Yesterday, I finished watching Money Heist (La Casa de Papel). I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it to be honest and before I explain why I would like to warn you that there are major spoilers ahead. I found the series to be too unrealistic at some points and thought that several scenes were ultimately pointless and only intended to keep the pace going without really adding anything. At first sight, it looks like a proper thriller, but the truth is that it’s more of an action soap opera.
However, I finally understood what Money Heist is all about when I heard the story behind the creation of the series. Now, everything makes sense. The conversation you’re going to read was made during the first crew meeting back in December 2016. Because of sensitivity of personal data, I was not allowed to reveal any names so in my transcription I used aliases. I refer to the creator of the series as ‘Professor’ and use names of cities for the rest of the crew.
Professor: Now that we’re all gathered I’ll tell you my plan. We’re going to assault television and carry out the perfect robbery. If the plan succeeds, we’re gonna be rich and famous. The whole world will talk about us. I have come up with a great story for a limited series. The keyword of the operation is ‘Buy Time’. Buy as much time and fill the series with as much action and fake twists as you can. This way we can have more episodes. The more episodes we have, the more time we buy and the more money we make. The premiere will be on May 2, 2017, about five months from now. There’s lots to be done until then. We’ll be staying here and meet daily so that we are absolutely ready. Each one of you will have a role to play. Berlin will be the director. Tokyo, you will be the screenwriter.
Professor: Be careful though. You need to stick to my story. No deviations from the plan, is that understood?
Tokyo: Yeah, yeah, geez! What do you think I’m going to do?
Professor: I’m just being cautious. Rio, you’re a genius when it comes to technology and it so happens that I need someone to take care of the cameras. You’ll be the cinematographer.
Rio: You’ve got it!
Professor: Helsinki and Oslo, you will be the executors… er, I mean… the executive producers.
Helsinki: No problem.
Professor: Now, we also need someone to handle the marketing. Moscow are you up to it?
Moscow: Absolutely! Can I bring my son as well?
Professor: Yeah, ok. Listen, the plan is to get some people to produce money for us.
Berlin: What people?
Professor: Hostages… er, I mean… actors. Nairobi, you’ll be the casting director. You’ll have to find the actors and put them to work. After all this is their job, they know how to do it. If things get out of hand, we’re going to give them a decent amount of money as a payment in order to gain their trust. It will be a very small fraction of the amount we’re going to make of course.
Nairobi: Sounds great!
Professor: Yes, but we need to be careful with them. In this operation, it’s extremely important to have the support of the people, this is the only way we can succeed. So, we need to make sure that none of the characters die. This could enrage some fans
Berlin: I don’t know about that. We need some killings if we want to be respected.
Professor: Well, maybe in the final two episodes. Before that, only shootings. It will look like some characters die where in fact they will only be injured. This will keep people going and buy some more time.
Berlin: No, no, I think we need to kill at least one person midway through. How about a guy that will be part of the cast but will never talk? Nobody will really care about him and the death can make our ratings even better. We could have him killed with a pole or something.
Rio: Yeah, I totally agree. I would also suggest having a really hot chick in the main cast and once in a while show some nudity.
Tokyo: Yeah, don’t forget to include a cute handsome boy too
Professor: These are all great ideas!
Helsinki: I have a question, how are we going to get out?
Professor: We’ll have the actors sign a contract with Antenna 3 in Spain. The contract will mislead people to think we’re exiting through Spanish tv.
Denver: But we’re not, are we?
Professor: No, we’re exiting through a much safer route, Netflix!
Nairobi: How many episodes will we need in order to get to Netflix?
Moscow: About, 15 episodes I’d say. Or 22 in Netflix metrics.
Professor: This is the air time we’re going to need. We have to stay in business for 22 episodes. If things go well, we can even stay for a third season and make more money.
Tokyo: Wow Professor, that’s quite a plan you’ve got there. Now, will you tell us the story so that we start writing?
Professor: *smiling knowingly*
Ok, this is NOT what happened (or at least there’s no proof for this), but I find it more interesting and funny to look at it this way. Doesn’t it make more sense now? Money Heist is just an allegory that intends to showcase how most tv series today only care about making us spend more time watching them so that they can make more money. Everything is part of a commercial plan, thoroughly prepared by a bunch of tv producers.
And now I’ll contradict myself and say that there’s actually nothing wrong with this. If people like it, maybe it doesn’t matter how good or realistic it is. I was amazed by most people’s response to Money Heist. I couldn’t find something special in it, but most people loved it and they loved it a lot. I really felt like one of the policemen in the series who regarded the protagonists as criminals while the public thought of them as heroes. For me, a good film, or a good tv series, is one that is made for the sake of art and is meant to inspire and challenge its audience. This is something that we don’t see often anymore, especially in television. I feel that most tv series today are purely commercial products meant for public consumption, no substance whatsoever. There are exceptions of course, but Money Heist is not one of them (if you’re looking for an exception, check Twin Peaks). At the end of the day though, it doesn’t matter how I see things because these commercial products can be great for some people and this is fine.
Different people have different opinions and different tastes. I have to accept that, even if it makes me sad to see series like this gaining so good ratings when much better works fade into obscurity. For some, a new Netflix series is the best thing of the year while others (including me) are convinced that television can never compare to good cinema. If you’re a policeman, government official or a relative of one of the hostages (i.e. arthouse cinephile), you’ll probably find nothing particularly interesting in Money Heist, although it can still be very engaging and entertaining at times. On the other hand, if you’re a member of the public (i.e. Netflix subscriber), you’ll most likely give your support to the series in the same way as Spanish people gave their support to the robbers.
This is my humble opinion, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a bloody policeman.