‘The Believers’ Review: Is Netflix’s Thai Series Worth Your Time?


In Thailand, a group of three highly ambitious friends set up an NFT business together. To make it big, they resort to loan sharks to make their way up. At first, it seems like everything is golden, until one day, the price drops and they’re suddenly in debt. This is when they decide to “run a temple” to repay the debt and get rich. The Believers is mostly a drama, posing as a religious thriller. It’s a fantastic idea; however, I, for one, thought the execution was lacking. My biggest issue with this show is how it’s paced. The show begins in a very rushed manner, and for some reason, I wasn’t quite clear on what was happening; maybe that’s my lack of interest in or knowledge of the crypto world, but soon enough, the show switches lanes, and you get sucked into this occult world of superstitions and religious belief. 

In terms of the good, the show does a brilliant job of cooking up ideas for these three friends. They go from an online game to running a temple to selling religious paraphernalia in months. A lesson in marketing, at the very least. Obviously, in the big picture, this show is basically a social commentary on how religion preys on the lives of the innocent. I suppose it’s especially fascinating because we’ve never seen such a concept in Buddhism. Faith is an interesting thing. It’s meant to bring comfort and hope, especially in times of discomfort. This show proves how easy it is to mooch off of this belief system in a thrilling sequence of events. I don’t think the main characters, Win, Dear, and Game (love Thai names), are evil; they’re not even bad people; they’re just desperate and opportunistic. It’s quite admirable, actually, and as the show progresses, you start to root for these kids, almost like getting sucked into their web of lies yourself. 

I have barely seen anything Thai, so I haven’t seen any of these actors before. James Teeradon Supapunpinyo (Win) and Peach Pachara Chirathivat (Game) do a fantastic job of playing frustrated young men in a confusing capitalist world that doesn’t value anything but money. This hunger for money is clearly visible in their performances. Patchai Pakdesusuk is great as Monk Dol and was definitely a memorable character. However, one of my big qualms about the show is how Dear is shown at the beginning of the show. My first thought regarding her character was that she was only here to make phone calls. Ally Achiraya Nitibhon does what she can with the character, and she grows on you slowly as the show progresses. She’s a feeble and sensible character between the two aggressive guys, and so she kind of balances them out. I don’t quite understand the cultural significance of them calling her “white girl.” I suppose it’s because she starts the show with pink hair, but the joke doesn’t quite land on a non-native speaker. 

Before I get into the bad of the show itself, I must bring this up. Despite the major message being translated with ease because the show is just well made, there are some serious issues with the dubbing and subbing of the show. I’m not sure why Netflix had the English dub be completely different from the subtitles, telling two completely different stories. So, though we’re able to clearly see that religion is simply a product with a value, there are some small takes that are completely missed in translation. I think for a platform like Netflix, it’s quite a shame that they’re confused. 

When it comes to the negatives, I didn’t quite appreciate the idea of adding an extra subject—drugs—in the middle of the show. There’s already a lot going on, and personally, just the religious economy was enough to keep me hooked on the show. In fact, I found myself losing interest in the show after that subplot was added, though it does have massive significance at the end, so I’m not sure how that could’ve been changed. On the other hand, there’s also a strange sort of love triangle plot that wasn’t necessary either because The Believers has a lot going on that is quite interesting, even if it is massively serious. It’s not focused on the business terms or strategies as such; it simply puts ideas out there and somehow hopes we believe that they’ve worked. I’ve recently been watching the Korean drama “The Impossible Heir,” and this is something they should learn because you don’t have to be so focused on unnecessary details just to push a show forward. 

Though the series has dark undertones right from the start, it gets quite somber by the end. Visually, the show isn’t perfect, but the temples are shot quite nicely, and though there isn’t anything special, it’s doing what it’s meant to. I suppose the show is a tremendously controversial take as a whole. There’s so much that will shock you, or at the very least come as a surprise, because it involves abbots and monks doing unbelievable things. The show also portrays the Thai police as dirty, but I suppose nobody is really clean, so we can pretend it’s some sort of dystopian world (I did say pretend). There’s a lot about Thai culture we get to learn from The Believers, not just the regular stuff like food and clothing. Since the show explores religion, it showcases Thailand in a new light like never before. Or at least I’ve never seen it like this before. 

Though I say it becomes confusing after a certain point, it also has the element of predictability. I don’t think this is completely a bad thing, considering this show is a crime-thriller-religious-drama, so knowing something ahead of time is just fine. Though I suppose if it is the main big event, some people may be left disappointed. I feel like The Believers would’ve benefited as a limited series because it would mean one clean and streamlined plot. Here, because so much gets tacked on slowly, it becomes convoluted and a little excessive. I also thought the show could’ve been finished off in 8 episodes, but we get 9 and then wait for a second season. I’m not sure the payoff is worth it. So, though there’s a lot of good in The Believers, I’d say step into this world with caution if you’re one who doesn’t like too many complicated ideas jumbling and forming one big puzzle or you’re not willing to wait for another season. I think The Believers is an average show that gets bogged down by its own weight. I’d give The Believers 2.5 stars out of 5 because, though it started off well, it dwindled by the end, leaving me dissatisfied. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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