Netflix has a problem. For all the ungodly sums of money they throw at content, it’s all scattered across the platform like the Wal-mart DVD bargain bin. This means some of the best stuff doesn’t even appear when you’re scrolling through. The site’s algorithm tries to find shows and movies you’ll like, but that’s a crap shoot. That’s why we’re here to point you in the right direction.
Your next binge-watch should be ‘Money Heist’
“Money Heist? What a terrible name!” you’re thinking. And you are right. It’s a godawful name. The original title was “La Casa de Papel,” which translates to “The House of Paper.” And maybe that doesn’t have much of a ring to it, either. But try to look past the stupid name and follow us as we explain why you should watch.
It’s like ‘Breaking Bad’ if Walter planned a giant robbery with 8 Jesses
If you haven’t seen “Breaking Bad,” you need to jump on that right now. “Money Heist” can wait. But if you have seen it, you know that part of what made that show great was the criminal mastermind and his erratic accomplice, who sometimes threw a monkey wrench into the plan. That same dynamic is at work in “Money Heist.”
Here’s the trailer. (And don’t panic about the subtitles. We’ll get to those in a moment.)
Here’s the story
A man who calls himself “The Professor” pulls together eight criminals for the heist of a lifetime. They’ll go inside the royal mint of Spain, lock the doors, take hostages, print off more than 2 billion Euros, and make a clean getaway.
The show flashes back and forth between the heist and months of pre-robbery training for the thieves. The Professor appears to have thought through every scenario the team could encounter. For example, the thieves only know each other by their nicknames (“Tokyo,” “Berlin,” “Nairobi,” etc.) so they couldn’t possibly reveal any real identities if caught.
One of the great joys of the show is seeing the police gain the upper hand, only to be thwarted by The Professor’s extraordinary foresight and creativity.
It’s got sex, violence, and money
Still not convinced? This Spanish import has the tentpoles of a good ol’ American hit.
Sex: Yes, some of the characters have sex. You see lots of characters in their underwear. You’ll see at least one nipple if you’re into that sort of thing. (Probably don’t watch this with your kids.) Characters fall in love, and that love is often a weakness that jeopardizes the mission.
Violence: Holy smokes, there are a lot of guns. The good guys have guns, the bad guys have guns, the hostages are given fake guns, you’ve got plastic explosives, a handful of grenades, a pair of scissors, a big metal pipe, and an especially helpful Browning machine gun that makes life tricky for the cops.
Money: Again, the thieves are literally printing their own money. It makes Walter White’s stash look like pocket change.
Plot twists galore
A game of cat-and-mouse isn’t fun if the mouse always outruns the cat. “Money Heist” cleverly trades off which team has the upper hand. The Professor’s crew usually stays in the lead, but sometimes the police catch a break. Sometimes, the hostages rebel against their captors. Even within the team of thieves, we have defections and infighting. The minute everything is going right in this show, something goes wrong.
At times, you’ll root for Raquel, the brave woman in charge of the police effort. Then you’ll root for The Professor, who spent so long planning this caper. Then you’ll root for the hostages, because they didn’t ask for this. Then you’ll root for one particular thief who hates another thief because that thief is being a jerk. Your allegiance will change throughout the series, and in the final episode, you won’t even know who you want to win.
Nearly every episode ends with a hell of a cliffhanger, making this an easy show to binge. And unlike some shows, the cliffhangers feel natural and earned. There’s no deus ex machina at work. (There are a few head-slapping moments of incredulity, not no more than any other show.)
A great story requires great characters, and “Money Heist” has them. We can’t give away too much, but here’s an overview the main players.
The Professor, as we mentioned, is an incredibly smart man who’s been planning this heist for most of his life. He stays on the outside of the mint, running the operation by phone. Whenever a loose end needs tying up, the mild-mannered Professor has to be the one to tie it up, which means a ton of nail-biting motorcycle rides to arrive somewhere before police catch up. (He’s a character so popular, some people on Argentina have tattoos of him.)
Inside the mint, the female thieves are an unpredictable hot-head (Tokyo), and a calm perfectionist (Nairobi). For the men, you’ve got a possible sociopath who veers between brilliance and sadism (Berlin), a big teddy bear with a violent streak (Helsinki), a warm father figure (Moscow), a silent enforcer (Oslo), an impatient tech genius (Rio), and a confused but eager screw-up (Denver). It’s a volatile mixture that turns explosive when the pressure is turned up. Anytime the Professor is running off to save the day, his team begins to unravel without his guidance. And it’s incredibly fun to watch.
Our primary character here is the intense, driven inspector Raquel. She battles the doubts of her colleagues and the Professor’s traps to try to end the heist. Raquel’s life is made more complicated by her abusive ex-husband, who happens to be a forensic investigator crucial to the case, a mother with Alzheimer’s, and a daughter who could end up with the ex-husband if Raquel isn’t careful.
Raquel’s right-hand man is Angel, a warm, intelligent man who becomes an unwitting saboteur to the investigation. Angel’s progress is often thwarted by romantic feelings for Raquel. (This show features a lot of battles between the head and heart.)
The Professor is smart enough to know that hostages will prevent the police from simply storming the mint. That’s why he chose to stage the heist when an ambassador’s daughter (Alison) happens to be visiting. Alison is feisty and strong-willed, which, as you can imagine, are not great traits for a hostage. Her classmates end up being hostages as well, and that’s all thanks to her father’s position. Sorry, kids!
Arturo is the mint manager and you will haaaaaate him. Remember the reporter from the original “Die Hard”? It’s that degree of hate. But the show is actually made better by having a totally worthless piece of human garbage. No matter who you’re rooting for in any particular episode, you can always root against Arturo. He’s a character you’ll love to hate.
Monica is a weak-willed mint employee who goes through a major transformation as a result of the heist. Her boss (Arturo) puts her in lots of uncomfortable positions. Being a hostage is one thing. Being a hostage while still trying to please your boss is another. After all, if the heist ends, do you still have to show up to work tomorrow? Monica is one of the most interesting characters to watch, as she tries to walk a moral tightrope against a constantly shifting situation.
Aridana is a young hostage who devises a fascinating survival strategy that could end up paying off huge if she plays her cards right.
The language barrier
Here’s where many of you may choose to jump ship on our recommendation. The show is in Spanish. This means you must either watch it dubbed (which is truly awful), or watch with subtitles (which is the correct choice).
We know, we know, we know you don’t want to have to read TV, but we wouldn’t recommend this show if the juice weren’t worth the squeeze. You’re a global citizen now. We encourage you to sample something brilliant from our friends overseas. After all, sex, violence, and money are universal languages. You can do it. We promise. Put your phone away and focus for 44 minutes at a time.
Netflix reports that “Money Heist” is its most-watched non-English show ever. Ever. There’s a reason for that. It’s good.
Add it to your queue right now
“Money Heist” has a godawful name, so whoever came up with that should be fired. And yes, you have to read subtitles to get the full joy of it.
But if you can get past those barriers, you’ll find a carefully woven tapestry of layered characters, intense emotions, thrilling heroics, heartbreaking setbacks, cheerful comedy, painful choices, and mind-boggling plot twists.
The greatest compliment you can pay to a TV series is that you wish you could erase your brain and watch it again without knowing what’s coming next. That’s how we feel about “Money Heist,” and that’s why it should be your next binge. Click here to add “Money Heist” to your queue.