“Money Heist” is a Spanish TV series created by Álex Pina with the original title “La Casa de Papel” (“The Paper House” in Spanish). The crime drama series was aired on the Spanish network Antenna 3 then was worldwide released by Netflix a few months later. At first, “Money Heist” was planned to be a limited series which is only about the robbery of the Royal Mint of Spain but Netflix convinced Álex Pina to produce more new sequels due to its international success on the streaming platforms. In 2018, “Money Heist” won 46th International Emmy Awards for the Best Drama Series.
In this review, I only discuss the first season which is divided into two parts of 25 episodes (13+9) since the second season has not finished yet. The review contains spoilers so think twice before reading. In season 1 (part 1 & 2), the series introduces a group of robbers who have different personal circumstances that desire a lot of money. The gang is recruited by a man called “Professor” who has been planning for a presumably impossible heist of the Royal Mint of Spain for many years. They have to occupy the Royal Mint with hostages and try to buy time from the police in order to print new money for themselves. In doing so, they steal no money from anyone and still become rich. Each member has to choose a city name as his/her codename (Tokyo, Rio, Denver, Moscow, Berlin, Helsinki, Oslo, and Nairobi) and they are taught and trained by Professor many months before the event. [Spoiler]After a few days inside the Mint and receiving external direction from Professor, the gang successfully escape with 2.4 billion euros along with the casualty of two dead members.
The "perfect" Plan
Unlike many films that have a “heist” theme, “Money Heist” doesn’t solve a nearly impossible puzzle with a perfect plan and experts of robbery. Professor delivers a heist which reveals many fatal errors along its way and proceeded by a group of problematic people. However, it is the risky plan of Professor that wins the audience’s excitement due to its realism which is unlike other plans in “Ocean’s Eleven” or “Mission Impossible”.
Although many mistakes are made throughout the heist by each member, the gang manages to overcome thanks to the backup plans and flexibility in finding solutions. Consequently, the audience might feel the plan is perfect overall. However, what makes it sound perfect is the realistic vision of Professor who believes this is an imperfect plan executed by imperfect humans. The vision causes him to obsess with the details and takes him many years to research every aspect of the heist from the police’s procedure in negotiating criminals and rescuing hostages to hostage’s psychology and behaviors in perilous situations. Each risk detected in the plan receives another plan to cover.
The Common goal means everyone's goal
The audience is shown each member’s past life and how they end up in this crazy operation. Clearly, each of them is at the dead-end of their lives, no turning back, in huge debt and having a serious disease, they share a common goal which is “money”. The motivation is driven by two reasons: they have nothing to lose and the success of the heist would bring them a new life. However, each robber sees it as his/her personal goal and some claim to kill anyone who attempts to ruin the plan. As a result, the gang has many serious internal problems that almost bring the heist down and the Royal Mint nearly got infiltrated by the police. Being locked up inside the Mint in a long time, along with the casualties caused by the resisting hostages and police, the gang learns that they have to work together in order to escape the Mint alive.
On the police side, colonel Prieto and inspector Raquel reveal their conflict on prioritizing in saving hostages. Prieto serves in the Spanish Intelligence and follows all the government’s political directions in order to preserve the national classified information and diplomacy since the British ambassador’s daughter — Alison Parker is one of the hostages. Apparently, he prioritizes Alison over other hostages and demands Raquel do the same. On the other hand, Raquel is a victim of corruptive legislation and domestic violence who has less trust in the system and focuses on the most humane and fairest solutions even when they don’t align with the authority. The contrast negatively affects the police’s attempts in being smart over the robbers in order to find a way to infiltrate. When they realize the cleverness of Professor cannot be underestimated and they cannot against him alone, Prieto decides to listen to Raquel and they share one goal is to rescue the hostages as soon as possible.
The transformation of purposes of both the robbers and the police particularly happens when each side recognizes the true strength of one another and reveals that they cannot win this fight alone.
Confusion in the ethical aspect
Before the assault, Professor introduces few ground rules that are forbidden to violate during the heist such as no romantic relationship or no killing innocent. Those rules don’t just keep everything professional, they also distinguish them to other criminals, they might violate the law but not the human principles. It is clearer in the way each member of the gang treats the hostages, they pretend to be a tyrant to make the hostages obey but still share empathy with them. Moscow has a heart attack after hearing his son — Denver just killed a hostage (which turns out he didn’t). He tells Denver that they are thieves, not murderers. Humanism is revealed more significantly when other members disagree the way Tokyo using Russian roulette to interrogate Berlin even though they show strong fear of him as a threat of the gang.
Unlike the robbers, the police serve the law and the government’s rules. They follow simply because it is the law and they believe solidly it represents the truth. However, relying heavily on the authority causes their conscience weaker, especially when the law no longer aligns with the human principles. Prieto prioritizes rescuing Alison Parker and this might affect other’s safety. He ignores the fact that everyone should be treated the same despite their backgrounds or titles. Raquel’s ex-husband — Alberto Vicuna charges Professor (he uses a fake name as “Salva Martin”) with police harassment even though Alberto is the one who starts the fight. The situation signifies the power of the police serving the wrong purpose. In the end, the failure of the police in solving this heist is greatly contributed by the authority since their acts are to cover their flaws and reserve their reputation rather than rescuing hostages.
[Spoiler] The most iconic image of the first season is when inspector Raquel decides to switch sides. Raquel is originally the one who serves the law as she believes it delivers justice. However, the law doesn’t bring justice to Raquel since her ex-husband keeps interrupting her life and threatening to take away her daughter despite the sentence from the court. After learning the corruption of the government in the financial aspect from Professor, the system of right or wrong that she used to follow its collapse. Her decision on the switching sides profoundly represents the switching of her life principles.
In conclusion, the series uses “heist” as a theme to deliver deeper messages of human nature. The excellence of “Money Heist” is portraying two sides whose clothes represent their jobs (black suit on the police side and red jumpsuit with a mask on the robber side) but their actions show an opposite view. The audience has a chance to reflect on their own system of beliefs and their point of view on every life aspect, what is right, what is wrong. Moreover, the series provides touching moments of friendship and emotions which can appear any time in the connection between humans regardless of the professions we are into.