Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Money Heist’ and ‘The Terror’


This rollicking, absurd and utterly absorbing Spanish heist thriller is apparently the most-watched foreign language series on Netflix and it’s not hard to see why. The more you suspend your disbelief, the more you are rewarded for doing so. The more you give yourself to the series, the more satisfied you are by your weakness. It’s one of my favorite shows I’ve watched this year.

Taking place over the course of four days, “Money Heist,” or “La Casa de Papel” as it is is known in its native country, involves a group of specially recruited thieves who take control of the treasury, holding hostages and printing up as much money as they can, while police and television crews hold siege to the building, and while the ringleader on the outside works overtime to disrupt the law enforcement efforts.

Outside the building, the Professor ( lvaro Morte) plays a cat-and-mouse game with the lead investigating officer, Inspector Raquel Murillo (Itziar Itu o), whose private pressures become an inroad for closer obstruction by the Professor.Inside the building, the drama unfolds between the thieves and their hostages, including a couple love stories, threats of mutiny, the inevitable baggage the characters drag along with them and flashbacks to the long-secret training session that prepared them for the crime, as well as just the logistics of pulling off the caper.

Particularly outstanding in the cast of robbers are Alba Flores as Nairobi, a delightfully boisterous, down-on-her-luck ex-drug dealer, who treats her job as the counterfeit coordinator with utter sincerity, and Pedro Alonso as Berlin, the group leader and dangerous, unpredictable narcissist with a tendency to grandstand with delusional cacophonies.

“Money Heist” is unpretentious and unashamed of its aim to provide melodrama and thrills through sometimes the unlikeliest twists and turns, and it does this with confidence and great humor. It might pull you to the hazardous area on the edge of your seat, but the characters provide a comforting draw that will keep you from falling off.


Taking the real story of a lost Arctic expedition in the 1840s, “The Terror” takes history into the realm of psychological horror, examining the perils men face in the context of their origins.

Two ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus headed north in 1845 to seek a Northwest Passage. Stranded because of severe cold, they struggle to survive, not only from the weather and barren landscape, but disease, malnutrition, isolation and a really ferocious monster that wants to rip them all apart when they least expect it.

In most horror productions, the monster would be front and center, but the largest point of “The Terror”is how the monster here is merely the final straw. Things are decidedly horrible enough for the men without a prowling beast, and the worst of it comes from their culture. Paralyzed by the class structure of the British Empire, and burdened by its ideas of manhood and humankind’s relationship with the rest of the universe, the crews and commanders of the two ships are stricken by the confines of the world they stepped out of. The British Empire becomes an invisible cancer that causes deceit and spiritual decomposition. And when measured against the Inuit population, the sailors’ inevitable fate stinks sharply of hubris.

It’s tense going, with a constant foreboding icy atmosphere, accentuated by the claustrophobic confines of the ships, and it’s beautifully realized by the ensemble actors, particularly lead actor Jared Harris as the alcoholic Captain Francis Crozier, propped up in the Navy through the gentleman’s code and struggling to come to terms with his own demons to save the sailors.

Also noteworthy is Adam Nagaitis as the dark Mr. Hickey, whose smirking face reveals itself as the cover to a soul ready to do what has to be done to survive, which puts him both ahead and far behind the character of others on the ships.

Originally published at

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