La casa de papel

2 out of 5

Created by: Álex Pina

covers Netflix’s version of season 1

So back in the wild frontier days when we used to watch TV on TV and have Summer reruns, seasons were 20+ episodes long, and if it was the type of show with ongoing plot threads, you got used to flip-flopping between standalone eps and those that deal with them threads.

Time has advanced and we now have a lot more shows running 10-13 episode seasons, and still the same concept persists: sometimes the story moves forward, sometimes you focus on other stuff.  And while occasionally you get a show that knows how to deliver both types of eps, rather often, something else occurs that one might call “filler.”  Filler content gets even worse when your main plot has some kind of time constraint, like, say, a bank heist.  Filler then becomes stalling, and that double whammy of void-like TV makes for, generally, dunderheaded writing during which the world flips upside down and people make contrary decisions just to give us a roadblock to surmount for that week.

La casa del papel – yup, you caught my prior jab, it’s about a heist – is fifteen episodes.  Fifteen hour-ish episodes.  Even if we allow for the buffer that Netflix who-the-hell-made-this-decision-and-why built in, in which 70+ minute episodes were edited down to traditional length and spread to even more episodes… and then split into two seasons… that is a lot of time to fill concerning a single act.  I don’t care that it’s an ensemble cast; I don’t care that stalling is part of the thieves intended tactic – I went into this skeptical that the show could maintain its premise for that long.

And fer fucks sake, was I ever proven right.

Okay, okay, you can say my bias hindered my enjoyment, but I’m not new to the TV game; I’m always open to having my opinion changed.  And for a while, the show didn’t exactly disprove my suspicions, but it set itself up well enough that the potential for carry through was there.  Hackneyed stuff hovered o’er all, of course, with a portent-spouting narrator scripted to say “meaningful” things that you want to slap people for saying in the real world, and constant ooh-you-thought-we-didn’t-plan-for-this-but-we-did flashback cuts, but the series is meant to be sort of popcorny in that regard – i.e. How Will They Get Out Of This One – so I was sort of okay with that.  It’s when we started to get into the filler streeeeetch of fairly pointless backmatter, and relationship nonsense, that I started to lose faith, and then the icing on the cake is past the halfway mark when all that perfect planning apparently didn’t account for some dunderheaded stuff.  And this isn’t played up in a clever way: the show thinks it’s clever with these rug pulls, but it’s not convincing, and the bombs it starts dropping toward season’s end are sinfully dumb.

Throughout all of this, none of the characters become all that interesting, which doesn’t help.

Did I finish the show?  Yes.  For better or worse, it triggers addiction syndromes of different formats: I can easily see how this appeals to cliffhanger junkies, and then it starts to fireball so drastically that it becomes an easy hate binge for people like me.  And then there’s the Ocean’s 11 element to it, that we are sort of interested in the details of the heist.

So when season 2 drops – which, because of this stupid fake split Netflix inputted was really clearly not meant to be a second season – I’ll, uh, probably be there.  Grumbling, shaking my head, but watching.