Original Title: The Mechanism (Season 2)
Creator: José Padilha
Genre: Crime, Thriller
After the beginning of the Car Wash in the first season, we see the unfolding of the investigation leading to the Impeachment of a Brazilian President.
The Mechanism is a series about something that is still happening in front of our eyes. It’s actually a smart move because they can keep making the series forever, or at least several seasons.
Like I said in the review of the first season “[The Car Wash Operation is] the investigation of a big scheme of corruption involving public companies, big contractors and people in the highest places of the government”.
That’s not all, the investigation shaped the politics in the following years, not just because of the rightful investigation of powerful political figures, but because the operation became political itself, like this season of the show makes clear.
However, let’s go slow and start from the beginning.
From Judiciary to Politics
The man who became the face of the Operation Car Wash is Sergio Moro. We talked about him and the reason José Padilha became disappointed in him earlier this year in the “Nun” review.
In the first season of “The Mechanism”, Paulo Rigo (the series counterpart of Moro) is a very correct judge, who plays by the book. However, the real-life Moro is problematic at least since 2005, when his excesses caught the eye of other jurists.
He was considered biased and his actions went against The Code of Judicial Conduct, all of it way before his work in the Car Wash Operation.
Even with his abuse of power, the Car Wash Operation was founded with the use of illegal maneuvers from the judge, including illegal wiretaps, something we would see more of later.
In this season of “The Mechanism”, we watch Judge Rigo releasing recordings from the illegal and unauthorized wiretap, helping to shape the public opinion and leading to the Impeachment of the President Janete Ruscov.
Almost the same thing happened in real life when Moro released wiretap recordings, including a conversation between the then President Dilma Rousseff and Lula. It is illegal to record a President without authorization from the Supreme Court.
I was planning to talk about Lula’s conviction, however, I think it’s best to leave it to the possible third season of the series. I will only say that it was a highly controversial decision, especially considering the history of abuse from Judge Sergio Moro.
Moro is now the Minister of Justice, what many think it’s his reward for jailing Lula, the man who led the presidential polls, and helping to create the political void that took the far-right to power. That is something shown in the series, by the way.
The Politicians – Left
I will talk about “Left” and “Right” here, but have in mind that in both cases they’re actually “Center-Left” and “Center-Right”, but it’s best to make it simple. The Far-Right is a more recent phenomenon, so it’s not going to be featured just yet.
Starting with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the President of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. Some say he was the best Brazilian president of all time, while others think he is responsible for the political and economic crisis Brazil faces today and consider him the Devil himself.
He began as a Trade Union leader, was a political prisoner during the Military Dictatorship, ran for president several times before winning in 2002. During his presidency, Brazil became the eighth largest economy in the world and inequality fell, although remaining high.
According to NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America):
“Lula oversaw robust economic growth, chipped away at the country’s massive social and economic inequality, and pushed forth Brazil’s emergence as a rising economic and geopolitical power.”
Even with this success, his presidency was not free of controversy. The big one before Car Wash operation was the “Mensalão Scandal”, where the Worker’s Party (Lula and Dilma’s Party) paid a monthly amount for representatives so they would legislate in favor of the party.
Lula now resides in the city of Curitiba, more specifically in the Federal Police Jail.
After Lula’s term in office, his protegee and former Chief of Staff, Dilma Rousseff, was elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014.
Dilma Rousseff was the President of Brazil from 2011 until her Impeachment in August 2016. A guerrilla member during the Military Dictatorship, she was captured and tortured, staying in jail from 1970 to 1972.
Now, if her predecessor enjoyed the economic abundance of the commodities bubble, Dilma had to deal with the bursting of this bubble and the eventual economic crisis that came as a consequence.
Like mentioned in the series, she also had to deal with the Congress sabotaging every one of her efforts to deal with this economic crisis.
Finally, in 2015 Congressman Eduardo Cunha accepted the Impeachment request based on omission about the Petrobras controversy, fiscal responsibility crimes declared by the Federal Court of Accounts and budgetary mismanagement regarding Fiscal pedaling.
Even though the Worker’s Party is from Center-Left like became evident from Lula’s terms in office, the hate towards the Worker’s Party has its foundation on the communist paranoia present in most western countries since the XIX century.
Not only the delusion of a communist threat fed this antagonism against the party, but the social programs during their government as well turned part of the population against them.
This sentiment against the Worker’s Party was the defining factor for the dualism and division in Brazilian society, but I think it’s about to change in the near future. But that’s something to talk about in another moment.
Dilma is currently free as a bird and it seems like the investigations will not implicate her in the schemes, so she will remain free as a bird.
The Politicians – Right
Vice-President Samuel Thames (Tonio Carvalho) in real life is Michel Temer. Vice-President from 2011 to August 2016 and President after Dilma’s Impeachment, from August 2016 to 2018.
The Worker’s Party chose Temer as Vice-President as a strategy to have the support of his party (former PMDB, now MDB) and other centrist parties. This parties alone are almost meaningless, but together they can swing are more powerful than the big parties like The Worker’s Party or PSDB.
The Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) itself is a very big and important party founded in 1965 during the Military Dictatorship. It was a fake opposition party to ARENA, the regime party, to give a sensation of democracy for the brutal regime.
The MDB is the party with influence over these tiny centrist parties, known as Centrão (something like Big Center), making MDB one of the most influential parties in Brazilian politics.
Something curious acknowledged in the show, is that Michel Temer is married to a gorgeous woman, 42 years younger than him, making her a target for misogynist attacks. The couple has a son together.
Temer is investigated for corruption by the Car Wash Operation, leading to his arrest on March 2019, released a few days later. Federal prosecutor Fabiana Schneider said Temer and his “criminal group” were active for more than 40 years.
When the following photo was taken, the investigators already knew about Temer’s criminal activities, but it doesn’t seem to bother Judge Moro at all.
Aécio Neves is Senator Lúcio Lemes (Michel Bercovitch), grandson of Tancredo Neves, who was elected President but died before being sworn in. Tancredo would be the first president after a Military Dictatorship.
He was Governor of Minas Gerais from 2003 to 2010 and Senator from 2011 to February 2019. He was the runner-up in the 2014 presidential election.
His party was PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party), was the main opponent of the Worker’s Party for decades. Since the 1994 presidential election, the two parties were always the main contenders.
The former senator is also investigated for several corruption cases, in the Furnas scheme and the Car Wash Operation. Later he was also involved in the JBS scandal, that I believe will be present in the next season of “The Mechanism”.
Lucas Arcanjo, a former police detective, was found dead in an apparent suicide in 2016. The detective was known for accusations against Aécio Neves, from money laundering to association with drug trafficking.
As far as I know, these accusations never amounted to something of more substance. I don’t know about any further investigation around these claims.
Another minor, but curious detail included in the series is the Lúcio Lemes character snorting some coke in the bathroom counter. Aécio Neves is rumored to be addicted to cocaine during his whole career, but of course, he denies it.
Surprisingly enough, Aécio Neves is not in jail, and as far as I know, he still hasn’t been arrested not even once. I ask myself if Moro already knew about Aécio’s involvement in all of these scandals when the photo below was taken.
Representative Carlos Henrique Penha portrayed by Augusto Madeira is the show’s version of Eduardo Cunha, the former President of the Lower House, master of corruption.
Cunha was an important figure in the Evangelical Bloc, a group of evangelical lawmakers in service of their corrupt churches.
These crooked churches are one of the most powerful political weapons for Brazilian politicians. Through the church, they have full support from millions of church members and they can also, use the church to launder their dirty money.
Someone who laundered money through the Church was Eduardo Cunha himself. He laundered the money he took from the Petrobras scandal through the Brazilian Assemblies of God church.
The most notorious member of this church is Silas Malafaia, a homophobic pastor investigated for helping with money laundering. After being interrogated by the Federal Police, Pastor Malafaia met a judge in hopes of narrowing his relationship with the judiciary.
Back to Cunha, all his scandals came to light at the same moment he was one of the central figures regarding Dilma’s Impeachment, and the process would not have been possible without his efforts.
Demonstrating how important was Eduardo Cunha’s influence within the Congress, Lúcio Funaro, a financial operator involved in corruption, said in his plea bargain:
“Eduardo [Cunha] worked as a corruption bank for politicians, everyone who needed resources asked him, and he would give it. In return, he owned the guy’s mandate”.
However, not long after the Impeachment, Cunha was arrested for using Swiss accounts to launder money and receiving 40 million dollars in bribes. Cunha is in jail to this day.
Between some of the other notorious figures present in the series are Marcelo Odebrecht, the CEO of the construction company Odebrecht. In the series Ricardo Brecht (Emílio Orciollo Netto), CEO of Miller&Brecht.
Guess where he’s living nowadays?! If you guessed jail, you guessed right.
Another construction big-shot is Léo Pinheiro, the CEO of OAS SA, the company that paid millions for employees to adjust their statements to the police during the Car Wash Operation.
Like Judge Sergio Moro, Léo Pinheiro was rewarded for his role in sending Lula to jail. His son-in-law, Pedro Guimarães was appointed by as the chairman of the Caixa Econômica Federal, an important State-owned bank.
In the series, Léo Pinheiro is Tom Carvalho (Carlos Meceni), CEO of OSA, and like his real counterpart, makes a plea bargain implicating the former president, João Higino (Arthur Kohl), in the corruption scandal, giving the judge what he wanted.
Like many others in this review, Léo made prison his home, but at least his daughter and son-in-law are living the good life, with a big fat salary, being paid by the Brazilian citizens.
Other names include Alberto Youssef, the black-market banker in fiction Roberto Ibrahim (Enrique Diaz).
The two prosecutors Dimas (Antonio Saboia) and Cláudio (Lee Taylor) are the real-life Deltan Dallagnol and Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima respectively.
Now, there is one that is debatable. The Justice of the Supreme Federal Court Maximiliano Carrascosa (Thelmo Fernandes) is said to be Gilmar Mendes, but apparently, José Padilha denies it.
Personally, I think the character of Maximiliano could be just a way to insert the Supreme Court in the mix, because, as far as I know, there is nothing concrete about the involvement of the Supreme Court in any of these scandals.
However, the Supreme Court is a very important part of this rigged system that Padilha presents in “The Mechanism” and other works.
The Mechanism Season 2
Starting from the same point where the first season left, Marco Ruffo (Selton Mello) tries to persuade Maria Tereza (Anna Cotrim), a secretary of the construction company Miller&Brecht, to snitch against her employers.
Ruffo still has an obsession with Roberto Ibrahim (Enrique Diaz), even going to Paraguay to find him. But after this personal quest, Ruffo takes a step back and don’t have a major impact in the series.
Before talking further about this season, there something to get out of the way. One of the things I disliked the most about the first season was the audio. When Marco Ruffo spoke in voice-over, the audio was really bad, it sounded like whispering.
José Padilha recently explained why that was the case. According to him, they made a mistake mixing the sound in the 5.1 format, good for theaters, but not very good for smaller devices.
I don’t understand about sound mixing, so I will believe Padilha’s word on the matter. The thing is, the second season is much better in this aspect, the audio is clearer and didn’t bother at all.
That being said, with the audio fixed, now I enjoyed Ruffo’s voice-over narration. I prefer him as this narrator and mentor, taking less and less a part of the action.
With Ruffo’s new role, Verena (Caroline Abras) become a more important figure. Her character is more mature in this season and she doesn’t have any cheesy, cringe-worthy one-liners, like in the first season.
Another person shining in this season is Emílio Orciollo Netto as Ricardo Brecht. I don’t know how accurate the character is compared to the real Marcelo Odebrecht, but the character is great and I think a lot of it thanks for the acting.
This season has a little more action, not much, but even with some shots fired. It’s also more fun and has many funny moments, the best example being the fifth episode “Friendship Bridge”.
This episode sets in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and has some fun banter between Marco Ruffo and Guilhome (Osvaldo Mil), some action and it’s a bridge between two phases of the season.
After the fifth episode, the show becomes more intense and I even stopped taking notes for the last episodes and became completely immersed.
We have to talk about João Higino (Arthur Kohl). The actor shines making the character an even more powerful and imposing figure than the real Lula, reminded me a little of Pablo Escobar in Narcos.
Pablo Escobar was a despicable figure, but he was loved by those he took care of in the poor communities of Medellin, at the same time being a powerful man who was never afraid of the authorities. The same could be said about João Higino.
We can see the love and respect of the people for João Higino when Vander (Jonathan Haagensen) talks about him to Verena. But we can also see the other side of him when he doesn’t back down when interrogated by the prosecutors.
Another big moment is when Paulo Rigo releases the illegal audios and even the team of investigators realize how the investigation and the task force have turned into a political tool.
The voting of the Impeachment was a circus, which made a great scene. Ruffo’s narration while watching that bizarre spectacle, describing how the political demise of those in the “high clergy” in politics was opening space for something far worse.
In Ruffo’s TV, a man (Garcia Júnior) praising his fellow representative, Carlos Penha (Augusto Madeira) and then praising the General who was the terror of President Janete Ruscov.
For those who don’t know, this really happened. When a representative praised the General responsible for the torturing of Dilma Rousseff during the Military Dictatorship. Two years later, that same man was elected the President of Brazil.
This scene was filmed before the 2018 Elections, but Ruffo’s words made even more sense knowing what we know now.
To me, this second season was quite better than the first season, the things I disliked in the first season were not present in the second and I could enjoy more of other details.
Without the bad audio, I could enjoy the score. Without bad lighting, I could enjoy the cinematography and some amazing shots and sets. Without bad dialogue, I could enjoy more of the characters and the acting. And so on.
There were times I felt emotionally connected to characters and situations, even if they were fictional and that’s really a great thing, especially considering that the first season I felt the characters were too generic.
I think this season showed why we can be excited about Padilha’s work. The quality of what we know from Elite Squad (especially the second one) and Narcos, but with fewer action aspects.
I hope they make more seasons, because there is much more to the story than what was shown so far, and I think it will be nice to see how Padilha presents it.
I give this season 9 Moons. With the 3 Moons from the first season, the average is 6 Moons for the series so far, let’s hope for a bright future.