To Binge or Not to Binge Episode 79: ‘Money Heist’

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Hannah Allred

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kate Button, Arts Writer, Copy Editor

 

“Money Heist,” or as the series is originally called in Spanish, “La Casa de Papel,” follows eight career criminals as they infiltrate and raid the Royal Mint of Spain. The series is filled with iconic images including Salvador Dali masks, red jumpsuits and continual repetition of “Bella Ciao” — an Italian protest anthem. The heist and hostage crisis grabs your attention, but it’s the characters and carefully structured plans that make the series so addictive. While the thieves all don the names of cities to maintain anonymity, the elusive Professor (Álvaro Morte) remains the puppet master in control of the plot — even as things seem to go completely awry. 

To Binge or Not to Binge?

Set in Madrid, the first two seasons of “Money Heist” focus on invading the Royal Mint, but the group’s larger plan is to print their own money  — 2.4 billion euros to be exact. The series progresses chronologically through the heist, but through the use of flashbacks, we are able to see the intense plans and contingencies that the Professor has developed.

Rather than a stereotypical “perfect heist” plan, the Professor creates an intricate plan, but he simultaneously must improvise to accommodate new problems that arise with the hostages, the police and the tensions within the group of criminals themselves. 

The ensemble of Tokyo (Úrsula Corberó), Rio (Pedro Alonso), Denver (Jaime Lorente), Moscow (Paco Tous), Berlin (Itziar Ituño), Nairobi (Alba Flores), Helsinki (Darko Peric) and Oslo (Roberto Garcia) are each chosen for their specific skills in regards to various elements of the plans for the heist — including hacking security systems, preparing explosive materials and printing counterfeit bills. 

In the first few episodes, as the Professor teaches his selected group of criminals the plans for the heist, he clarifies that they aren’t stealing from the Royal Mint to rob the government, but rather to overtake the system of printing money — in order to protest the fact that money is only being printed straight from the presses into the banks and the hands of the very rich. 

The series is full of political commentary, emotional conflicts, violent action and forbidden love affairs. At times, the series reads like a soap opera, but with flawed and truly complex human characters, “Money Heist” avoids falling into predictable plot lines. Each twist and turn in the series is shocking and exciting. 

Global Impact

In addition to the grand heist planned within the series, “Money Heist” has also inspired real-life robberies and protests. In Lebanon, protestors donned the famed Dali masks and red jumpsuits as a statement of rebellion and resistance to the government. In Turkey, five thieves utilized the same costume to steal approximately $132,000 worth of electronics — and two similar robberies have occurred in France. At a soccer game in Greece, fans and players utilized the series’ iconography to reiterate the message that the team “stole” the victory.

Clearly, the series has had a worldwide impact. “Money Heist” is the most-watched series on Netflix in several countries — including France, Italy, Argentina, Brazil and more. “Money Heist” was originally recorded in Spanish, but there are now options to watch the show in English, French, Italian and German, and there are options for subtitles in English, Spanish, French or Chinese. As a student studying Spanish, I chose to watch the series in Spanish with Spanish subtitles to help immerse myself in the language and understand various accents. I tried rewatching a few episodes in English, but the overdubbing and the different voices didn’t seem to be as engaging or nuanced. 

 The fifth and final season of “Money Heist” was recently announced, but no release date has been set. The series was initially supposed to end at two seasons, but with the worldwide infatuation with the show, Netflix decided to extend the series. While at times the plotlines seem a little ridiculous, after becoming invested in the characters and their lives, it’s hard to turn away from the series. 

As a global phenomenon, “Money Heist” is undeniably binge-able and packed full of addictive adrenaline rushes, both criminals and hostages that are easy to identify with and fascinating complications in the Professor’s tight-knit plan.

Best Episode

The first episode in “Money Heist” is notable for its “en media res” — or starting in the middle — introduction. We meet the band of thieves as they enter the Royal Mint, a beginning that is rare for heist narratives. My favorite episode, however, is the fourth episode in the first season. In this episode, some of the Professor’s plans start to unravel and improvisations must be made. This episode also offers some of the first real elements of the characters’ backstories, including how they came to be recruited into the Professor’s plans. 

Similar Shows

Some shows that have been recommended to those who like “Money Heist” include “Breaking Bad,” “Elite,” “Narcos,” “Bodyguard” and “Ozark.”

Trigger Warnings

Throughout “Money Heist,” there is a significant amount of potentially triggering content including violence and gunshots, domestic violence and scenes of sexual assault and rape. The show is rated MA for nudity, language and smoking. 

 

“Money Heist”

5/5 stars

Available to stream on Netflix

4 seasons, 38 episodes, approximately 29 hours — with a fifth season to be added

 

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@kateannebutton