Netflix’s new Spanish-language thriller series The Marked Heart, aka Pálpito, may share a few tropes with any other given crime series out there, but its grim subject matter sets it far apart from just about anything else you’ll see on the streaming service right now. The Marked Heart delves into the dark and rumored world of illegal human organ trading and the desperation that drives people to seek it out.
The story focuses on Simón (Michel Brown), a man whose wife, Valeria, is abducted and murdered so that her heart can be transplanted to Camila (Ana Lucía Domínguez), the new wife of a millionaire ruthless enough to do anything to save the woman he loves. Seeking revenge for the death of his wife, an enraged Simón plunges into the shadowy and dangerous world of black market organs. Camila, questioning how she received a transplant when she was far down on the list of recipients, begins to investigate the potentially nightmarish origin of her new heart. When the two meet, an unlikely but powerful love begins to form between them.
The Marked Heart was created and written by Colombian author, actor, and screenwriter Leonardo Padrón and is based on his own original idea rather than a real-life incident. The series is set and was filmed in Padrón’s native Colombia and several Bogotá landmarks are featured prominently throughout the show including the Quinta de Bolívar, the José Celestino Mutis botanical garden, the Maloka Museum, and the Planetarium of Bogotá. The series was directed by Camilo Vega and produced by CMO Producciones.
Although the series is wholly original, the organ trade, sometimes known as the “Red Market,” does exist. It is illegal to sell human organs everywhere except in Iran, but there is a constant shortage of organs needed for transplant. The scarcity of available resources and the desperation of those seeking to save their own lives or the lives of their loved ones often leads individuals to take drastic measures.
Most of the illegal trade involves taking advantage of people living in poverty being encouraged or threatened to sell their own organs, but abductions of unwilling “donors” are not uncommon — though perhaps not as common as urban legend would have people believe. According to an article by MagellanTV, negative economic factors and so-called “Transplant Tourism” are by far the most mitigating factors in the illegal organ trade.
According to The Cinemaholic, Padrón has said he consulted with experts to ensure that the black market elements of the series were portrayed both authentically and sensitively. However, one element of the story may raise a few skeptical eyebrows. It is heavily implied that Valeria’s heart, living on in Camila’s body, is responsible for the depth of feeling between Camila and Simón. The evidence for such a phenomenon appears to be anecdotal at best, but one woman, Claire Sylvia, has written a book called A Change of Heart that claims her organ transplant resulted in fundamental changes to her personality that bore resemblances to the traits of her donor. Whether Camila’s attraction to Simón is based on this or is just a fantastic notion of Padrón is up to viewers to decide.
The Marked Heart is currently streaming on Netflix.