Money Heist season four spoilers follow.
Throughout Netflix’s Money Heist (La Casa de Papel), Sergio’s personal philosophy has always been one of pacifism. For most of the first three seasons, he forbade murder and any kind of cruelty against anyone his team came into contact with.
But in the season three finale, that rule goes up in flames: Lisbon is (as far as Sergio knows) executed, Alicia orders Nairobi’s assassination and Sergio declares open war. Rio and Tokyo carry out his orders, launching explosives at the oncoming army tanks.
This outpouring of violence sets the tone for Money Heist season four, and this is primarily what sets this new heist apart from the one at the National Mint. Unfortunately, this development undermines exactly what made Money Heist so interesting in the first place.
By creating such blood-thirsty villains as Alicia and Ganía, season four has lost much of the complexity that characterised seasons one and two.
In the National Mint, we felt sympathy for both sides of the schism: Sergio leading one faction and Raquel leading the other. Now that the pair is officially coupled up and on the same side, it’s a simple good guys (Sergio, Raquel, and the gang) versus bad guys (Alicia, Ganía, and the police) debacle.
What used to be a battle of wits and skill is now just a battle of brutality — and you don’t have to be a genius like Sergio to see that the most brutal side is the one most likely to win.
Just like the robbery at the Mint, season four’s heist is a homage to one of Sergio’s deceased family members, and not actually his original idea. However, this plan comes from his sociopathic brother, and thus has more risk built in. And when it comes to high stakes armed robbery, miscalculated risks tend to lead to gunfire – or worse.
Adding in more danger is a surefire way to heighten the tension in a familiar storyline. But, at times, it feels like the Money Heist writers have decided to shoehorn in bloodshed where it doesn’t necessarily fit.
Take, for instance, Berlin’s flashback at the bar. He goads a random man to insult him then assaults him in the bathroom and gruesomely castrates him with a fork. The man he attacks is a stranger, serving no purpose to the plot other than to be a canvas on to which Berlin can unfurl his sick, personal brand of justice.
The problem is that this development doesn’t provide viewers with any new information. In previous seasons, Berlin had already raped Ariadna, had Rio beaten and was more than willing to execute multiple others.
Before season four, Berlin’s cold voice and demeanour were enough to create suspense all on their own. Actual violent outbursts — both from Berlin and others — were spread more evenly throughout the story to punctuate that anxiety. Now it feels as though the writers are adding them in more frequently to distract viewers from the fact that we’ve seen this all before.
The fork-castration happens just moments before Ganía dislocates his own thumbs to escape in episode three. Moments later, in the beginning of episode four, Ganía tries to smother the post-surgery Nairobi, only to find himself being repeatedly stabbed in the neck with a syringe. In the next breath, Helsinki finds himself hanging from the library balcony.
Chaos repeats itself again and again as a theme this season, but chaos feels like a counter-productive choice for a show that’s main strength was complex and sympathetic planning.
While it’s natural for a show to evolve and develop new themes, it feels like Money Heist might be at risk of pulling a Breaking Bad-style devolution. If future episodes continue in this vein, then the formerly honorable anti-heroes might not be any better than their enemies, after all.
Money Heist seasons 1-4 are now available to watch on Netflix.