All highly addictive and adrenaline-fueled things must come to an end. Netflix’s international hit Money Heist (La casa de papel) does as well.
Worry not. For maximum spectacle, Money Heist’s season five — Part 5 in Netflix’s terminology — has been divided into two volumes. The five episodes in Vol. 1 debut this Friday, September 3, but the final five episodes in Vol. 2 will drop on Netflix on December 3, 2021. So it’s going to be a long goodbye for the sexy band of misfit thieves — a Spanish-style goodbye.
As a Spaniard who’s been calling the U.S. home for 15 years, the whole La casa de papel phenomenon took me completely by surprise. How could something as specifically Spanish as the humor and the characters portrayed in this show have such international appeal? A record 65 million households watched Money Heist’s Part 4 over its first four weeks of release last year. And the show placed second among Netflix’s Top 5 most-watched series in a ranking revealed by the streamer at the beginning of 2021.
I’ve come to assume that its idiosyncrasy must be precisely what makes the show click for audiences all around the world. Also, who can resist the idea of a heist that’s not only impossible to pull off but peppered with some melodrama, lots of possible romantic interests, sharp humor and a few relentless antagonists as well?
In Part 5, Money Heist creator Álex Pina and his team repeat part of the formula that’s yielded so many hooked viewers since the show’s debut on Netflix in 2017. The season kicks off right where things ended in Part 4: Sierra (Najwa Nimri) has found theft mastermind El Profesor (Álvaro Morte) and could thwart his plan of stealing the gold from inside the Bank of Spain. Lisboa (Itziar Ituño) has been successfully freed from police custody and has made it inside the bank, while the rest of the red-coverall-wearing robbers have been inside for 100 hours. Things are getting tenser by the moment. And sadly, Nairobi (Alba Flores) is still very much dead.
From Heist Melodrama to War Show
The first two episodes of Vol.1 were the only ones available for review and offered a stark contrast of structures. The first one is a constant back-and-forth between the present told from different perspectives: inside El Profesor’s hideout, inside the bank, inside the police’s temporary tent right outside of the Bank of Spain, and around a ’90s red Volvo bandwagon that’s making Marsella’s (Luka Peros) escape possible.
Then there are flashbacks to the planning of the heist, with lines of dialogue that inform the twists and turns taking place in real-time. And some more flashbacks from four years before that, where we see Berlín (Pedro Alonso) trying to recruit his son Rafael (Patrick Criado), who happens to be an electronic engineer with a post degree in cybersecurity from MIT. We even learn about Tokio’s (Úrsula Corberó) past and see her at the beginning of her robbing days.
Nonlinear narration has been a Money Heist staple from its pilot and key to the show’s enthralling nature. Yet episode 2 of Part 5 turns toward chronological narration, and, for some bizarre reason, we’re stuck in the present for the whole 52 minutes. It’s not the only hard turn the series takes.
“The war reaches its most extreme and savage levels, but it is also the most epic and exciting season,” creator Pina has said about Part 5. And I have a problem with one word in particular: war. The levels of fighting so far are indeed warlike. For years I’ve been actively avoiding images from films or TV shows that depict guns when selecting photos for my articles, yet I was unable to find any available stills without firearms from Part 5 of Money Heist.
The thing is, I dig smart heist stories. But I don’t care much for ones about fictional wars and I’m worried about what Money Heist might become in future episodes. In a way, it looks like the show might have changed genres in its final season and become all brawn and not that much brain.
Was Money Heist Part 5 Necessary?
Part 2 of Money Heist ended very satisfyingly with the band accomplishing their first heist. I was happy to see them gather again for an impossible and over-the-top new mission though. But the new heist is being narrated over the span of three whole seasons and I see symptoms of a stretched-out storyline emerging, especially for a vertiginous show where — for most of the time — the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Some of the things that take place in episodes 1 and 2 of Part 5 are season finale material. Yet there are eight more episodes to go before the show ends. One of the methods Money Heist’s team has found to keep upping the ante is the introduction of new villains. And this season the main antagonist comes in the shape of Army Commander Sagasta (José Manuel Seda). You’ll meet him for the first time when he’s pooping — there’s a thing with Spaniards and scatological humor — but he’s bad news for the gang.
The only reason why I’m not giving this season a lower rating is that I don’t think I’ve seen enough of it and I trust that some of the seeds that have been planted in seasons three and four will finally yield fruits. Characters like Tatiana (Diana Gómez), and even new characters like Rafael or Tokio’s former lover René (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), could play a pivotal role somehow. The ensemble is so big that I hope the show takes a pause and focuses on the melodramatic aspects of these people’s lives more this season. No one is completely dead in La casa de papel, so I’m also curious to see what deceased characters might pop up in flashbacks.
Plus, the show is still lots of fun to watch. My two favorite people this season are Sierra and Tamayo (Fernando Cayo); they have some of the best and most politically incorrect lines and they deliver them with gusto. So you won’t be disappointed if you want to tune in to La casa de papel just to witness Tamayo’s very HR-problematic tirades in front of his team.
As in the case of Lupin, I recommend you watch La casa de papel in its original version and with subtitles. Only that way will you be able to really savor the show fully and appreciate the almost ASMR-like quality of some of the actors’ voices.