REVIEW The Serpent (S1 E5/8)

This period crime drama from the 1970s – which brings to life the true-crime case of serial killer and conman Charles Sobhraj – has got better and better and better as the series has developed. Each episode is now a masterclass in how to produce suspense and tension.

Furthermore, this series has presented a 360-degree exploration of how a web of lies and manipulation can seduce and pervert anyone who comes into contact with it – in each episode we’ve seen a focus on his partner Marie-Andrée Leclerc and the reasons she had become embroiled, we’ve seen a focus on the victims themselves, and we’ve also focused on the investigation and intent to bring him down. It really is great stuff.

We join episode five with Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg hot on the trail of Sobhraj, but there’s a problem – the killer has already suspected something is up after Ajay catches Nadine snooping around in the apartment. Once again, we’re launched into a rollercoaster of tension played and squeezed for every last drop.

Sobhraj, knowing that Nadine is probably behind Dominique’s disappearance and the cause more hassle on the way, sets to work on staying one step ahead of the cops. He dumps his precious briefcase with smitten local jeweller Suda and asks her to ramp up the business of buying gems – he wants to prepare for a move to Europe and this little manoeuvre not only signals his intentions but also finds a safe place for all of his incriminating documents. Oh, and he asks Suda to marry him just to make extra sure she’s onside.

So when the police (finally) raids Sobhraj’s apartment and take them in they not only find nothing but are also prey to Sobhraj’s duplicity – he presents them with false passports that tell the bamboozled authorities they are American citizens.

They can’t do a thing.

Elsewhere, Knippenberg, Siemons, Angela, Nadine and Remi are all celebrating Sobhraj’s incarceration, but they are cut short when they hear the news from the police station. It takes assistance from an American diplomat, Gilbert Redland (played by Ripper Street’s Adam Rothenberg) to save the day – he tracks down the original owner of the passport (still alive, thankfully), which proves Sobhraj has been lying.

But of course, by the time Knippenberg and Redland reach the copshop Sobhraj, Marie-Andrée and Ajay have been released.

I recap all of this stuff because it serves to reveal just how devious Sobhraj was – he ghosted from country to country, through border to the border, because he kept changing his identity and had the papers to back it up. Now Knippenberg (and now Redland) know exactly what they’re dealing with: a ghost who will kill if he has to and even when he doesn’t.

Call this round one to Sobhraj.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.





The Serpent is currently showing in the UK on BBC One and the BBC iPlayer. It will be available on Netflix in the US and other territories.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Ian says:

    How good does a series have to be to merit 5 out of 5?


    1. Paul Hirons says:

      Very, very good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ian says:

        I just thought from the tone and content of your reviews The Serpent would have merited a 5. I’ve watched the whole series on the Iplayer, and thought it was worth 5. I think I may be splitting hairs, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Paul Hirons says:

        I’m doing it ep by ep, Ian… I’ll give a series rating at the end!


      3. Ian says:

        Thanks Paul. Fair enough.


  2. Regina Klug says:

    Worst series I have seen in a long time. Confusing flashbacks, terrible writing, unconvincing characters. Also, too long by far. Sorry


  3. magster007 says:

    I’m getting ready to watch it. I can’t find out if there are subtitles or not. I have a headache don’t feel like reading right now hoping not.


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