I probably should have preceded Part I of my review with the words SPOILERS ALERTS!
It may be too late for some innocent readers who learned a few crucial plot secrets before watching the show. I am thinking this review should probably be for people who have already watched it and are reading to review what they already know.
The Politics Of Casa: Criminals vs Revolutionaries
Anyhow, like I said before, even though I am also a fan, my main focus as a political blogger, is on the political/ideological components of this series. And you have to hand it to the producers and writers, maybe it’s because they are Spaniards, but they take themselves and their story completely seriously as a political phenomenon. Now, there is a long tradition, dating back to Robin Hood or even earlier, which confuses criminals with revolutionaries. Well, to be sure, there is a logical connection. By the very act of being a revolutionary, one pits oneself against society, and sometimes one even has to go underground. Which may entail dealing with the criminal underworld or even becoming an outlaw oneself. There is also the issue or raising money for the cause. This is the reason why even intellectual revolutionaries like the Bolsheviks sometimes had dealings with unsavory elements, and even allowed some of their members, like Djugashvili, to rob banks and trains.
Returning to the politics of “La Casa”, let us take these talented writers at their word. We shall list the “political” components of the plot-line, in no particular order; and also remembering that the show depicts the majority of the Spanish public as coming out into the streets to demonstrate for the robbers and against the government, as befits a hot-blooded Latin nation:
- By hijacking the Spanish Mint and printing their own money, the gang will help to destabilize the Euro and, by extension, the European Union itself. To be sure, they keep most of the money for themselves. Although, later, to cause a distraction, they do give some of the loot back to the Spanish people by tossing it out of a blimp while flying over Madrid.
- By hijacking the Bank of Spain and stealing all the gold, the gang will help to destabilize the Spanish government and economy. Which is a revolutionary act.
- While robbing the Bank of Spain, the gang also “liberates” important government documents (sealed in a lockbox) which implicate the government in extradition-torture programs conducted by the American CIA.
- In Heist #1 we watch El Profesor and Berlin singing Bella Ciao, the theme song of the Italian Resistance and now the signature tune of “La Casa”. In Heist #2 we are treated to Guantanamera, which serves the same purpose, of whipping up the audience with left-wing sentimentality.
- In listing the Professor’s international assets; in the first part of my review, I forgot to mention that he commands a loyal team of Serbian fighters. They do a lot of his dirty work, but some of them (like Marseilles) also have specialized more cerebral skills. Depicting Serbs as the “good guys” (sort of) is radical and goes against the mainstream narrative, so this can also be considered a political statement, in the overall context.
- Heist #2 quickly turns into an out-and-out war. “We are at war,” the Professor states. War against the fascist police state. But it was the police who started it: The police are so out of control they bring in an elite army commando group to blow the f*cking roof off the bank. In the process destroying a museum loaded up with priceless pantings and other artifacts. I am told this “Gold Museum” within the Bank of Spain is a real thing, and an actual UNESCO site. But the government has no compunction, they don’t care about priceless art nor human life.
- Not to mention that Heist #2 is undertaken with the main purpose of freeing a gang member, Rio, from a CIA “black site”, where he is being tortured mercilessly. Such renditions are technically illegal under Spanish law, and the gang performs a public service when they advertise this fact to the world.
- On the “woker” side of the equation: This show may not please more conservative fans, as it ticks off a whole slew of woke checklist items, namely: The importance of strong female characters, both within the robber gang as also with the police. Chicks with guns, in other words. There are no fewer than 3 male homosexual characters (all gang members, namely Oslo, Helsinki, and Palermo); plus one transgender character, Manila (male to female), her role in the gang is to pretend to be a hostage and keep tabs on what the hostages are up to.
- Also on the woke side of the equation, and here one must note that the Spanish intelligentsia and artistic class can be among the wokest of the woke, probably because they had to endure so many decades of Francoism; but in Heist #2 the writers explicitly lecture one of the bad guys César Gandía, not just for being an assassin, but for being a brutal racist, homophobe and trans-phobe as well. Gandía despises gang member Nairobi for the fact that she is half-Arab; and he also mocks the homosexual and transgender characters. Gandía is meant to portray every bad prejudice of Spanish bad guys and right-wingers.
- The writers also stress that most of the protagonists are just ordinary working people: miners, welders, etc. So, it’s “the people” vs “the man”, although not presented quite that simplistically. The combination of proletariat, lumpen-proletariat, conscious revolutionary and criminal, is reminiscent of the works of another great left-wing intellectual, namely Bertolt Brecht!
And so we see that the writers definitely have a political agenda. That’s okay. Their agenda definitely resounds with a large part of European public opinion; but even if it didn’t, one can enjoy a well-told story and well-drawn characters even if one disagrees with the politics of the writers.
Also, the writers may be “woke”, but they are not simplistic. All of the characters have complexity, they are not walking-talking stereotypes. Palermo, for example, who takes over routine operations of the gang after Berlin’s death [SPOILER ALERT!] shares Berlin’s hatred of women, but not Berlin’s heterosexuality. Palermo is fortunate in a way, being homosexual, because he never has to actually deal with women. Pity the poor misogynist Berlin, who hates women, but still has to deal with them if he wants to have sex. “It’s that 1% mitochondria that makes me like women,” he confesses to Palermo. In flashbacks we see that: For five years Palermo was openly in love with, and courting, Berlin; following him around the world like a puppy. Berlin even admitted he wished he was gay, because he and Palermo would have made the perfect couple, both brutal tough guys, but also possessing many criminal skills. The Spanish Bank Heist was actually Berlin’s pet project. He and Palermo worked together, as platonic friends, for five years planning this heist. But when The Professor rejected their scheme as unrealistic, Berlin had to send his friend Palermo away, the latter sobbing with unrequited love and lust while Berlin marries a mysterious Russian art thief named Tatiana. It is only after Berlin’s death [SPOILER ALERT], that The Professor resurrects the Bank-heist plan. Broken-hearted at the death of his older brother, he decides he must complete this project as an homage to the latter.
“We Are At War”
MANY SPOILER ALERTS! DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU ARE UP TO DATE!
While Heist #1 at the Mint was a relatively gentlemanly affair, Heist #2 pulls out all the stops. The writers outdid themselves with cranking up the tension, and the danger, to unbearable levels.
The writers also had to create a new strong female antagonist against the Professor. His former antagonist, Inspector Raquel Murillo was a formidable opponent initially, but eventually fell in love with the Professor and joined the gang. That really took all the ginger out of her, so they needed a new female baddie.
Enter Inspector Alicia Sierra, possibly the meanest woman in the galaxy. She is the person who renditioned Rio and tortured him mercilessly. Even though bulgingly 9-months pregnant, she is still physically strong enough to knock the Professor down when he tries one of his judo moves on her. A ruthless bitch, Alicia even shoots him in the foot so he can’t run away from her. Back in Heist #1 we had watched the Professor easily disarm and incapacitate Raquel when she made a similar move on him. But Alicia is so strong, she is able to incapacitate, not only the Professor but two other male members of his gang (Marseilles and Benjamin). Before you know it, they are all duck-taped and helpless inside their lair, while Alicia has to try to figure out what to do with them. (See, it’s complicated, she can’t just turn them in, she herself is on the lam because her boss threw her under the bus and put out a warrant against her… long story…)
In the most exciting and emotional scene of the series so far, Alicia suddenly goes into labor. Just as she is hectoring her trussed-up prisoners, her water suddenly breaks. [At this point in the show I turn to my girlfriend on the couch and trumpet: “I told you so!” See, I had been predicting, from the moment they introduced this pregnant character, that the Professor will end up delivering her baby. I was right.]
And sure enough! Even I, who had seen this plot point coming a mile away, had not predicted that Alicia’s baby would present as a breech. She is such a tough woman, she is going to deliver the kid herself: She drags a mattress over, lies down, spreads her legs, patches together a selfie on a stick so she can deliver her own baby. But even she doesn’t realize…
“That’s not the baby’s head…” the trussed-up Professor tells her. I can’t believe how bold the writers were to lead up to this thrilling plot point, so we get to see the Professor finally freed from his bonds so that he can hand-deliver his arch-enemy’s baby. Apparently the baby is in pike position with its bottom trying to come out first. After carefully washing his hands and donning gloves, the Professor inserts his hands right up into Alicia’s vagina, they are staring at each other eye to eye, he grasps the baby’s head and turns it down into a pike-somersault, then pulls it out head-first. The baby cries. The baby is fine. Everybody gasps with joy. Friends of mine who are medical experts tell me this is not exactly an accurate depiction of a manual breech-birth. But who cares? The Professor is so smart, such a superman, he knows everything and he can do anything!
After that act of mercy, people may wonder whether or not Alicia has been tamed, like the shrew she is, or whether she will join the Professor’s gang. (Highly dubious.) The Professor starts to treat her like a hostage now. He has already taken away her gun, now he orders his henchperson to go to the store and buy a bunch of baby supplies, like a crib, diapers, etc. So he clearly expects Alicia to be staying with them in the lair for the duration of the heist. As a hostage.
Personally, I don’t trust Alicia one bit. Even though she showed a sign of affection, touching the Professor’s shoulder in sympathy when they hear on the news that Tokyo has been killed [SPOILER ALERT!], I also noticed that Alicia snuck into the bathroom and managed to secrete a pair of clippers; no doubt she will be make her move and try to cut the gang’s communications, probably at the same time while breastfeeding her newborn. That’s just the kind of woman she is.
And this is where we must leave off, my friends. There are five more episodes left, but Netflix won’t give them to us until December 5, so we have to wait until then to find out what happens. It better be a “happy” ending, otherwise I shall be quite cross.
Sincerely yours, yalensis