Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim, recently seen in “The Mauritanian”, and quite often much better than here) was a true sociopath, but a unique kind of sociopath in that he didn’t really kill for the thrill as much as he did. did to maintain his lifestyle, while erasing the lives of those he felt were below him. With the help of his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) and his ally Ajay Chowdhury (Amesh Edireweera), Sobhraj has earned the trust of people the world is unlikely to miss – travelers to Southeast Asia. which could disappear without notice. He would make them believe he was an ally before stealing their property and identity, using their passports to travel to their next location. Sobhraj was found guilty of killing a dozen people. There were probably more.
If Sobhraj is the mouse, Dutchman Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle) is the cat, portrayed in “The Serpent” as the driving force to capture this serial killer (with the help of his wife Angela, played by Ellie Bamber, and of a man named Paul Siemons, played by Tim McInnerny). Knippenberg was a Dutch diplomat involved in the investigation into the disappearance of two of his compatriots, Henk Bintanja and Cornelia Hemker. The first episodes of “The Serpent” set the tone: a calculated sociopath and a seeker of justice who is forced to climb mountains of red tape and international diplomacy just to stop him. Rahim is the Cold Killer and Howle is the Passionate Protector. However, this is not a thriller. There is little mystery involved, and he seems remarkably uninterested in truly understanding a sociopath like Sobhraj, spending more emotional time with Leclerc, who alternates between fearing his partner’s murderous streak and allowing it. So what’s left? Not a lot.
Part of the reason is the maddening structure, a structure that not only jumps between Knippenberg and Sobhraj with alarming inconsistency, but bounces back in time in such a way that it is difficult to find a dramatic or thematic basis in any given episode. . Just as the directors of an episode seem to gain momentum, the plot changes and goes back in time to provide more context or recreate the last days of one of its victims. In the middle of the third episode, I did some research to find out more about Sobhraj’s murderous madness, and it’s never a good sign to feel pressured to read to understand what a show simply gives you. not on a practical level. There is a modern trend of chronological playfulness that television writers have been led to believe enhances a project like “The Serpent,” but nothing relieves the tension in a project like this more than lacking pure narrative cohesion. . Yes, we’re all tired of simple chronological accounts of historical events, but there is some common ground between that and the kind of mixing done on “The Serpent,” which often feels like an attempt to make something more. interesting through editing on the page or on the stage.