To the average consumer of visual media, the popularity of Netflix’s most-watched show can come as a surprise. The concept of a heist orchestrated by a suave, lethally intelligent mastermind engaged in a battle of wits with the “good guys”, aka the police, is not a new concept. So, what makes ‘Money Heist’ the phenomenon that it has become today?
The five seasons of this show span a total of two heists, but one would be right in arguing that it was less about the heist itself and more about the interpersonal relationships that play into this mammoth mission undertaken by the characters. Right from the start of the show, the characters’ plans and the intentions behind their actions are apparent. It is not left to the viewer’s imagination or held back for the ‘big reveal’ towards the end.
Eight robbers are recruited by a sophisticated, though somewhat nerdy man, who everybody calls the ‘professor’ while assigning names of cities for themselves as aliases. The reason for the professor bringing together these people and organizing the heist goes way beyond matters of simple wealth. It is his way of exacting retribution in the name of his father, whose idea the heist initially was.
Sprinkled very cleverly throughout the story arc of the original heist is the developing love story between the professor and the officer in charge of the heist. This relationship between two pivotal characters was possibly one of the examples of how to do a love story right, while keeping up with the cliches. Seriously, it had everything from the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope to the ‘falling in love through deception’ as well as ‘love conquers all, and I’ll change my world for you’ trope, and it worked like a charm. This is probably one of the few instances of romances onscreen that even die-hard romance haters would find themselves rooting for, simply because of how the story unfolds. However, it does raise the question that if the focus of the story was the relationship itself instead of it being one of the sub-plots, would it still feel as novel? That is for the viewer to decide.
A Monotonous Narrative
The first and the original heist cover two seasons, ending successfully, albeit with a few casualties. The person, the viewers, were rooting for, that is, the professor, gets the girl and the money. If this show was a movie, this would be the end of it. But the show returns with a third season and a fresh new heist with the same dynamics as the previous two seasons, and this is where one can’t help asking if this is an attempt to extend the life of a seemingly good product or whether the creators have something genuinely new to show. Luckily, they do not disappoint.
The show’s third, fourth, and fifth seasons, which cover the second heist, show us a grittier side of the characters viewers have come to love in the first two seasons leading to a game where the stakes are higher. The familiarity of a ‘do or die’ situation is intensified and complicated by the group dynamic itself. These two seasons are about fighting with one’s own and the outside world.
Is Season 5 the End Of Money Heist? (No Spoilers)
The fifth and the final season was released in two parts by Netflix. Though presumed initially as a marketing gimmick, the fans were glad to see that it made sense from a storyline perspective as well, adding to the angst and suspense, which were in line with the true nature of the show. In this season, the heist is on its last leg. It is at a point where it is no longer about the money but about reaching the goal that has required the sacrifice of friends and family.
Without giving away too many spoilers, let’s just say that the end, though predictable, was spectacular, purely because of the larger-than-life execution of it all and the play on the trope of the ‘win of the underdog’ and ‘the victory of the one everyone was rooting for. It does leave one very satisfied with an undertone of having had enough. This is where the creators get the credit for knowing where to end things without stretching them out too much, a skill that goes a long way in making a show or movie iconic.
As one sits through the forty-one episodes of the show, spread across five seasons and four years, one can’t help but question what it was exactly, that made it Netflix’s best show. Undoubtedly, the show was enjoyable and engaging, but what was it exactly that catapulted it to the global stardom it currently enjoys. The idea of bringing together people with shady pasts and organizing them together for a magnanimous heist, orchestrated by somebody too intelligent for his own good, is a concept done many times over. Be it the entire Ocean’s film trilogy or a classic like ‘The Italian Job’, this is a story one has seen played out on the screen often. So, what exactly sets ‘money Heist’ apart from the rest.
One of the reasons could be that the entire story is seen through the lens of an unreliable narrator – Tokyo – and is presented during the heist with flashbacks. Another reason could be what is known as ‘the white man’s approval, something seen recently with another hit Netflix show, ‘Squid Game‘. Something fairly regular from a different culture catches the white man’s attention and interest and gains global approval and popularity thereon. It was stated by the show’s creator that they made a conscious effort to not cater to an international audience but stay true to their Spanish roots and influences, which is what paradoxically ended up making the show such a big hit. So, how would one recommend this show outside of predominantly white countries? Probably as ‘enjoyable but not a must-watch.
Now that the show has ended, it remains to be seen how it will be remembered in the future. Would it maintain the fan following it has amassed over the course of its run, or would it go the Game of Thrones way- sweet while it lasted but ultimately out of the public conscience. Either way, the show maintained consistency in its pace and a certain faithfulness to its audience, so it will always have our respect. How it holds up in today’s era of content saturation and a vast plethora of great shows just waiting to be discovered remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure that for years from now, people will definitely be dressing up as the ‘professor’ for Halloween, and those red tracksuits will be claimed by fans of both ‘Squid Game‘ and ‘Money Heist’. Hence, looking forward to Netflix’s next big thing, Money Heist, has been an excellent forty-one hours.
Money Heist is a 2017 Spanish Drama Thriller Television Series created by Alex Pina. It is streaming on Netflix.