The Horror of Dolores Roach

The Horror of Dolores Roach

An intriguing, if half-baked, dark comedy about one woman’s spiral into madness


TV Show

United States of America
Comedy, Drama
Alejandro Hernandez, Justina Machado, K. Todd Freeman
28 min


Personally, my plate’s already full with these murderer deep dives, but if you can stomach another one, this one should go down relatively easily.

What it's about

After being unjustly imprisoned for 20 years, Dolores Roach (Justina Machado) looks to start fresh as a masseuse, but escalating problems threaten to push her to the edge.

The take

The first thing we learn about Dolores Roach is that she is a person of sensation and scandal, a masseuse who, as the newspaper clippings reveal, turned out to be a murderous cannibal serving human flesh to unwitting customers at a local eatery, a la Sweeney Todd. But the series is less about the horrors of the act and more about the woman behind the front. “I was never the blood-hungry sociopath people say I am,” Dolores claims early in the first episode. “I was just some chick in Washington Heights.” In an attempt to humanize Dolores, we’re made privy to the unforgiving circumstances surrounding her case, namely: the desperation of poverty, the relentlessness of discrimination, the brokenness of the criminal justice system, and the inevitability of gentrification, all of which play a crucial role in Dolores’ eventual descent into misdeed and madness. It’s an interesting idea, fleshing out her darkness in a comic tone and pitting it against systemic social problems, but sadly the show never pulls off the balance it needs to become an effective dark comedy. Maybe something was lost when it was adapted from a one-woman play to TV series, but it never really shakes off that amateur approach to telling its delicate story. The heavy-handed narration and the occasional gimmicks overshadow the horrific deaths that occur, and they don’t leave enough space for the story’s relevant themes to aerate and make a significant impact. It’s also not nearly as scandalous nor as sexy as it thinks it is, lacking passion both in its love and murder scenes. They come off scrubbed and squeaky, blunting what could have been, at the very least, a sharp murder thriller. 

What stands out

All that said, the series is still watchable, largely thanks to a committed performance by Machado. Many viewers might recognize her as the loving mother in Netflix’s One Day at a Time, so seeing her do a complete 180 here as a hardened criminal is surprising in the best possible way. Machado flexes her versatility and challenges us to like such an unlikable character, so much so that you’re likely to end up watching more episodes than expected (as I did), reservations and all, just to see more of her.


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