REVIEW The Serpent (S1 E7/8)

All roads lead to Paris.

Charles Sobhraj and Marie-Andrée had left south-east Asia behind intent on starting a semi-legitimate business up in the French capital. Soon enough, the whole tone and feel of the series changed – instead of the grimy, alive streets of Bombay and Bangkok, it was slick suits and chic fashions. The colour palette changed, too, from a faded filter to an almost pastoral, clearer colour.

All of these changes suited Marie-Andrée down to the ground – being wealthy in Paris was all she ever wanted, and she told her mother on the telephone that she had never been happier. And yet there was still something nagging away at the back of her mind – Charles’ first wife Juliette, who he said was dead. She was also shaken by a newspaper report back in Thailand that they were people of interest in the investigation of missing tourists.

Despite living the high life, her world was crumbling around her – the tension between having everything you want, and knowing that it was built on a platform of sand.

This episode was all about parenthood. Charles was eager to his daughter again, his relationship with his own family – especially his stern mother – was laid bare, and there were repeated mentions of Charles and Marie-Andrée starting a family. She kept answering soon, he was obviously not so keen.

The parenthood angle was pushed further when Marie-Andrée sought Charles’s mother’s council. She couldn’t stop thinking about Juliette and Madhu, so when the mother told her that Juliette was actually alive, she had to process yet another lie, another manipulation.

Add to this her guilt and rage at finding out Charles and Ajay had murdered French woman Stephanie (this leaving a child orphaned back in France), and once again she was ready to walk.

But she didn’t.

As the net closed in on them once again, they left France and head back to south-east Asia – this time Kabul. And, once again, Marie-Andrée had the chance to walk, to leave and to go back to Quebec. But she didn’t.

Marie-Andrée’s relationship with Sobhraj and the lifestyle she gets from being with him is a fascinating element of this series. The fact that she repeatedly stays with him – has stayed with him – reveals her to be a deeply vulnerable woman, both willing and unwilling victim.

Back in Bangkok, Knippenberg took incendiary action in order to force his investigation to be taken seriously. He worked with a British ex-pat journalist to publish a story in the local newspaper, naming names, dates and suspected crimes. It sent shockwaves through the city, and through the useless local police force. Knippenberg was criticised for his actions, but it brought dividends – the article got the attention of a diligent intelligence officer, who was able to piece together more of the investigations.

Soon, a world-wide decree had been issued – hunt down and catch Charles Sobhraj.

It seemed that Sobhraj’s incredible criss-crossing of the globe was almost at an end, but he wasn’t called ‘the serpent’ for nothing. It’s an an extraordinary tale that has been well-told, but I couldn’t help thinking that during the move to more gentrified and refined Paris some of the atmosphere, some of the menace, had been lost.

Perhaps that’s just me. No matter, I’m looking forward to seeing how they close this story.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.







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