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Where does the show Alba take place? Is Alba any good?

Alba star Elena Rivera attending the Cosmopolitan Summer Party in Madrid in June 2022
Elena Rivera leads the cast of the Alba, a harrowing Spanish-language show that's shot up the Netflix charts. (Image credit: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Alba has become the most-watched non-English TV show on Netflix, but what’s Alba about, who’s in it and, crucially, is it any good?  

For the uninitiated, Alba is a Spanish-language drama that has climbed high up on the Netflix charts. This dark, tense series revolves around the titular woman, Alba, a woman who discovers she's been the victim of a terrible crime when she wakes up on a beach without any memory of the previous night.

Here's what you need to know about Alba.

What's Alba about?

Alba tells the story of the titular young woman who wakes up on a beach and realizes that she has been drugged and raped by a group of men the night before. One of the men at the scene turns out to be Alba's boyfriend, Bruno, though whether Bruno participated in the assault or not is left unclear and remains a major hook throughout the series. 

Two of the men, Ruben and Jacobo, belong to the wealthy Entrerríos family. The family funds many local businesses and is on the cusp of securing a big expansion deal that would be jeopardized by a controversial trial. The series then follows Alba's subsequent vilification and the police investigation into Alba's assault.

The show is primarily presented in chronological order, with flashbacks breaking up the first half of the series via a recording of the attack and her broken memories until episode six. Then, viewers are treated to a light reprieve from the grim events via a six-month flashback showing how Bruno and Alba got together. It's a tainted chalice akin to the "happy" ending of Gasper Noe's harrowing film Irreversible, as it's a breath of fresh air in an otherwise heavy-hitting story that's threaded with an undercurrent of discomfort as we know what's coming.

Where does Alba take place?

Dark alleys and sinister offices aside, Alba’s locations are one of its most attractive features. 

The pastel blue, yellow, and pink picture-postcard buildings of the protagonist’s hometown are in fact that of Villajoyosa, a town in the oceanfront province of Marina Baixa, Alicante. Despite the show’s dark material, Alba certainly fills us with wanderlust for bright, sandy beaches, cool beers and afternoon strolls through cobbled streets.

Is Alba based on a true story?

Alba is not based on a true story, but on a novel by Turkish screenwriter, novelist and intellectual, Vedat Turkali.

The book was a widespread national success and spawned a feature film adaptation in 1986 followed much later by a two-season, 80-episode TV series, plus an Indian remake and now this Spanish version.

Who stars in Alba?

The eponymous character is played by established Spanish actress, Elena Rivera who is well known for playing Karina for over a decade in the internationally-acclaimed prime time series, Cuéntame cómo pasó. 

Eric Masip plays Alba's boyfriend, Bruno Costa, whilst Jacobo is played by Álvaro Rico (The Legend of El Cid), Hugo is played by Jason Fernández (Welcome to Eden), and Ruben is played by lesser-known actor, Pol Hermoso.

TV veteran Bea Segura plays Bruno's aunt, Clara, while regular awards-nominee Adrian Ozores is on board as Ruben's protective mother, Mercedes. Alba's frosty sister-in-law is played by relative newcomer, Candela Cruz, whilst Alba's drug-dealing ex-boyfriend Tirso is played by Jorge Silvestre.

How many episodes is Alba?

Alba's first season is 13 episodes long, all of which run for between 45 minutes and an hour.

Will there be a season two of Alba?

Currently, there has not been confirmation of a second season; given Alba's cliff-hanger ending and its popularity, however, we think there’s a good chance the show will be renewed. 

Is Alba any good?

‘Dark’ TV shows have certainly carved a place for themselves on the small screen in recent decades (you only need to look at the success of US shows such as Breaking Bad, Ozark and The Sinner — and Germany’s Dark to see that challenging, morally questionable plotlines aren’t going anywhere) and with the recent rise in rape and consent-based storylines as seen in Netflix’s true crime miniseries Unbelievable and 2020’s Spanish sensation Mentiras (Lies and Deceit) — as well as Michaela Coel’s much-lauded I May Destroy You Alba certainly fits the TV trend right now. But, while it might be the most watched non-English TV show on the streamer, popularity doesn’t always equal quality, and unfortunately for Alba, there’s a bit of that going on here.

While, on the whole, the actors are convincing and the episodes more than watchable, one of Alba’s major drawbacks is its style. Shot mostly under aggressively bright lighting and with the deep focus of a daytime TV soap opera — not to mention progressively melodramatic plot lines — the show’s style ultimately trivializes what in the first few episodes looks to be an effectively rendered and impactful tale, with the opportunity to make some insightful social commentary. 

Perhaps more bothersome is that, while the show might be called Alba, it feels very much about the male perpetrators, and Alba herself is given no real agency; her choices about how to deal with her situation seem mostly led by her boyfriend. 

That said, it’s certainly a show that never sits still, with plenty of twists and turns across the 13 episodes and a gripping and action-packed ending that will leave even the most skeptical viewer wanting more. 

Ally Wybrew is a London-based entertainment and travel writer with an MA in Film Studies. She has contributed to What To Watch, Empire, Curzon Journal, The Independent. High Life Magazine and more.