The thrill of watching a heist is that it’s a one-time thing. You watch to see whether everything will go according to the perfectly orchestrated plan. That there’s an ending — whether a triumphant one where the criminals get away with it, or a tragic one where they fail spectacularly — is sort of the point. For fans of La casa de papel (Money Heist) that ending came in the 22nd episode of the Spanish limited series. It was bittersweet: There were some tragic losses (RIP Berlin), but the Professor (Álvaro Morte) and his ragtag team pulled off their ambitious scheme to rob the Royal Mint of Spain. Its final moments when we saw an unlikely reunion, offered us a winking happy ending. Which begs the question: What do you do with a show titled “money heist” when Netflix gives you a green light to produce more episodes? The answer, as the first episode of this new season lays clear, is to basically reboot and remake the show at the same time.
The new season opens not with any of the characters we have now come to know for their signature red jumpsuit and Salvador Dalí masks, but with one of their victims. We’re in “Madrid 77 Days Until D-Day” and former Director of the Royal Mint of Spain Arturo Román (Enrique Arce) is giving a TED talk of sorts about the self-help doctrine he’s perfected since he was held hostage by the Professor and his ilk. While he preaches about how he faced danger and ended up needing to become a better person for it — with plenty of shots of teary-eyed people who look at him with gleeful admiration — he bemoans how his captors remain free even two years after the robbery: Like rats, he says, they’re now hiding in their holes. It’s at that point we get to see exactly what happened to the various couplings who survived the heist.
As if giving a nod to the global phenomenon that La casa de papel became once it hit the streaming service, this season opens as a truly a globe-trotting adventure. Rio and Tokyo (Miguel Herrán and Úrsula Corberó) are in the Caribbean, enjoying the solace a dreamy island near Panama offers them; Helsinki and Nairobi (Darko Peric and Alba Flores) are living it up in la Pampa Argentina; Denver and Stockholm (Jaime Lorente and Esther Acebo) are happily roaming the streets of Java; while the Professor and Raquel (Itziar Ituño) have settled in Thailand. Their lives for the past two years, we learn, have been going swimmingly. The colorful landscapes offered up in quick editing spurts that intercut with Arturo’s talk are a welcome change of pace from the usual gray and slate color palette that characterized the show’s aesthetic during the heist. The freedom of the camera to roam and these characters to soak up the sun are intertwined. But such brightness, alas, does not a thriller heist show make.
And so almost immediately, Tokyo – ever the candid narrator – puts into motion a set of events that will require the Professor to go against his better judgment and assemble everyone again for, you guessed it, one more heist. Such plot mechanics feel a bit contrived, merely necessary to set up the season’s main goal. It makes sense that this episode rushes through them, only barely letting us dwell on why Tokyo and Rio would make such a silly mistake, the one that allowed the former to get caught (and thus in need of being rescued). The writers merely want to get us to the moment when the OG team (along with a few new cast members) sit down in front of a blackboard and get to see the Professor write out “Bienvenidos … otra vez” before he unveils the new near-impossible feat he wants them to accomplish: stealing gold from the Bank of Spain.
This “Parte 3” of La casa de papel is precisely the kind of sequel 2019 has come to beget: It’s more of the same, only bigger and bolder. The show and the cast is clearly set on delivering that which made La casa de papel a hit in the first place. The chase sequence around Panamanian alleyways, where it looks like Tokyo might get caught alongside Rio (who struggles to keep the military at bay from the sandy beach he’d been calling home), is thrilling, a Bourne-like scene that keeps you on edge for just the right amount of time. Similarly, the final sequence – the one that announces that the Dalí-masked group is back with the use of a giant dirigible balloon floating through a cityscape spewing money to those on the streets — announces this to be a season where the stakes are as high as the production budget was this time around. Which is to say, this is familiar territory sprinkled with enough new things to keep it from feeling stale.
Oh, and because it’s been the biggest question coming out of this entire press tour, you will indeed see Berlin again, though it’s probably best you see how and why for yourself.
The third season of La casa de papel is now streaming on Netflix.