Four years of ploys, schemes, bullets, explosions, anti-capitalist allegory, remarkable contingency planning and extremely misguided work romances will come to an end on Friday with the release of the final five episodes of the hit Spanish series Netflix La Casa de Papel.
The drama, known to English-speaking viewers more prosaically as Money Heist, follows the adventures of an inevitably motley team of thieves who dress in red overalls and Salvador Dalí masks to loot the Royal Mint and then the Bank of ‘Spain.
Armed with guts, grievances, labyrinthine plans and strange heavy machine guns, thieves steal, fall in love, bicker, play cat and mouse with the police and endear themselves to a public sick of austerity, corruption and Spain. political elites.
The first series, which aired on Spanish TV channel Antena 3 in 2017, was picked up by Netflix the same year and quickly became a global phenomenon and the most watched non-English language series on the platform.
In addition to winning an International Emmy Award for Best Drama in 2018, La Casa de Papel (literal translation “La Maison du papier”) has been presented as a socio-economic fable of our time and has even served as inspiration for Halloween costumes to the many Spanish children. who went door-to-door in red overalls, asking for candy at the end of a plastic assault rifle.
Despite its success, however, even its creator finds its appeal difficult to pin down.
“It’s really complicated, because you never really know what’s going to happen – you just have to watch Squid Game,” explains Álex Pina. “But I think there are a few things that explain it: You have very pure entertainment combined with characters whose personal and emotional connections are almost as important as the Heist itself.
“And the flight works like a football game because two teams are playing and one has to win and the other has to lose. You really want to know how it’s going to end: will they take the gold out of the Bank of Spain or not?
Pina, whose other hits include Sky Rojo and White Lines, also suspects that the show’s neglected protagonists struck a chord with Spanish viewers after the suffering, anger and austerity that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
But he points out that in recent years there has been “real skepticism towards all institutions, central banks and governments” around the world.
Natalia Marcos, who writes on television for the Spanish newspaper El País, agrees that the social and political context of the show may have appealed to audiences who are going through difficult times in Spain, Latin America and the Arab world. But she attributes much of her success to “a narrative rhythm that lends itself well to binge-watching”, word of mouth, and her design.
“It’s a very visual spectacle with its own iconography,” she says. “It shows up in the Netflix menu and you immediately see the Dalí masks and the red suits and you put on.”
According to Pina, La Casa de Papel also came at a time when viewers were starting to let go of American and European fantasy shows and the woolly gloom of black Nordic.
“It has been great for Spain – we are seeing a tripling of what was done before and we are getting closer to the UK in terms of production levels,” he says. “It was unthinkable before, as was the idea of Netflix bringing a production center to Spain. “
Diego Ávalos, Netflix’s vice president of content for Spain and Portugal, describes La Casa as “one of the first shows that truly opened up and leveled fiction from a global perspective.” Not only has the series “consolidated Spain’s position as a true leader in the audiovisual space – especially in fiction”, but it has also helped pave the way for artists like Lupine and Squid Game.
All three shows, suggests valos, demonstrate that there is “an appetite for content regardless of language and country of origin that can be enjoyed and consumed anywhere in the world.”
And all three look at privilege and power in their own way. “Lupine couldn’t be more French, Squid Game couldn’t be more Korean, and La Casa de Papel couldn’t be more Spanish,” he says. “But all three are intended for the general public, and all three are intended to be enjoyed by the greatest number of people in these countries.”
Or, as Pina says, people will always be hungry for something a little new and idiosyncratic.
“The world of fiction is a bit of a bubble, but there was a feeling last year or the year before that everything was a bit similar,” he says. “If you can manage to do something different, people will thank you for it. “