Weekends are the perfect time to binge-watch an entire series. With the Coronavirus going on and many people all over the world in lock-down, binge-watching has spilt over to the weekdays.
Streaming services are sprouting up like mushrooms during a monsoon, Netflix with its originals like The Money Heist shows why it’s still the king of putting up addictive engaging content. Its recently released part 4 is a testament to not only Netflix’s keen eye for great original programming but also to the show’s writers for managing to keep us on the edge and not make the show repetitive.
La Casa De Papel, or as it’s known to many by its English title—The Money Heist—is a Spanish series set around a complicated heist of the Royal Mint of Spain by a group of colourful characters, led by the charismatic yet shy Professor. It was picked up for global release by Netflix in 2017, splitting the first season into two ‘parts’. The show can best be described as the complexity and twists of Ocean’s film heists but with the infighting and drama of Reservoir Dogs. The show’s uniquely Spanish sensibilities and its universal robin-hood-ish themes made it Netflix’s most-watched non-English show around the world. Its robbers’ red jumpsuits and Salvador Dali masks became iconic. The Italian anti-fascist folk song “Bella Ciao” would become a hit across Europe. Netflix would subsequently produce Parts 3 and 4 with an increased budget. Originally intended by the writers to be a limited series, you could technically watch parts 1 and 2 and the story neatly wraps up (strongly recommended that you check them out if you haven’t). But part 3 deals with the consequences of such a grand heist and its effect on the characters.
Our unreliable narrator and wild child Tokyo is tired of her rich and peaceful life on a secluded island. She walks away looking for some adventure. Her boyfriend Rio gets captured in an attempt to talk to her and is then tortured illegally by the police. Professor now joined by his love interest former Inspector Rachel Murillo (now codenamed Lisbon as all the characters use city names to not get personal) gets the crew together to carry out a plan originally envisaged by his brother Berlin. They now plan to rob the gold reserve at the Bank of Spain not only to get Rio back but also to hit the government hard. The common folk with the iconic red suits and Dali masks are now supporting the robbers. This time they are being chased by a ruthless, cold hound in the form of a pregnant Inspector Alicia Serra. Part 3 like almost every episode in the series ended on a cliffhanger with the police faking Lisbon’s encounter to cripple the team’s confidence and the Professor saying “This isn’t a robbery anymore, it’s a war”.
It’s always more difficult to review series than movies because revealing any detail of any episode would be revealing perhaps a key plot point. So I am going to try and keep this spoiler-free to the point of being vague. Especially in a series like this where there is almost no fat, no padding, just pure focused story-telling. This is something that’s very rare, especially when shows have a certain appealing gimmick like Prison Break or Walking Dead or even Lost (for me personally) they usually lose their x-factor in the subsequent seasons. Even a focused show like Breaking Bad had its padding episodes like the Fly. Pointless filler in the name of “character development”, meaning ‘we don’t have anything meaningful to show right now, so let’s slow the story down from anything exciting.’
Money Heist never loses its grip on you. Even in part 4, every scene, every line of dialogue means something. There are no subplots, no filler episodes. Even the flashback scenes of the crew are meant to convey something very important to the high octane drama going on inside the robbery. The show always manages to keep you hooked. Ever since the opening episode, seeing Professor’s calm and cool demeanour crack under the apparent loss of the love of his life is the first of many turns. Part 4 takes time to eventually bring Professor around to his usual self. It gives him a full arc of despair, bargaining, anger and recovery all without ever managing to lose focus of the heist action exactly like the Professor would. Newcomer Palermo, who recently joined the team also gets a slightly confusing but interesting arc. Alicia Serra is a fantastically written villain and Arturo Roman’s character gets even more punchable with each episode if that was possible? There is finally some kinda satisfaction if you have grown to hate that weasel of a character who in my personal opinion should be punched to death just for being so annoying. Rachel a.k.a Lisbon gets some focus but it’s mostly Palermo, Alicia, Professor and a certain new character who get a lot of development. Show favourite and narrator Tokyo surprisingly gets less focus this time but the show still manages to cram in a lot of character drama for such an ensemble cast.
The show is at a stage where Game of Thrones was in its prime was. A sword hangs over every character and anyone can die. People do. Some very important characters do. But more so than that the real thrill comes from the fact that everyone inside the bank and outside it, is a dangerous mix of complexes and emotions. Everyone is a ticking time-bomb waiting to burst in this high-pressure situation and do something desperate and crazy. The consequences hang in the air around every scene and even through all this, moments of humour seep through. It has a well-maintained balance of humour and grit reserved only for well-directed DC films.
The only drawback one could find is that this part ends at a predictably unpredictable cliffhanger. With the kind of conditions happening in the real world right now, it is hard to imagine when or if we will ever get to see Part 5 or 6. Before the outbreak, the writers had said they were still unsure of it. Money Heist Part 4 is a smooth series to binge through. The cinematography and action have upped the ante considerably and it manages to maintain the tension throughout the series. The thing is writing a review for it is pointless because if you had watched it till part 3, there was no way you were waiting for any reviews to dig into part 4. And if you haven’t begun the series yet, believe me, you’ll be glad you are under lock-down to binge watch 30 hours or so of gripping content.
Money Heist part 4 is definitely worth the money.