Heist movies have a bad reputation. They can be overly complex, repetitive in terms of plot and sometimes clichéd. In fact, they’re so derided that shows like Rick and Morty and Community have made whole episodes with the format as a punchline. The heist hasn’t fared much better on TV either – which is why it’s so refreshing when a series like Money Heist comes along.
La Casa De Papel (literally ‘The House of Paper’), as it’s known in its original and more catchy Spanish title, follows a gang of mysterious robbers who occupy and ‘steal’ buildings on the orders of their nameless boss, the Professor (Alvaro Morte). The target of this crew’s heists across the four series so far is the government. Clad in crimson overalls and wearing creepy masks made in the form of surrealist icon Salvador Dali’s face, the cast’s striking outfit has been copied by protestors in real-life political movements too.
Season 4 begins with “The Resistance” (as they call themselves) in greater peril than ever before. One of their own is presumed dead and the heist they began the series before has fallen by the wayside. Things are looking very bleak indeed – and the darker tone continues throughout the new episodes. Instead of the idealism of its previous instalments, we watch as the cast deal with psychological trauma, petty infighting and the mental cost of killing. One of the main gripes tellyheads have with the heist genre is that it’s all too perfect. Everything is too slick, too controlled and not much ever goes wrong. There’s no sense of jeopardy. At its best, Money Heist makes you believe its high stakes are for real, along with every bit of drama that comes with it.
In the original heist, Berlin (Pedro Alonso), whose central character pulled the series together with a mix of anti-hero charm and hints of pure sociopathy, was killed in a hail of bullets at the end of season two. Palermo (Rodrigo de la Serna) took his place in part three, but at points in season four he feels like a hollow imitation of his predecessor.
Of course, the fact the series is in Spanish means little bits of meaning are lost in translation for English-speaking viewers. But this show wouldn’t work without its continental framework. Take the government buildings they occupy – grand, stately relics of the Franco era. Ghostly reminders of the country’s fascist past provide the perfect backdrop for the anarchist grifters’ anti-government crusade.
If television programmes like Hustle and films like Oceans 11 through 13 were given socio-political narratives discussing the merits of individualism and wealth, you have to wonder if they’d have been so popular. But the themes of Money Heist are what keeps it fresh and relevant – and although this season sometimes feels flawed, and ennui is definitely setting in, none of those problems really matter.