Money Heist (Season 5, Part 1)
The newest season maintains its fast pace, but continues other downward trends
Money Heist (2017-) has been one of the greatest success stories of any TV series. From being a little watched show in Spain’s Antena 3 channel, to being picked up by Netflix and breaking records as the most watched non-English content on the platform. As with any success, the perfect ending in season 2 was overwritten and three new seasons tacked on. The first part of season 5 has just arrived.
Money Heist: Season 5 Part 1 continues with our crew’s robbery of the National Bank of Spain in Madrid. As things were left on a cliffhanger at the end of last season, we have the Professor (Alvaro Monte) out of action while he meets his match with ruthless pregnant cop Alicia (Najwa Nimri), meanwhile the Colonel (Fernando Cayo) in charge of solving the robbery has decided to call elite military forces, making our crew inside start to panic. We also get flashbacks to Berlin (Pedro Alonso) as he tries to lure his son (Patrick Criado) into the thieving world, with a particular heist in Denmark.
As with all Money Heist seasons, the tension and cliffhangers are hard to ignore, and it is still truly admirable the fast pace that creator Alex Pina can maintain. Thus, it’s hard to not binge the meager five episodes that have been released. However, one can’t help but continue to feel the downward spiral that the show has undertaken since the end of season 2. Pina still struggles to create the witty perfection of the Professor’s plan in this new heist; instead, the situations start to border on ridiculous, all for the sake of appearing smart. Many characters are caught simply wandering or abandoned, with Pina unsure what to do with them; this clearly a symptom of a forced elongation of their stories that simply hadn’t come naturally to Pina’s creative mind (though a hefty check certainly tried to convince him otherwise). The likes of Arturo (Enrique Arce), Rio (Miguel Herran), and Monica (Esther Acebo) are given silly side plots that are more frustrating than fascinating progressions or challenges to their characters.
You begin to see a fracturing in the perfect construction that had characterized Money Heist’s narrative. The first two seasons were admirable in how they got directly to the point and would sometimes make leaps and resolutions that you would have expected other shows to drag out in order to fill their runtime. Part 1 of Season 5 seems to have finally given in to such temptations, filling us with flashbacks and backstories that viewers are simply uninterested in. While Berlin was an interesting character in the first two seasons, his past and backstory are completely incongruous with the main plot of this season. Much of the genius of the first two seasons of Money Heist was not knowing the past of your characters, and yet getting attached to them just the same due to the dialogue and performances. You sense that Pina is trying to pad the lengths of his episodes, much like how some of the latter Lost (2004-2010) episodes would use their flashback sequences in ridiculously pointless ways.
I’m also beginning to see a worrying trend in Netflix releases, of splitting their seasons into “parts.” It makes financial sense, to spread out your hits in order to maintain a low churn rate, but it brings forth the ridiculous pattern of YA movies that started with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011). In film this resulted in part 1’s that were interminable and led nowhere. Whilst this isn’t the case yet with the Netflix part 1’s, you do sense the additional useless content there, included to make an easy split. It’s a strategy that while maddening in terms of narrative presentation, is bound to become more common as it keeps subscribers paying.
In the end, season 5 part 1 of Money Heist maintains the easy hooks and tension that is bound to keep you intrigued throughout its runtime. However, you begin to see the same missteps of season 3 and 4, in its running out of creativity and ideas, and the resorting to silly side-quests in order to lengthen the show further. Just as with certain stories that continued for too long after a perfect ending (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), House of Cards (2013-2018)), in my mind’s eye our crew’s arc ended in season 2.