It's not that I don't appreciate the Netflix series Money Heist (La Casa de Papel). It's more that I never thought it would have such international allure.
It was a bit surprising that a show with such a specific set of characters who are Spaniards to the core and such a distinct use of the language -- bordering on the poetic and hard to fully grasp even for native speakers sometimes -- has become an international success. It's Netflix's most watched non-English series. It's been praised by the likes of Stephen King and has won an International Emmy.
If you enjoyed seasons 1 and 2 and maybe even learned some Spanish in the process, this cynical Spaniard has good news for you: You'll enjoy part 3. A lot. (If your Spanish is decent, you can read the review in that language.)
After stealing around a billion euros from the Royal Mint in Madrid and managing to get away with it, the band of criminals is back together, with some new and welcome additions. Their own Río (Miguel Herrán) has been captured for reasons better not spoiled, and they really want him back. They have a new, bigger heist to pull off.
Yes, they still look fabulous. Even when they wear those red jumpers with Dalí masks. (I'll say from experience that those aren't necessarily flattering.) And yes, El Profesor (Álvaro Morte) still has the same nerdy-sexy vibe and seems capable of pretty much anything -- other than dancing. One scene set to Who Can It Be Now by Men at Work is as painful to watch as you'd expect when El Profesor is forced to show his lack of rhythm.
I enjoyed every minute of the three episodes from season 3 that Netflix made available for review. I'm counting the days until July 19, when all eight episodes will be available for streaming and I'll get to know what the hell happens in the end.
Some of the narrative mechanisms of season 3 ring a bell. Sometimes things look like they'll go terribly wrong, but in the end our criminals rise to the occasion and we realize they were following a meticulous plan even though we were led to believe otherwise.
Like in previous seasons, action within the episodes doesn't follow a chronological order. In this season, there are three moments in time or storylines that are mixed and interwoven. One takes place years ago, the other a few weeks ago and the last in the present. You'll get to understand a certain reaction or get to know a certain new character only when Álex Pina, the show's creator and co-writer, wants you to. It's a very effective way of telling a story, and Money Heist would be a much more conventional show, and a boring one, if things were explained in the order they happened.
Then there are the jokes, and that's where some characters shine more than others. Denver (Jaime Lorente) and Nairobi (Alba Flores) continue to be two of the most consistently funny criminals. Mainly because they tend to embellish their speeches with the most flourished words. They say things like "Cariñitos míos, en los próximos minutos os jugáis las pelotas," which very roughly translates to "My darlings, in the next few minutes you're betting your balls;" "Profesor, al solomillo" (Profesor, let's cut to the chase); or "Itaboy!" ("It's a boy" in Denver's very limited English).
Feminism continues to play a big role in the series. We're talking about a show that came up with the term "empieza el matriarcado" ("the matriarchy begins"). There's an argument the gang has at 3 a.m. in an Italian monastery during season 3 in which Nairobi tells Denver how old-fashioned he is ("Antiguo, que eres un antiguo"). Palermo (Rodrigo de la Serna), one of the new characters, vindicates the patriarchy in a way that's neither subtle nor politically correct. Yet it'll probably make you laugh. And the yelling only ends when El Profesor, in his blue-and-white striped Oxford pajamas, makes an appearance and asks everyone to please behave and go back to bed.
Besides de la Serna, Money Heist's new characters include singer and actress Najwa Nimri as Alicia Sierra. Her character is described as "la reina de las hijas de perra" ("the queen of sons of bitches") and proves to be a ruthless woman keen on catching our sympathetic criminals.
Aside from the new faces, one of the main differences between this season and the previous ones is that Madrid isn't the only main setting. The show feels more international with sequences shot in Florence, Panama City and the Guna Yala archipelago.
Please watch La Casa de Papel in its original version with subtitles. Only then will you learn to admire the beauty (and meaning) of a word like "jarana" or an expression like "eso es liarla pardísima."
Originally published July 14.