REVIEW The Serpent (S1 E6/8)

Yes, yes, I know. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote a review of BBC One’s excellent The Serpent (life, y’know?), but with the series finale coming up, it’s time to catch-up.

We left Dutch consular employee Herman Knippenberg frustrated – he thought he had caught Charles Sobhraj, but the serial killer and arch-manipulator had other ideas. So much so, Sobhraj and Marie-Andrée had managed to escape Thailand and had made it to Karachi in Pakistan.

Elsewhere, Knippenberg was really feeling the pressure and was beginning to fray at the edges, much to his wife Angela’s chagrin.

Aside from the present-day cat-and-mouse game – one which Sobhraj was evidently winning – as we all know, The Serpent likes to bounce around timelines in order to tell a complete, 360-degree story behind the story. And so it was in this episode.

This time we actually got to see more of Sobhraj’s backstory, intermittently zooming back to 1969 to see him wed a French woman back in France. We also got to see his mother, and – more importantly – his relationship with his mother. This prim, smartly dressed French-Asian woman was frosty towards him, uncaring even, and scolded him about being marrying so soon after being released from prison. Yes, Charles had previous.

As for Sobhraj himself, he was already using his charm to manipulate his new (and pregnant) wife.

So the building blocks were already in place for a life of crime, but of course, what no one knew at the time was how deeply or insidiously the crime would be – we saw how Sobhraj, once in Bombay, made a daring jewellery heist worth a million Rupee. Unfortunately for Juliette, he was caught and left her and their son high and dry.

It felt like Sobhraj had been trying, failing, trying, failing until he perfected his art. The way he was succeeding in the present day was to add in some murder into the equation.

Where Sobhraj was totally in control of his modus operandi (or so he thought), his entrourage of Marie-Andrée and Anjay were less in control. On the cusp of a new, more reputable life in Paris (or so they hoped) they were at each other’s throats, one trying to undermine the other.

Back in Bangkok, Charles’ old apartment at Kanit House was due to be cleaned out and rented again. Knippenberg saw his chance, and lo and behold the gang not only found a huge stash of narcotics and poisons, but also items from Sobhraj’s past life and Marie-Andrée’s journal. They were back on the trail.

As for Sobhraj and his team, they were in disarray, to the extent he let Ajay go in brutal fashion. He didn’t kill him (like I thought he would) but instead told him he was nothing. This fracture was neatly intercut with Sobhraj’s own breakdown with his ex-wife – he was furious that she chose to divorce him.

One thing about sociopaths – you don’t take away their perceived sense of control. That’s when bad things begin to happen.

On to Paris.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.






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