What follows is a ramble which for once I think is relatively free of major spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Money Heist on Netflix let me tell you here why it’s worth your time.
Don’t be put off by the naff name of this show or the fact that’s it’s in Spanish. The original title La Casa de Papel translates to the The House of Paper (maybe Netflix thought it was too close to House of Cards for comfort) which makes a lot of sense when you find out it’s about a heist of the Spanish Royal Mint by a motley crew of expert thieves, but maybe less sense for Season 3 which is another heist but at the country’s central gold reserve.
I had heard two things about the show from a work colleague – one that it was addictive viewing and two that the English dubbing was good. Usually I’m okay with reading subs but I thought I’d give the dubbed version a try. If there was going to be a lot of action I didn’t want the fact I needed to read subtitles to get in the way. The fact that I watched two series over the course of a rainy weekend home alone without Siggy is testament to the how thoroughly addictive the show is.
Maybe because of the intense viewing experience, I think that Seasons 1 and 2 are more enjoyable than Season 3 which I watched over the course of last week. The dialogue is tighter, the plot more layered and the character portrayal more complex in the story of the crew’s first heist (which spans the first two seasons) than the second (which will span the third and forthcoming fourth season).
I love a good heist movie and so to have tropes bent, stretched and sometimes torn apart over the course of a TV series was a joy to watch. Then there are the characters who, much like Reservoir Dogs uses colours, use city names to try and protect their anonymity and reduce emotional connections – something that predictably is challenged throughout the course of the show.
We have crew members falling for each other, thieves falling for hostages and questioning whether they have Stockholm Syndrome, and the mastermind behind it all – the Professor (Álvaro Morte) – falling for Police Inspector Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituño) who is in charge of the police operation to resolve the hostage situation peacefully.
Of the thieves within the Mint in the first story, most screen time is dedicated to Tokyo (Úrsula Corberó) who narrates the show and whose relationship with the young hacker newbie Rio (Miguel Herrán) causes all sorts of trouble. She is somewhat of an overtly sexualised cliché but has enough layers to keep a cynical viewer interested after the initial titillations have passed. She tries to assume control of the heist at one point but it is the misogynistic Berlin (Pedro Alonso) the internationally wanted master thief who the Professor has for some reason (which is revealed as show progresses) trusted to lead the crew.
The show’s success does revolve around the dynamics within the troupe of fascinating Salvador Dali masked characters rather more than the details of the heist. I say this because the Professor seems to have every possible move and countermove totally thought through like a game of chess.
There’s a number of times where you might think the thieves are going to be caught out only for the Professor to reveal an escape route from whatever impossible predicament they are presented. With the Professor’s rebellious speeches against the rich, his intelligent seemingly omnipotent power and references to the banking system (plus the mask wearing) the theme of the story did remind me somewhat of Amazon’s Mr Robot (which is back for its fourth and final season – whoop whoop!) which I think is one of the best shows on any streaming platform ever.
Like in Marvel’s Avengers movies every character gets a chance to shine and along with Tokyo, Rio, Berlin and the Professor there is Nairobi (Alba Flores) currency counterfeiting expert who lost her son when she was convicted of drug dealing, ‘gay bear’ Serbian army veterans Stockholm and Oslo – the muscle for the job, Moscow a tunnelling expert and father of Denver (Jamie Lorente) who is handy in a fight and falls for one of the hostages who he nicknames ‘Stockholm’.
In the third season, it is clear that the second heist has had less planning – it’s a comparatively rushed job to get one of their number out of trouble with the authorities. They are also up against a lollypop sucking pregnant police negotiator Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri) who seems to be a match for the Professor’s cunning since it’s obvious she is unwilling to play by the police rulebook. With the characters established from the first story some new ones are introduced but feel two-dimensional in comparison to the original cast members.
In the absence of any new love stories, we are left having time to think through the details of the second heist which benefits from the crew having an unlimited budget. Because of this the sense of edge of your seat tension – despite the continued great choice of camera angles, shots and tight editing – just isn’t there for the majority of the third season. Despite the pace of the storytelling being far quicker, it was only in the last two episodes, where the wheels started falling off the plan, that the third season compared well with the first two. Of course that’s not to say I am eagerly looking forward to watching the fourth season!