Triumph before final destruction. This is how we can summarize the discourse and feelings conveyed by Álex Pina during his moving return to “the scene of the crime”. He speaks to EL PAÍS from the sets of Money theft, located in the Madrid town of Tres Cantos, before they were destroyed forever once the fifth and final season of the worldwide hit show ended.
The production – famous for its thieves who wear Salvador Dalí masks, claim an anti-system spirit and are named after cities around the world – began life over two seasons on Spain’s Antena 3 network and sees the criminal gang attacking the Spanish currency. In a cross-cut version, the show found a worldwide audience in 2017 thanks to Netflix, and the plot evolved in subsequent episodes into an assault on the Bank of Spain – with hostages included.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
“The show works better when consumed compulsively than when interrupted,” says Pina, speaking in July about how she can now be binged on the popular streaming service. “The commercials and the week-to-week wait take away that anxiety created by the time passing on the show, which means you don’t get caught up in it as much. What else, Money theft works very quickly. The experience for the viewer is much more intense when consumed compulsively, and much more addictive of course.
But there is something else there, something that they gradually discovered – a result, perhaps, of the power of Netflix around the world. First, the actors of the series – called La Casa de Papel in its original version – noticed that their subscribers on social networks have increased exponentially. Second, they couldn’t shoot outdoors in the cities (for this last part in Copenhagen) without attracting a crowd of admirers. Then came the Monte-Carlo Television Festival, which saw the city covered in footage from the show, and later the appearance of protesters from around the world wearing the distinctive red jumpsuit and Dalí masks worn by the characters. during demonstrations.
The virtues and excesses of the show are further exacerbated in this fifth season, more violent than ever. Pina admits he and his team went for the war genre for the final episodes, which Netflix will release in two sets of five episodes: one available starting today, September 3, and the other in December. . “We are a country with a major inferiority complex with fiction,” he argues. “Money theft is crazy because these guys could never be locked inside the Bank of Spain because they would eliminate them, but you have to do something that has other components, with its own internal rules, which must be coherent, and not with reality, which is contemptible from the point of view of fiction. And when you do, they say to you, “Where are you going with this? Well, gentlemen, we have Marvel, which has been the most watched thing in theaters for 10 years and just keeps getting bigger.
The “lyrical vision” of violence seen in other seasons, with the Italian revolutionary song Bella ciao as a theme, makes way for something more difficult this time around, a change that Pina advocates for. “We try to sublimate violence in aesthetic terms because it seems to us to be part of the vision of the show,” he explains. “A program has an editorial line, like a newspaper. There are things you can and cannot do.
Twenty-first century television fiction has undergone a revolution, as has the concept of what is allowed and what is not. Pina, who was behind other Spanish TV hits such as Los Serrano, Periodicals and Los men of Paco, knows what he’s talking about. Plots, for example. “Viewers have changed a lot. When we worked on TV in the 1990s and 2000s, there was a kind of guardian angel who protected the viewer, who knew that his protagonist was not going to be killed, and even if things turned out badly, everything went wrong. would go well in the end. But the experience for the viewer is much better when the going goes wrong. We killed [character] Nairobi, and now when someone has a gun pointed at their head, you say, ‘Jesus, they’re going to kill him!’ “
Additionally, the protagonists can be designed to be likable, although you can hate them too. “Ten years ago they were like, ‘The character has to be clean because if he’s a bastard, nobody’s going to want them in them.’ But now the villain’s perversion is very appealing, ”Pina confesses. He mainly refers to Berlin (Pedro Alonso), the homophobic, narcissistic, self-centered and cruel gang member, but who is also one of the audience’s favorite characters. He’s now vanished from the plot, but still comes back explosively in a few timely flashbacks. “We had a lot of fun with him,” Pina admits.
In the first two episodes of the fifth season – which EL PAÍS was able to see before their release – jealousy, disagreements, egos, love and desire still exist between the gang members, all of which have been a vital part. of the success of the show. “What people want is to be entertained, and we’ve added an idiosyncrasy of Latin affectivity to a genre like The Perfect Heist, which was once very cold and mathematical. We created a hybrid that worked around the world, maybe because there was a demand for emotions, something that ran hotter, ”continues Pina.
“Checkmate, son of a bitch […] Your conviction is our salvation, ”says policewoman Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri) to the mastermind behind the heists, Professor (Alvaro Morte), during the opening minutes of season five, as several of the characters are on the ropes.
There are few limits left for these characters, and it was noticeable within the team, admits Pina, who has clear red lines. “We were working on episode two in the middle of the pandemic, online, and I could see that we didn’t have the immediacy, that spark, and so we threw it all out to create an experimental episode, without fragmenting time. , and where there is even a different protagonist. And we did it like it was a season finale. But this is not the case. There are eight left.
Fans of the genre know that the perfect heist, classics such as The slaughter Where The asphalt jungle, to the most recent Heat, Robbery Where The city, never goes completely as planned. The first ending planned by Pina and her team ended up in the trash. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in Lisbon, Tokyo, Denver, Bogotá and co. when those 100 hours of flawed heists, which are already part of recent television history, finally come to an end.
english version by Simon Hunter.