Money Heist is the English title of the Spanish crime thriller called, ‘Lacasa de papel’. The first season of the show was bought by Netflix in late 2017. It was released worldwide after re-cutting the episodes into two parts, to make them shorter. The show has become extremely famous since its release in 2017 and has garnered a huge fan base. It has received widespread critical acclaim for its intriguing plot, compelling drama, acting, and direction.
And is the most-watched non-English language series on Netflix in early 2018, within just four months of being added to the platform. With the recent release of its third part on Netflix, the craze is back in full swing. It was streamed by 34 million household accounts within its first week of release, thereby making it one of the most-watched Netflix series and movies of all time in any language, including English.
Money Heist | TV Series Overview & Review
To the uninitiated, the show revolves around a group of eight highly experienced criminals, who work together to pull off a massive heist on the Royal Mint of Spain choreographed by a mastermind. The premise isn’t anything new or ground-breaking. It has been done before in many ways to various degrees of critical & commercial success. Let’s take a deeper look into the plot and character development to understand what makes the ‘Money Heist’ different from its predecessors.
Season 1: Introduction to characters
The show begins when a mysterious man known only as ‘The Professor’, stops a thief from getting caught in a trap sprung by the cops. He introduces the thief to seven other criminals at an old mansion. It is here that we first learn about the masterplan helmed by ‘The Professor’ to rob 2.4 billion euros from the Royal Mint of Spain, located in Madrid. The show forwards to the day of the planned heist, which is shown to the audience from the rescued thief’s perspective. The eight robbers code-name themselves after cities: Tokyo (the rescued thief), Nairobi (only other woman of the gang apart from Tokyo), Moscow, Denver (Father and son duo), Rio (Hacker of the group), Berlin (Second-in-command), Helsinki and Oslo (Cousins, the muscle of the group).
As part of the plan, the robbers take Sixty-Seven people as hostages to execute their scheme to print 2.4 billion euros and leave through a self-constructed escape tunnel. The group is led by ‘The professor’ from an external location, with Berlin heading the actual heist. Flashbacks are shown throughout the series, which reveal the details of the five months training and preparation undertaken by the entire group.
‘The Professor’ explains three rules that everyone must follow during the heist, No one can reveal their real names or identities; there must be no personal questions or exchange of information, and personal relationships are not allowed. With the introduction done, the story gets riveting from there on, with ever-increasing stakes as new complications arise with each subsequent episode.
Season 1: Parts 1 & 2
The plan which appeared to be flawless in method turns out to be not as perfect as they had thought it to be. With the criminals and the hostages locked in together, the police attempt to intervene. The police are led by a woman inspector Raquel Murillo who refuses to be outsmarted by criminals or undermined by the men in her department who scrutinize and criticize her every move, as she attempts to negotiate with ‘The Professor’ on phone. Meanwhile, the narrative dives into exploring each of its character and their motives to be a part of the heist. The show makes its audience care about every character involved in the story, inevitably leaving them in a position where they are in love with the people on both the sides, hopelessly wishing for them all to come out of the conflict unscathed and with a win.
Following the massive success of its first two parts, Netflix renewed the series for 16 more episodes. Eight episodes of the ordered sixteen have been released last July as part 3.
Season 2: Part 3
Part 3 is set about two or three years after their successful heist on the Royal Mint of Spain. The robbers are shown to be enjoying their lives spread across various locations. The new part begins with Europol capturing Rio through an intercepted message. ‘The Professor’ decides to assault the Bank of Spain using Berlin’s old plans with the hope of reaching an agreement with the Europol to release Rio. ‘The Professor’ and Raquel (now going by “Lisbon”) get the old Crew back together, including Monica (who joined the crew after the events of part 2 and now goes by “Stockholm”). He also enlists three new members: Bogota, Marseille, and Palermo to join the gang.
The gang sneak into the heavy-security building in disguise and again take hostages, which gains them access to the state secrets and gold. Outside, ‘The Professor’ and Lisbon use a moving van to be in communication with the gang and the police. An attempted bank breach is thwarted by the gang, which leads to the police releasing Rio from custody.
Palermo reaches out to ‘The Professor’ to inform him about Nairobi who has been seriously injured by a gunshot in the chest, with the police preparing another assault on the bank. Part three concludes when Lisbon is caught by the police. ‘The Professor’ is made to believe that she is executed by faking gunshots. Distraught and shaken by the thought of losing Lisbon ‘The Professor’ declares DEFCON 2(defense readiness condition). Tokyo voices that “the war had begun.”
Takeaways from Season 2:
With such an ominous ending, people are predictably very excited for the release of part 4. Will we finally be told the motives of ‘The Professor’ throughout the series? How will the criminal mastermind deal with the perceived death of Lisbon? Will any of them escape this foray without grievous harm and go on to live a peaceful life? We will have to wait for the next part to release to see if the show continues to live up to its usual standards. Coming back to the title of this piece, I will now try to explain why everyone is crazy about this TV series.
Analysis of characters
The characters of ‘Money Heist’ are not only incredibly diverse and well written; they are also utilized in masterful ways. They have been widely touted to be feminist icons by critics & audience alike. Although there are only two women in the main crew, the power of this series lies not in its portrayal of women but its portrayal of men. It showcases their myriad dimensions while maintaining their humanity by their flaws. The complex manifestations of flawed people making bad choices are what makes the characters and the series an ode to true feminism.
No one in the series acts perfectly in the way they are supposed to. In a tale of such careful planning all falling apart due to human errors, it is a refreshing change to see the characters shown to exhibit such a variety of errors. The errors are only shown as choices being made at the moment, which shows that the series respects its audience. No character’s choice is made to look like it is inherently good or bad. The series establishes human behavior on a spectrum without resorting to the cliched one-dimensional archetypes that we either end up resenting or loving. It presents its characters as various shades of grey and manages to maintain its complexity until the end.
‘Money Heist’ manages some awe-inspiring subversive tricks. It presents the hostages as the true villains of peace. And shows the vulnerability & fragility of the police officers in charge of dealing with the heist. It constantly undermines our expectations regarding the background of the robbers, along with their reasons to become a criminal and their motivations to take part in such a high-risk heist. While the show certainly draws inspiration from the likes of classic movies such as the Oceans franchise, Italian Job, Inside Man and other great heist movies we have loved over the years, it evolves the classic premise of a heist story in ways you never would have thought of.
Sure, we have all rooted for the criminals in shows & movies at some point or another, but how often did their plight leave you in an emotional mess, because you care so much about what happens to them? Or make you want to cheer out loud for their victories? You will likely do both of these and more during your watch through ‘Money Heist’. The creator of the show, Alex Pina, must be credited for coming up such fascinating characters and an intriguing plotline which always keeps everyone guessing and wanting for more.