This piece does not intend to give away any spoilers — at least not in the literal, or traditional, sense — of the first half of La Casa De Papel (Money Heist) Season 5. In fact, discussing the first half of what has officially been announced as the final season of Netflix’s blockbuster series, would be akin to giving a verdict on a movie up until the interval point, or a football match at half-time. Not to mention the proliferation of loose, often completely disconnected, ends in Volume 1, with the finale slated to be released on December 3.
What can, however, be said about Money Heist season 5, without narrating specific plots, is that many would’ve seen it coming — not a phrase that one would’ve used to describe the Spanish thriller in the first two seasons. This is especially true for those familiar with the works and penchants of Álex Pina, who made sure to prolong his previous two successful TV shows that bordered around the thriller genre — Vis a Vis (Locked Up) and El Barco — till both metamorphosed into pale imitations of their own initial halcyon seasons.
Of course, Money Heist has garnered multiple times more popularity than all of Pina’s works put together, and indeed is among Netflix’s bestsellers and one of the most watched shows of all time. Hence, following the same old pattern would be that much more lucrative. As a result, the storyline’s progression per minute rate, or the pace of the show, has emphatically dropped — another thing you wouldn’t have said a couple of seasons ago.
Not everything has slid downwards, however, and even the slow tempo overlaps with a completely new feel of the show. For, La Casa De Papel is no longer the heist thriller it started off as, and has evolved into a war epic. If there were any doubt, the characters repeatedly remind the viewers, literally, that there indeed is a war going on, in case someone doesn’t take the hint when the Spanish army is called in. But, yes, the action sequences are enthralling, and the cinematography is breathtaking, for which Migue Amoedo deserves plaudits.
As far as the storyline goes, suffice it to say it moves backwards multiple times more than it goes forwards. After Professor and Berlin’s origins, the past lives of many other characters are unveiled, with regular narrations of events after the formulation of the gang that hadn’t been unveiled in the past. It is evident that Berlin isn’t the only dead character the Money Heist makers want to keep alive.
What is also evident is that somewhere during the filming of seasons 3 and 4, the producers realised that the heist in Money Heist was no longer its foremost selling point. It’s the characters that have become household names, and season 5 is dedicated towards building them and their relationships between one another. That has culminated in the producers steepening the character arc, in many cases to beyond rupture point. That results in sloppy, even cumbersome, writing, as exemplified by Tokyo telling the viewers the fact that one lives multiple lives, multiple times, within a span of a few minutes of the same episode.
It is now almost a norm for even the most celebrated TV shows to overstay their welcome — at least for neutral viewers, if not the increasingly tribal fan bases — in the quest to cash in on the popularity, through merchandising and other means of profiteering. And that’s the only heist that’s taking place in La Casa De Papel right now.
The makers also are fully cognisant of the wokeist narratives, and how profitable their commodification is today. Therefore what started off as a quixotic anti-hero tale of Goglor Salvador mask wearing pulling off outrageous heists pumping adrenaline into the post 2007-08 global financial crisis generation, is now aspiring to become the voice of everyone that qualifies as marginalised.
Again, Palermo literally says so, and narrates every single identity, in case the wokeness of the show isn’t obvious enough.
Of course, the producers wouldn’t get too many reminders of how orchestrating heists and violence isn’t exactly the best way to uplift the sidelined, whose plight is merely being merchandised. The completely unrealistic — even by the show’s standards — fixation of the Professor and his gang with ‘not killing anyone’ is similarly designed to maintain the wokeist sellability of our anti-heroes. And yet, there’s a reason why Berlin remains the most popular character three seasons after he died: the character often throws inconvenient, politically incorrect, truth bombs that cannot be said today without inviting digital lynch mobs, but remain in the subconscious of the hordes cheering on the robbers in front of their screens.
The completely unrealistic — even by the show’s standards — fixation of the Professor and his gang with ‘not killing anyone’ is similarly designed to maintain the wokeist sellability of our anti-heroes.
A detailed dissection of the plot would only be possible after the second half. But regardless of where one stands on the narrative of the show, the screenwriting lags, even if it is slightly made up by remarkable visual prowess.
Acting performances, a consistent strength of Money Heist, remain top-drawer with Pedro Alonso shining once again, in another Berlin flashback linked to the present, and Najwa Nimri masterful again as Alicia Sierra, building on her stellar showing in Vis a Vis. The core cast delivers a strong showing as expected.
It is all to play for in the second half, and that’s how the final season has been constructed. There is a lot of construction work in the build-up, and hence Money Heist would need a strong finish. If that is what we witness in December, it would be easier to ignore the fact that the show is the latest to mint money by targeting the escalating number of franchise-frequenting, and merchandise-hoarding, anti-capitalist revolutionaries.