It’s hard to forget the case from 2018 that had everyone in the world glued to their screens and praying for the safety of the 12 boys and their coach stuck in an impossible situation. Literally, the whole world came together to bring the boys back to the safety of the land and their homes. “Thai Cave Rescue”, a series based on true events, is a look at how that happens. We have always maintained that when making a piece of content that involves details about technical aspects of the job, they have to be integrated into the story in a particular way so that the audience is aware of what’s at stake. Most series either dumb it down too much or give no context at all, which ends up creating a disconnect between the viewer and the story on screen. “Thai Cave Rescue,” however, manages to strike that perfect balance and reminds us why East Asian content is considered to be in a league of its own. Let us see how this adaptation unfolds on screen.
The Rescue Mission
The first episode of “Thai Cave Rescue” details how the whole situation starts. The twelve boys go to the cave in the Tham Luang mountains to spend an afternoon. They plan to go back by evening but can’t because the cave gets flooded, trapping them inside. Elsewhere in Bangkok, an intern in the Thailand Meteorological Department is trying to get an update on the weather conditions after their satellite goes down. Due to her efforts, they find out that the situation is worsening with increasing rain. Noon immediately contacts the forest ranger on the ground, Pim, and asks her to raise the alert. The ranger goes ahead to do so and finds the bikes of the boys parked outside the cave. She figures out what has happened. It was Noon’s timely intervention and Pim’s proactiveness that alerted people to the situation early on. It’s not a bad idea to listen to the intern sometimes. From there on, the rescue mission begins, led by Nangsarok. Back home, the head coach of the Wild Boars contacts one of the boys on the team who was left behind and comes to know that the others have gone to explore the caves. The parents are alerted, and they reach the caves to inquire about the well-being of their children. Mark’s mother shows up as well, though it is unsure whether he is in the cave with the others. All of the parents turn to offer prayers as their way of coping with the situation and ensuring the safety of their children.
A flash flood forces the boys to go further inside the caves to seek refuge. They all realize they are trapped. Coach Eak guides the boys and tells them to meditate to keep themselves calm. Eak lost his father a few years ago, and that memory weighs heavily on his mind at all times. But as the elder and the one in charge, he is the anchor for the boys, and he holds down the fort inside, hoping for help to come their way soon enough. For the rescue operation, Navy SEALS were brought in to help. But their expertise proves to be insufficient to navigate the tricky nature of the caves. This prompts Nangsarok to fly in expert divers from all over the world to assist the Thai government in its operation. They are able to make contact with the boys and supply them with food and water while letting them know of the situation in the outside world. The boys have been doing well with the help of Coach Eak, who has taught them to drink the water dripping from the stones, as it is filtered and can also fill their stomachs. They have been digging and meditating to keep themselves calm throughout. Contact with the outside world breathes a new lease of life into the group, and they are hopeful for their future.
Meanwhile, outside of the caves, people from all over the world have set up camps to contribute in any way they can. There are journalists, the Army, parents, engineers, and many more. One of them is Kelly Suwannarat, a hydraulic engineer, who lets the rescue team know that they have only four hours before the entire cave is flooded. This would cut off contact with the boys for a few months till the water recedes. Rations are sent to the boys to prepare for the worst-case scenario while the team looks for alternate solutions. Pim and Kelly find an aquifer in the mountains that is connected to the cave system. Basically, they can pump out the water in the caves through that, which would buy them some time to come up with a different plan. They convince the villagers to let them flood their fields so that the boys can be rescued. The next problem to solve is to make sure that the boys have enough oxygen. While installing the oxygen tanks, Officer Saman Gunan loses his life due to asphyxiation. Even Thai Navy SEAL Beirut Pakbara is injured. A year later, he would succumb to blood poisoning. The case wasn’t without its casualties. But it was a shining example of what can be achieved when humans put their collective conscience together for a purpose. Now that the immediate threat is under control, the next plan is to teach the boys to scuba dive and extract them from the caves. This is the only option left, and they decide to bring in Richard Harris, an Australian cave diver, and anesthetist, for the mission. With his help, they formulated a plan that would involve making use of positive pressure masks and bringing them all out. There is a question of medical ethics involved when it comes to sedating the boys and the risk to their safety due to it. As Nangsarok puts it, it is the choice between a slow death and a fast one.
‘Thai Cave Rescue’ Ending Explained: How Were The Boys And Their Coach Rescued?
Things are getting more serious as the meteorological department lets the officers on the ground know that a storm worse than the one that trapped the boys inside is waiting to happen. Should it hit, all the people inside would drown. The time for discussions is over and they must act now. But the problem is the scope of success is not 100%. However, it is a gamble between saving 100% of them or losing all of them. The operation begins, and the boys are bought out, one by one. After bringing out five boys, which takes a total of 12 hours, the operation is put off for the next day. There is some trouble finding a mask for Mark as he is the smallest boy, and that means his face is too small for them. The divers decide to fashion one of the masks into what he needs. As the rescue continues, Eak refuses to leave before all the boys are out, as he considers himself responsible for them all. But the boys tell him to go ahead and that they will be fine managing on their own. Mark is the last boy who needs to be brought out. His mask is still too small, but the extra space is stuffed with some foam to make it work. The operation is successful, and all the twelve boys and their coach are rescued from the caves 18 days after they were initially trapped there.
Something we came to know when researching the case was that a lot of the boys and Coach Eak himself, were considered to be stateless- as in, they were from tribes in an area that extends through Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China. We saw this addressed mainly through the coach and Mark. The statelessness meant that they were often deprived of basic amenities and rights and could possibly never leave Chiang Rai. But when their lives were in danger, the entire world came together to show them that their lives have value beyond what they ever thought was possible. Compassion and acceptance, probably the most cliched words we hear when talking about the human condition, are also the very emotions that run this world. After the rescue, all of them were granted Thai citizenship on 26th September.
The beauty of the rescue mission lies in how entire countries immersed themselves in ensuring the safety of the twelve boys. They were up against Mother Nature herself, but a combination of human intelligence, resilience, and an overwhelming desire to do the task at hand is what made the magic happen. Think about the poor farmers who allowed their livelihoods to get ruined when they gave permission for their fields to be flooded. Or the man who drove 8 hours from Phetchabun to deliver some pipes? Or even the many people who helped through social media. We once read somewhere that when looking for the “good” in the world, we should look at the individual qualities of people because the “bad” exists as a collective system instead of random acts of evil. The former part of that statement shines throughout the “Tham Luang Cave Rescue.” It was not just the tireless efforts of everyone involved but the goodness of many more that made it possible, and we will never forget that.
Final Thoughts: What Works For ‘Thai Cave Rescue’?
The incident that “Thai Cave Rescue” is based on was so well documented that we wondered what a series could add to that. Not to mention that a few series and movies have already been made based on that. One must also remember that some events were dramatized to add to the narrative. However, all our doubts were put to rest soon enough. The series delves into the details of the whole situation, and while it may look like emotion has taken a backseat, it masterfully runs the narrative with its subtlety. Be it Nangsarok’s steady hand that led the mission, the sportsmanship of the divers, or even the occasional skepticism of Richard Harris, it blended amazingly with the process of the rescue itself. The series moves fast, and the cast is fantastic. The friendship between Pim and Kelly was sweet to witness, and the quiet victory on Nangsarok’s face when the boys were rescued made us jump up and down in joy as well. Of all the pieces of content based on that event, this is undoubtedly superior and has made a permanent place in our hearts with its narrative. Nobody does it like East Asia, and we will forever be fans of them.
“Thai Cave Rescue” is a 2022 Drama Thriller series streaming on Netflix.