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Series / Too Old to Die Young

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Following characters' existential journeys from killers to samurai in the City of Angels.note 

Martin: Society's falling. It's all collapsing around us.
Viggo: Soon our cities will be washed away by floods. Buried in sand. Burned to the ground. That's why you found me.

Too Old to Die Young is a 2019 TV miniseries directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and written by Refn and Ed Brubaker. Released exclusive to Amazon Prime, the series consists of ten episodes and follows two concurrent stories.

Martin Jones (played by Miles Teller), is a morally-questionable police officer in Los Angeles. After Martin's partner Larry (Lance Gross) is assassinated on the job, he's held personally responsible for his partner's debts to Damian, a powerful gangster, and forced to become a hitman.

Meanwhile, Larry's assassin, Jesus (Augusto Aguilera), son of the late cartel lord Magdalena (Carlotta Montanari), returns to his family home in Mexico, where he meets a young woman with her own agenda named Yaritza (Cristina Rodlo), known by the nickname "The High Priestess of Death", and together they begin planning to take back the LA territory they believe rightfully theirs - the territory currently controlled by Damian (Babs Olusanmokun).


Martin soon finds a new partner in the form of Viggo (John Hawkes), an ex-CIA turned fellow hitman working for a mysterious woman named Diana (Jena Malone). As he sinks deeper into the seedy depths of the criminal underworld, a gang war caused in part by his own actions slowly begins to brew, and he soon finds his mistakes catching up to him...

The series is scored by Refn's regular composer, Cliff Martinez.

Despite being released in an episodic format, Refn has repeatedly referred to it as a 13-hour long movie.


Too Old to Die Young provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: Diana emotionally tells a story where Goldilocks was raped by the Big Bad Wolf, but came back the next day and gutted the wolf. It's likely, but never confirmed, that this is her backstory.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The very first character to die onscreen is Larry, who is African-American.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Martin's boss in homicide loves cracking jokes, doing funny voices, and putting on theatrical performances. His office seems to eat it up. When he stops by to help Martin investigate a case, however, he gives simple and useful advice, showing that he's still a pro at what he does.
  • The Cartel: Jesus was born into the cartel, and we spend quite a lot of time among the cartel's people on both sides of the border.
  • Character Tics:
    • Martin has a tendency to spit as punctuation.
    • Theo snorts constantly in some scenes. It's not clear if he's a coke fiend or has some sort of unrelated sinus problems.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: An understated example. After making his first vigilante assassination, Martin is shown drinking a beer with a faintly satisfied expression while 999's "Homicide" triumphantly blares, "I believe.... in homicide!"
  • Dancing with Myself
    • Alfonso is seen dancing by himself as a cartel gathering, exulting in the group's power.
    • In the final episode, Diana performs a triumphant dance by herself in her home, possibly as part of her apotheosis into the goddess of her prophesied age of innocence.
  • Dark Action Girl: Yaritza seems to have perfect aim and takes out groups of armed enemies with ease.
  • Decoy Protagonist: A layered example:
    • The first episode begins with Larry giving a lengthy monologue and then harassing a woman he's pulled over while Martin stands beside him mostly mute. Then Larry is assassinated, and the series largely follows Martin instead.
    • Martin gets the most screentime and development, and is played by the biggest star on the show, but he is violently killed by Jesus at the end of episode 8, which leads to perspective for the remaining two episodes shifting between Yaritza and Diana.
  • Diegetic Switch: In "Volume 5: The Fool" Little Billy turns on the radio, which plays "Mandy" by Barry Manilow. The song then plays during the entire scene.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Larry is introduced suggesting that he may have to murder his mistress. He then creepily hits on a woman during a traffic stop and extorts money from her. He's later implied to have murdered some gangsters while working as a Professional Killer.
    • Martin has no problems taking half of the money Larry extorts from a civilian. He works as a Professional Killer for Caribbean gangsters. He later becomes a Vigilante Man and kills people for Diana.
    • The local police force in Mexico is completely corrupt and on the take from the cartel.
  • Evil Is Petty: Rob, one of the snuff film creators, asks Martin to help him take his drinks to his table. Once Martin arrives with the rest of the drinks, Rob rudely dismisses him without even an acknowledgement of the favor.
  • Eye Motifs: Viggo has a glass eye. Janey gets shot in the eye. Diana gets strange metallic sheen over her eyes and goes through a ceremony in which eye tokens are placed over her own. Yaritza makes up Jesus's eyes, and he requests that she do hers as well.
  • Eye Scream: This is how Janey dies, by getting shot through the eye.
  • Foil: Diana and Yaritza are mirrors of each other. Both are avenging angels who hide within an organization while working against it to punish those who harm the innocent, and both have either stated or implied tragic backgrounds. They're also both very wealthy. However, they also differ in many ways. Yaritza is dark, while Diana has platinum blond hair. Yaritza is cold, arrogant and pitiless, while Diana is warm, polite and sensitive. Yaritza uses tarot to communicate with the supernatural, while Diana uses new age crystals and pyramids. Yaritza has supreme confidence in herself, while Diana is sometimes at odds with her visions. Yaritza is a Dark Action Girl who kills her enemies directly, while Diana is a Non-Action Guy who always works through agents.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During Martin's retirement ceremony, the whiteboard has a variety of eccentric messages written on it, including "Fascism!", hearkening back to the office's previous gathering, and "Lock her up!", referencing Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Friendly Enemy: Subverted. Don Alfonso has kept the peace with the local police force for mutual profitability, but he secretly despises the police captain. His son Miguel pretends to be civil to the police, but everyone knows that he'd like nothing better than a war.
  • Gainax Ending: In a somewhat low-key sense. The last two episodes of the show put the mild supernatural elements into next gear, with Diana receiving visions of destruction from some unnamed beings and Yaritza being heavily implied to be the reincarnation of Death come to purge the world of evil.
  • A God Am I: Our two main female characters reach their apotheosis in the end:
    • Yaritza declares herself to be the Goddess of Death while executing those who victimize women.
    • Diana's is more subtle. In the final episode, she watches a TV program in which "Monkey Puppet" declares that sin has taken over the world and declares that he is the new god, which causes Diana to smile and laugh. In the end, she receives visions that the world will self-destruct, and that she will then declare a new age of innocence, apparently with herself as the goddess of the new world.
  • Handwave: We never find out how Martin explained getting stabbed and stranded in the middle of a New Mexico desert, much less covered up his involvement in several murders there, while on leave from work. We only know that Janey believes it was "some gang thing."
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Martin begins to grow embittered with life as both a cop and a killer, but he is captured and killed by Jesus just as he quits the force.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Martin, Rob and Little Billy utterly fail to hit each other during their Car Chase, from very short distances.
  • Informed Ability: Janey is apparently a genius, with acceptance letters from Harvard and every other prestigious school she applied for. While she is very well-spoken, strong-willed and mature for her age, she never comes across as intellectual or highly knowledgeable.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Janey gets accepted to Harvard as well as every other (unnamed) university she applied to. She's apparently something of a genius.
  • Karma Houdini: Janey's Asian friend is extremely rude and racist to Yaritza, causing Janey to chastise her, but at the end of the group's game, it's Janey who gets slapped to the ground by Yaritza.
  • Leave the Camera Running: And how. Almost every single shot is padded out by long pauses between each line of dialogue, along with plenty of gratuitous pans/zooms.
  • Magical Realism: Grows increasingly magical as the show goes on.
    • Diana seems to be receiving messages from otherworldly beings. She has strange visions, seems to predict the presence of Yaritza, predicts that she won't see Martin again, and at one point her eyes get covered with a metallic sheen. However, she might also just be taking hallucinogens.
    • Yaritza seems to be some sort of supernatural avenger given her superhuman combat abilities and the mythic quality of her Queen of Death persona, but she might just be a badass with good PR.
  • Meaningful Name: Viggo refers to his vigilantism as "hunting," and he receives his orders from Diana, whose name comes from the Greek goddess of the hunt.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Yaritza's targets are mostly men.
  • No Ending: The series comes to a sudden ending, with many plot lines still unresolved.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Martin goes to great length to rescue a woman who'd been left for dead, but the woman is so psychologically damaged that she grabs a nearby switchblade and stabs him before running away without a word, leaving Martin wounded and in the middle of nowhere for his trouble.
  • Oedipus Complex: Jesus is strongly hinted to have one early on, with his frequent and sexually charged memories of his mother. In the later episodes, he takes to viewing Yaritza as his mother's reincarnation while having sex with her.
  • Off with His Head!: Martin gets decapitated by Jesus at the end of episode 8.
  • Pervert Dad: Let's just say that Janey's dad has some very strong feelings for his daughter. This ultimately leads to his death, after he angers Martin by masturbating to the thought of her right in front of him.
  • Professional Killer: Lots. Martin becomes pressed into serving as a gang assassin. The cartel uses varying levels of hired killers. Viggo is essentially hired by Diana to kill criminals, though his interest is in vigilantism rather than profit.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Zig-zagged. Jesus is a brutal and uncompromising cartel kingpin who comes to enjoy anal penetration and being made up in drag through his relationship with Yaritza, but this may be part of some sort of scheme for her to emasculate and undermine him. Even if it is, we never see it affect his bloody ambitions.
  • Rustproof Blood: A number of scenes are spattered with copious amounts of blood that is still bright crimson in spite of being hours old.
  • Snuff Film: A pair of New Mexican psychopaths make "rape movies" that almost certainly prove fatal to their victims.
  • Scenery Porn: In true Refn fashion, the visuals are undeniably stunning, frequently contrasting darkness with bright, colorful light.
  • Serious Business: Played for dark comedy a few times.
    • Miguel takes his soccer game with the local police very seriously and threatens to kill the families of any of his teammates if they don't play well.
    • Little Billy and Rob squabble over the radio station during a Car Chase. Rob wants a fast beat, while Little Billy seems to prefer ballads. They settle on "Mandy" by Barry Manilow.
  • Sexiness Score: Janey's dad first establishes himself as a creepy Pervert Dad by telling Martin that his own daughter is "a 10".
  • Silence Is Golden: As is standard for Refn, many scenes take place in complete silence except for the actors' voices and with long stretches where you could hear a pin drop.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Episode 5 features a tense car chase... set to the song "Mandy" by Barry Manilow.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Refn's previous film Only God Forgives. Both films feature:
    • Long, slow scenes filled with pauses
    • Compositions of bright, colorful light, including lots of neon, contrasting with deep darkness.
    • Stoic characters
    • Sudden and shocking violence
    • A serious Oedipal complex between a man and his crimelord mother.
    • A character hinted to be an incarnation of death.
  • The Starscream: When Jesus arrives back in America, the local captain, Alfonso, passive-aggressively challenges his authority, making frequent derisive and condescending comments. Jesus eventually stands up to him and puts him in his place. He's as loyal as a whipped dog from then on.
  • The Stoic: Martin doesn't exactly emote much.
  • Stupid Crooks:
    • When a cartel member hires a Professional Killer to take out Damian for $6,000, the killer decides that Damian's security is too tight, so he subcontracts out a local flunky, Jaime, to do it for $2,000. Jaime also decides that he's not up to the task, so he gets a local junky to do it for $200 and a baggie of cocaine. The junky bungles it and gets himself killed.
    • In spite of being a criminal kingpin who is usually surrounded by security, Damian sees fit to stand on side of the street while he and both of his bodyguards keep their eyes shut and groove to loud music. They're practically begging to be assassinated.
  • Tarot Motifs: Each episode is named after a tarot card.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill
    • After shooting the poor innocent 18-year-old Janey in the eye, Alfonso shoots her quite a few more times on the ground, as if there were any chance she'd still be alive.
    • Jesus takes three days to torture and then hack apart the final subject of his revenge.
  • Those Wacky Nazis:
    • The two rape pornographers visit a preacher who extols the virtues of the Nazis.
    • Yaritza executes a man who hired one of the cartel's sex slaves in a hotel room where he's hung up a huge Nazi flag.
    • In the montage where Viggo is slaughtering evildoers, a Nazi flag is shown flying along with the shrapnel.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: The ascension of Miguel and Jesus to leadership of the cartel has this feeling, as Miguel quickly starts a war with the police and Jesus urges his men to Rape, Pillage, and Burn any competition, a far cry from their soft-spoken, seemingly peaceful uncle.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty:
    • Hinted at. After Jesus captures Martin, he has a field day whipping him to bloody ribbons. On the second day, his captive is too injured to react much to his whipping, and Jesus is visibly disappointed. He seems to take no special pleasure in finally killing his captive and never mentions it again afterwards.
    • Viggo treats vigilantism as a drug. It's the only thing he has left in his life. In the end, he meets with Diana because he "needs to hunt again," but he's never shown actually taking satisfaction from it.
  • Vigilante Man:
    • Diana and Viggo kill the people who have preyed upon the victims who seek therapy through her office. Martin eventually joins them.
    • Yaritza takes it upon herself to kill anyone involved in the cartel's sexual slavery.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Oh boy, episode 7. Damian is captured and killed by the cartel, but not before telling Jesus that Martin was the real killer of Magdalena. Also, Martin kills Janey's father.
    • Episode 8. Janey and Martin are both killed by the cartel.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In Episode 7. Damien's severed hands lying on the floor in his house.
    • Episode 9. Diana wakes up and looks at herself in the mirror to find her eyes completely glossed over with a strange metallic sheen.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the woman Martin rescued in the desert? We last see her running off toward the highway, and she's is never mentioned again.