her there on the spot.
Mateo knows more than the others about Joe’s past, and he must still be in contact with his father despite Billy’s estrangement from Lettie and the rest of the family. He’s mindful of whatever history is between the brothers and how Joe got to the top of this empire.
It’s why it stung Mateo more than anyone that Joe would fire Daniela and leave her hanging, given his history. While you can’t deny that Joe put in the work to get to where he is now, none of that would’ve happened if he hadn’t jumped the border and gotten false documents right there at Heritage House.
Mateo’s statements about how Joe climbed his way to the top and pulled the ladder up behind him was the ultimate chin-check. Even within the community, illegal immigration is a polarizing issue with different viewpoints. In some ways, it’s a generational one, too.
In Joe’s mind, he worked hard to get to where he is without any help or foot forward, and the younger generations should be able to do the same. But in Mateo’s mind, the audacity of this man to have gotten to this position only to turn his nose up at those who were just like him.
Even Lettie found Joe’s behavior disturbing. She saw herself in Daniela, and she couldn’t shake the fact that Daniela could have been her, and her husband is so far removed from his roots that he’s forgotten them.
To his credit, if Joe were a harsher and crueler man, he’d have let the sheriff take Daniela away and stick her in some ICE deportation camp somewhere. He opted to let her go and rid himself of any problems and liability of funding and harboring an undocumented worker.
But the irony of it all is Heritage House’s rich history of using undocumented labor and falsifying their papers. Joe knows that’s what it was like back in the day, and you can’t tell me he didn’t realize Delgado was still doing that now.
Billy: What is your dream? Juana: I want to be a teacher. Yours?Billy: Don’t laugh but, you see that house? I’m going to own it. The house, the Vineyard, one day this will all be mine. That is my dream, Juana, or, should I call you, Leticia?Juana: I like Lettie.
Permalink: I like Lettie.
Added: January 24, 2022
Daniela was the last straw for Mateo. He was already frustrated with his treatment as general manager.
Mateo probably feels like he has as much stake in Heritage House as anyone. Even as Joe’s stepson, he should’ve accounted for something, but Antonio discovered that Joe didn’t even give Mateo stakes in the company. It’s shady and trifling as hell!
From the tidbits we’ve picked up along the way in the first hour, it made you root for Mateo when he and Daniela stood outside of that “For Sale” sign on a vineyard. Mateo gets to start one of his own, and he can have all the power and avenge his faher, too.
Already, there are so many things at play over this vineyard and empire, and Joe doesn’t even realize how he has folks coming for him from all sides. The chickens are coming home to roost.
I am a forever fangirl of Bellamy Young, and I’m still livid about Prodigal Son‘s cancellation, but that woman knows how to stay booked and busy. She’s about to bring all the drama; you can already tell.
Seriously, you give me Bellamy Young oozing scheme artist and badass, and I’m not supposed to root for her? As if!
I’m dying to know how Joe wooed the daughter of Heritage House and took over. There’s something to be said about the reverse Columbus finesse of it all, but it’s evident that he not only built the vineyard up to new heights, but he doesn’t consider it Margaret’s legacy at all. Whew, I cannot wait to see the story there!
Is Margaret estranged from all of her kids, too?
Is Billy as awful as they said he was, or do you think there’s more to the story? Because that final scene shows that Lettie is still in love with this man!
How exactly did Lettie end up marrying Joe after Billy? Gen X has the juiciest drama of all.
So, there were definite vibes between Carmen and Michael, right?
While the series focuses on Joe as the patriarch, Lettie’s position as the Sandoval dynasty’s matriarch is the most compelling right now.
The sumptuous sweeping shots of the vineyard and overall cinematography on this show — stunning.
Yes, it’s a primetime soap opera, but it’s not giving off telenovela, which is refreshing.
I’m pretty sure this is the first time they’ve shown rich Latines like this who didn’t get here because of connections to a drug or weapons cartel. Let us just process that for a moment.
Can we also take a moment to appreciate that with this amount of diverse Latin characters, we can now free ourselves from the good/bad dichotomy and pressures of one character inherently representing an entire community, thus we can fully enjoy these messy, complex characters?
Who are we rooting for most right now? Margaret and Antonio? Joe, Lettie, and Veronica? Mateo and Daniela? Who you got?
Over to you, Promised Land Fanatics. What are your thoughts on this series? Do you plan on tuning in for more? Please, sound off below!
You can watch Promised Land online here via TV Fanatic.
Read more: tvfanatic.com